Demand for finishing products and accessories remains strong but there are concerns that outside of the residential sector, commercial and retail activity are weaker. Nonetheless, what is clear is the role finishes play in meeting interior design demands of the highest standards, as Adrian JG Marsh reports.

“Building owners still like traditional finishes,” said Paul Cassidy from British Gypsum. “We introduced a new ThistlePro range aimed at specifiers looking for more than just a flat wall finish and with different benefits.

“ThistlePro DuraFinish is 60 per cent harder so it’s ideally suited to corridors in high-traffic areas. PureFinish is a skim finish plaster that removes formaldehyde (a common VOC) from the air, making indoor space healthier. And the innovative Magnetic plaster is popular in offices and schools for creating a feature wall.”

In the housing market, finishing preferences have not changed and traditional skills still dominate. “Clients like their walls skim finished with a full surface coverage and jointing where they don’t need a high-class finish,” added Mr Cassidy.

Whether to plaster or not to plaster has been an ongoing debate since wall systems began to replace timber and masonry as the principal fit-out material for internal walls. Fashion has seen plaster retain its lead position but quality improvements in taping and jointing mean landlords and developers now have another option.

“The quality of tapers and jointers has continued to improve in recent years and the quality is as good as any finish,” said Peter Baker from Stanmore Contractors.

Stanmore is a major part of the supply chain, working on some very large residential schemes for the likes of Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Homes and Lendlease.

Mr Baker continued: “There have not been too many revolutions in the wall finishing sector. Currently, around 90 per cent of all our finishing is tape and jointed. It’s a choice that does have regional variations and tends to be price-driven.”

There is a slow but growing trend towards adopting spray-applied finishing, which claims to offer advantages around reducing waste and increasing speed, efficiency and quality.

Mr Cassidy said: “Spray plaster favours big commercial plots where there are productivity benefits to be gained. We look at how products are applied and there are plenty of techniques to spray-apply Gypsum plasters.”

David Wilson from Portsmouth-based Gypsum Plasterers said: “We either tape and joint or skim plaster, but we’ve looked at spray-applied and just don’t see it as viable on most projects. But we’re being approached more to consider it.”

Beissier’s Aaron Barbeau has seen their Bagar Airliss spray-applied product range prove popular, especially on hotel and residential contracts. He said: “We’ve had a lot of interest from trade contractors, especially drylining, painting and decorating, and fit-out specialists.

“They’ve found they can relatively easily use spray plasters to apply skim finishes. Where skilled plasterers are in short supply, bringing these skills in-house gives them greater control of work and reduces risks, especially where contracts are fast moving.”

But there is no substitute for quality finishes in high-end residential work. The redevelopment of the iconic BBC Television Centre (TVC) in West London was unveiled earlier this year.

Paul Monaghan, of architects AHMM, told the Evening Standard: “The Television Centre building was very important to people, so we didn’t want to spoil the feel of it.

“Part of our idea is that the buildings should blend so well, people shouldn’t know if they’re in the old or the new.”

The developers said they had tried to maintain the original feel of the historic site and tried to use some of its famous features in their design. Internal finishes have formed an integral part of the works.

Measom Dryline undertook the drylining and ceilings packages throughout the residential phases, delivering meticulously high finishes with the required fire, acoustic and aesthetic performance.

Phillip Lee, Measom’s project manager, said: “A key feature of TVC is the iconic curved corridors and bulkheads. This visually impressive feature was challenging to install due to the seamless finish required and the need to set out and form openings for the lights on the radius of the wall.

“The light fittings can be fully recessed within the ceiling or ‘popped out’ and used directionally. To achieve the clean plaster hairline finish, each of these circular lights had to be carefully plastered around as opposed to being housed in a plastic casing.”

The challenge and technical difficulty at TVC highlights the critical role that finishing contractors play in making interior design concepts a reality.