3.6 Interior Finishes

Recommended Minimum Standards for Finishes in Tenant Spaces. GSA has set minimum standards for the quality of finishes. GSA provides a tenant improvement allowance for finishes and features within its rental charge. Within this allowance, the choices for interior finishes are the responsibility of the tenant. GSA recommends the following as minimum standards. Where tenants choose finishes below these minimum standards, the tenant is responsible for above standard maintenance costs. Codes may have a bearing on the type of finishes in an area and shall be consulted. For fire safety requirements, see Chapter 7, Fire Protection Engineering, Interior Finishes. An example is the need to provide carpet tile rather than continuous carpet over access flooring. Architects are encouraged to select materials of higher quality, within the budget constraints of the project.

Carpets. Carpets should be used in all areas where acoustics are a concern, most notably in office working areas. Carpet tile should be used whenever there is access flooring, a cellular floor, or a ducted floor system, so that maintenance of systems under the floor can be done without destroying the carpet. Carpet tile is available in hard back or cushion back, which maintains its overall appearance longer and is more comfortable to stand and walk on than hard back.

Six-foot-wide (1800mm) cushion back broadloom carpet can be used in many installations. Twelve-foot-wide (3700mm) broadloom carpet without a cushion back or separate pad is appropriate for use in low traffic areas. In high traffic areas, a cushion back or carpet pad should be specified.

Off-gassing is a serious health concern in some carpet installations, as PVC-backed carpet is very common in both carpet tile and six-foot broadloom. It is important that when installing PVC-backed carpet to assure that there are no old adhesives or floor treatments that may react with the PVC, as off-gassing may result. The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) has developed the “Green Label” test program to test for off-gassing of carpet, cushion and adhesives. These materials should meet the “Green Label” criteria.

Carpets that use recovered materials shall be specified (see section 3.2, Special Design Considerations) and care should be taken to specify carpet that can be recycled in the future. However, when specifying a carpet that complies with RCRA Section 6002 and Executive Order 13101, care must be taken to verify it also meets all the criteria for its intended use and level of foot traffic.

The amount of foot traffic and soiling should be considered when selecting carpet. The CRI has developed test criteria for rating carpet in each of three classifications: severe traffic, heavy traffic, and moderate traffic. A selection of carpet for a lower foot traffic level than anticipated is discouraged.

Severe traffic level – Extreme foot traffic and soiling. Examples are corridors, entrance areas, lobbies, office circulation, food service areas, etc.

Heavy traffic level – Heavy to medium heavy foot traffic and soiling. Examples are private offices, living quarters, open plan office cubicles and workstations.

Moderate traffic level – Moderate foot traffic. Examples are sleeping areas, conference rooms and consultation areas. Commercial grade carpet should be specified for these areas.

A complete list of usage areas and their minimum use classification is available from the Carpet and Rug Institute, PO Box 2048, Dalton, GA 30722

Carpet pattern can mask or camouflage traffic patterns, spots, and soil, so that its appearance will be maintained for a longer period of time. Pattern performance is:

Random pattern design = excellent
Geometric Pattern = good
Tweed = marginal
Solid Color = Poor

Stains will be the most noticeable when using colors that contrast with soil, dust and spills. Therefore, light and dark colors at the extreme ends of the color spectrum do not perform as well as colors that are in the medium range.

Cushioning carpet adds a shock absorber to the carpet and reduces the crushing of the yarn. This prevents a loss of appearance from creating contrast in the traffic areas, thereby allowing the carpet to provide longer service. It also provides ergonomic benefits by absorbing impact resulting in less stress on the lower legs and feet of the occupants.

Since 80 percent of the soil in the building comes in the entrance areas of the building, it is important to catch the soil at the entry. There are different systems available, including special carpet tiles and entry mats available on GSA Federal Supply Contracts.

Vinyl Wall Covering. The minimum quality of vinyl wall covering is Type II with a minimum finished weight of 620 grams per lineal meter (137 cm average width) (20 ounces per lineal yard with an average width of 54 inches).

Architectural Woodwork. Work under this section should be certified as meeting the referenced standard under the terms and conditions of the AWI Quality Certification Program.

Martin Luther King Courthouse, Newark, NJ
Martin Luther King Courthouse, Newark, NJ

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General Office Space (Open and Enclosed Offices)

This category of space comprises a large proportion of area in Federal buildings. Materials, surfaces, and systems must be chosen with quality and flexibility as primary concerns. Office spaces characteristically change with their occupants, occupancy configurations and utility requirements. Interior finishes should allow these transformations to occur with minimal disturbance and cost.

Resilient flooring should only be used in offices adjacent to utilitarian spaces such as loading docks.

Carpet for Raised Access Floor. Carpet tiles should be used on raised access floor. Both carpet adhered to floor panels and loose-laid carpet tile are permitted.

Ceilings. Suspended acoustical materials should be selected for all general office space. Grid size and spacing should be based on the building planning module. Avoid inaccessible ceiling systems.

U.S. Courthouse, White Plains, NY
U.S. Courthouse,
White Plains, NY

It is desirable to standardize acoustic ceiling tile within the building as much as possible to minimize the amount of replacement stock. The recommended standard ceiling tile is a commercial quality, 600 mm by 600 mm tegular lay-in (2-foot by 2-foot) tile. See the section Building Planning, Planning Module in this chapter.

Doors. The finish for solid core wood doors in general office spaces should be limited to wood veneer. Glass doors may be used at entrances to tenant suites.

Training and Conference Rooms
These areas should be finished at levels of quality equivalent to the adjacent office areas. In addition, the application of tackable acoustic wall panels and rails for the display of presentation materials within these spaces is appropriate.

