Finishing Materials

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Finishing Materials


(in construction), materials and items used to improve the service and decorative qualities of buildings and structures, as well as to protect structural members from atmospheric and other effects. The main finishing materials in modern construction include finishing mortars and concretes; natural and artificial masonry materials; decorative ceramics; materials and items made from wood, paper, glass, plastic, and metals; and paints and varnishes.

Finishing materials are usually designed for interior or exterior finishing; some materials are used for both (for example, natural decorative stone, ceramic materials, and architectural glass). A special group consists of materials and items for covering floors, which must meet a number of specific requirements (negligible wear, high impact strength, and so on). Finishing materials also include acoustic materials, which are used simultaneously as sound-absorbing coatings and as a decorative finish for the interiors of theaters, concert halls, and motion-picture theaters.

An arbitrary distinction is made between finishing materials proper, which are used mainly to form decorative and protective coatings (varnishes and paints, wallpaper, polymeric films, linoleum, and so on), and structural finishing materials, which also perform the functions of enclosing members and are components of such members (decorative concrete, facing brick, glass blocks, and molded glass).

A large group of finishing materials consists of facing materials, which are produced in the form of sheets, slabs, and tiles (for example, asbestos-cement sheets, Stemalit, ceramic mosaic slabs and tiles, and decorative laminated-paper plastic) and which are generally distinguished by their good service and architectural qualities. Under modern industrial construction conditions it is expedient to produce the facing during the manufacture of prefabricated units and to deliver the units to the assembly point with finished surfaces (for example, ceramic mosaic tiles are laid in a form and concreted together with the wall panels or staircase landings). The most important finishing materials are discussed below.

A traditional finishing material is natural stone, which is durable and has an attractive appearance. Facing products are produced from granite, syenite, gabbro, limestone, marble, and quartzite. Natural stone finishing materials are used for exterior and interior facings on walls and for floor coverings, mainly in public buildings and structures, such as theaters, hotels, and subway stations. Natural stone materials are also used in the form of decorative chips to finish the surfaces of concrete and reinforced-concrete parts and units.

The most widely used artificial stone finishing materials are ceramics (called decorative ceramics), which are common in residential and public buildings for exterior finishings (facing brick, facade slabs and tiles, decorative inserts, and so on) and interior finishings (glazed facing tiles and floor tiles).

Glass finishing materials, which have a wide range of colors, excellent service qualities, and durability, are used mainly for the exterior finishing of public buildings and structures (window glass, stained glass, Stemalit, glass blocks, marbled glass, molded glass, and mosaic glass). Since the 1960’s the crystalline ceramics, such as Sitalls and slag Sitalls (devitrified glasses), which are notable for their excellent mechanical properties and corrosion resistance, have been used in construction. These materials are promising for surfacing floors in heavily used buildings and structures (railroad and subway stations; shops in chemical and machine-building plants).

Decorative concretes and mortars are very effective finishing materials. The decorative effect of these materials results from the use of colored cements and fillers produced by crushing various kinds of natural stones and by texturing the front surfaces of products (for example, large blocks and panels) during molding or after the concrete has hardened. Decorative concretes and mortars are used extensively in the factory finishing of structural members for fully prefabricated buildings; the use of decorative mortar mixtures for the exterior and interior finishing (plastering) during construction is limited, since the operation is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Walls are usually finished with large sheets of thistle board over plaster board or asbestos cement. Asbestos cement is also used for finishing the guardrails of balconies and staircases.

Although metals have excellent finishing and decorative characteristics, they are used in modern construction mainly for finishing unique buildings and structures because of their considerable cost. Sheets and shaped products made of copper and its alloys, stainless steel, and titanium are used as finishing materials; aluminum alloys, including those with a colored (anodized) surface, are particularly promising. In mass construction, metals are used mainly in the form of small items (accessories) for finishing the entrances and interiors of buildings.

Among the wood finishing materials are decorative plywood, veneer, parquet, chipboard, fiberboard, and such articles as railings, plinths, and finish casings. Wood finishing materials are notable for their excellent appearance and service qualities. Facing products are produced not only from decorative natural woods, such as oak, beech, and walnut, but also from carefully processed common species, such as birch and pine. The service life of wood finishing materials is increased by treating them with wood preservatives and by applying paint and varnish coatings.

Wallpapers of various types are widely used for interior finishing (mainly in residences); they have the advantages of low cost and labor requirements.

Plastics are a promising type of finishing material. They are characterized by a broad range of colors, a variety of product shapes, excellent sanitary and hygenic qualities, and good corrosion resistance. However, their service life is substantially shorter than, for example, ceramic or glass finishing materials; therefore, they are used infrequently for exterior facings (mainly for small structures). Materials used for interior finishing include decorative polymeric films on a paper or fabric base, plastic sheets, washable wallpaper, Lincrust, decorative laminated-paper plastic, colored polyvinyl chloride laths combined into screens, and railings, plinths, and finish casings. The use of finishing materials made of plastics (linoleum, tiles, and synthetic napped materials) for floor coverings is particularly promising.

Paint and varnish finishing materials are intended mainly for painting operations. Synthetic paints and varnishes have become widespread in modern construction; they make possible a substantial reduction in the labor-intensiveness of finishing operations and an improvement in the protective and decorative properties of structures.

The main trend in the development of the finishing-materials industry is toward expansion of the assortment of materials, as well as toward improvement of their quality and an increase in the degree of factory preparation of materials and products.


Blokhin, B. N., and A. A. Galaktionov. Otdelochnye materialy i raboty. Moscow, 1962.
Makotinskii, M. P. Novye otdelochnye materialy. Moscow, 1972.
Vorob’ev, V. A., and A. G. Komar. Stroitel’nye materialy. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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