Internal Corridors
Corridors within general office areas should receive the same finishes as the office areas themselves. Color changes may be useful in these areas for orientation.

Entrances and Vestibules
Entrance lobbies and atria are the focal point of the Federal building. They are the landmark to which all other spaces in the facility relate. They should be an extension of the exterior of the building and the point of transition to interior spaces. These spaces have high levels of visibility and public use and warrant the highest degree of visual detail and finish.

It is desirable to integrate the exterior and interior building design in these areas.Materials shall relate and be of high quality. Choose durable, moisture-resistant materials since these areas are typically exposed to weather. The depth of vestibules should be no less than 2100 mm (7 feet) to minimize air infiltration.

Floors. All entrance areas require a means to prevent dirt and moisture from accumulating on the entrance lobby floor. It is desirable to have permanent entry way systems (grilles, grates, etc.) to catch dirt and particulates from entering the building at high volume entry ways. Buildings located in areas with severe weather conditions will require more elaborate entry mat and drainage systems to prevent the tracking of melting snow and rain. Buildings located in more moderate climates may require only a natural or synthetic fiber floor mat. The entrance vestibule may also have a hard surface flooring surrounding the matted area that would be part of the adjoining main entrance area.

Doors. Doors at building entrances and vestibules should be glazed to facilitate orientation and safe movement in these high traffic areas.

Elevator and Escalator Lobbies
These elements are functionally related to the public entrance and lobby areas and, therefore, should be treated with the same high finish levels as those spaces. It is appropriate to introduce special floor, wall and ceiling treatments, and special lighting that can be repeated on the upper floors for continuity.

Floors. Elevator and escalator lobbies should harmonize with the finishes used in the entrance lobby or atrium. Because of their importance in orientation and movement, floor treatments in these areas should be similar throughout the building.

Walls. Use durable, high quality surfaces, and coordinate wall finishes with elevator door and frame finishes.

Ceilings. Special treatments are appropriate to visually distinguish elevator lobbies. Avoid completely sealed systems as they make access to elements above the ceiling difficult.

Passenger elevators usually receive the highest amount of traffic in the facility. Their finishes should relate to the entrance and lobby areas and should be focal points for the interior design of the building. Although finishes need to be durable, high quality architectural design of cabs and entrances is a priority.

Floors. Elevator floors receive a great amount of wear in a very concentrated area. The flooring surface shall be either extremely durable or easily replaceable. Hard surface floors, such as stone, brick or tile, are usually poor choices because cab floors tend to be unstable. Over time, grouted materials often loosen or crack. Carpet, wood or high quality resilient materials are better choices and perform well acoustically. Carpet materials should be selected for low pile height and high density.

Walls. Wall materials shall present a high quality image and should be sufficiently durable to take some abuse. Materials shall be installed on removable panels or other replaceable devices to facilitate maintenance and renewal of finishes.

Ceilings. Ceilings shall be replaceable. In passenger elevators recessed down lights or indirect fixtures should be used.

Doors. Surfaces should be scratch resistant and easily replaced or refinished. Inside and outside finishes should be coordinated with adjacent wall surfaces.

Freight Elevators. Finishes for freight elevators shall be very durable and easy to clean. Stainless steel walls and doors are preferred. Flooring shall be sheet vinyl or resilient vinyl tile. Ceiling light fixtures must be recessed and protected from possible damage.

National Archives, College Park, MD
National Archives, College Park, MD

Stairways (closed)
General Requirements. Where internal stairways are used for both general vertical circulation and emergency egress, finishes should be consistent with the floors being served by the stair. In stairways used for utility purposes or only for emergency egress, unfinished or minimally finished surfaces are appropriate.

Floors. In general circulation stairs, flooring for stairways, treads, and landings should provide acoustic control. Resilient materials are most appropriate and shall be combined with a non-slip nosing on the treads; these must be non-combustible. These surfaces should be coordinated with materials of the floors, which the stair serves. Utility and egress-only stairs should be of unfinished, sealed concrete or steel. Always provide nonslip nosings.

Walls. Wall surfaces in these areas should be drywall substrate with a simple, straightforward finish such as paint or wall covering. In utility and egress stairs, provide a painted or unfinished surface.

Ceilings. Absorptive materials are desirable in stairways for their acoustic effect. Stair runs should have painted gypsum board soffits where appropriate.

Doors. Doors between adjacent building areas and stairways should match other doors in the building areas. The doors should have the same finish on the interior and the exterior. Utility and egress stair doors should be painted metal.

Stairways (open)
Open stairways that connect lobby and atrium spaces should be appropriately finished in materials that match or relate to the adjacent surfaces in quality and appearance.

Floors. Floor finishes for open stairs should match or coordinate with the adjoining lobby and atrium spaces served by these stairs.

Public Corridors
Floors. Public corridors adjacent to building entrances, atria, etc., which carry significant foot traffic and provide major circulation pathways throughout the building shall have materials selected that shall be extremely durable and require low maintenance. To improve acoustic control in corridors adjacent to work spaces, hard, reflective surfaces should be avoided.

Walls. Walls in public corridors should receive a wall covering over a drywall substrate.

Ceilings. Accessible acoustical ceilings should be selected for corridors. Use a high quality system in public areas. Avoid inaccessible (sealed) ceiling systems. Submit alternative proposals to design team.

Doors. Doors along public corridors should be of a quality equivalent to that of other elements in these spaces and higher quality than those in the interior spaces. Finish may be wood veneer. The finish on both sides of the door should match. At interior spaces with high levels of public use provide glazed entry door systems along public corridors.

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Last Reviewed: 2019-02-26