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12 Different Types of Metal Finishes

A collage of types of Metal Finishes.

You’ve been to houses before where all the faucets were bright and shiny. Then you’ve been to others where the metal was less shiny with a smooth, elegant look. You’ve seen faucets in silver and in gold. But they’re not all made with different metals.

They’re just treated with different metal finishes. You need to know what you have in your home so you know what to buy when you need to replace something in your home.

Learn more about the different metal finishing options out there so you know which look you like best and want to have in your home.

Related: Finishing Carpentry Tools | Manganese Steel | Carbon Steel | What is Silicon Steel | Types of Steel

How Metal Finishes Are Applied

Any type of metal can be treated with a finish that gives it a certain look. Various processes are used to give a metal a specific finish. Metal is cleaned, deburred, descaled, and possibly even machined in order to achieve the desired look.

Metal finishing is not just about looks, though each one does have its own distinct look. Metal finishes can increase chemical resistance and tarnish resistance, keeping your faucets and fixtures looking nicer longer.

Often, metal plating is applied over a faucet metal so that the desired finish can be achieved. The plating adds extra corrosion resistance. Often, metal plating is finished with a wire brushing procedure that creates a smooth, clean surface texture.

Chemical baths are then applied to remove any oil and residue leftover from the machining process that went into creating the faucet.

A piece of metal being polished with a horizontal grinder.

The metal is then polished, buffed, and honed to achieve the desired smoothness and look. Various abrasive powders may be used during this process to smooth out the metal. Grinding machines are used to create a uniform, perfect surface, and add detail work as needed.

To create matte finishes, blasting machines are used to create a smooth matte look. Metal pellets, sand, and other abrasive materials are used to create the matte finish.

Aluminum faucets are anodized. This is a process that’s used to treat aluminum and give it more corrosion resistance, wear-resistance, and general durability overall.

Types of Finishes

Metal finishes come in a variety of different colors and metal types but these specific looks are usually available in multiple finish types.

The main finish types are antiqued, polished, brushed, hammered, and satin. These types of finishing techniques create different levels of shine or matte on the metal.

This is an antique handcrafted copper elephant statue.

Antique finishes are made to look slightly rougher, rather than smooth as if they have developed a patina over time. This look works beautifully in rustic designs.

This is a close look at a painter's air brusher gun.

Brushed metal finishes create a matte look on the metal that is more dull than shiny. The brushed look leaves slight indications of brushstrokes on the metal. Brushed metal is easy to clean and does not show fingerprints as easily as some other types of finishes.

A tin roof being hammered by a worker with a rubber mallet.

Hammered metal finishing is actually made with multiple dents all over the surface. This is a very distinct and unique look that is perfect for vintage and rustic designs.

A large piece of metallic wood being polished.

Polished metal finishes are shiny and glossy. They have a mirror-like shine that does show fingerprints very well. You will want to wipe this metal down often to keep it looking clean and shiny.

This is a metallic set of doors that has a satin finish.

Satin metal finishes are another type of matte finish that is smoother than brushed finishes. The satin finish is smooth, with no brush strokes, with a slight sheen that gives it a little more shine than brushed metal finishes.

Oil-rubbed finishes are usually used for faucets and fixtures made in metals and not finished with metal plating. Bronze, brass, and copper fixtures are often available in oil-rubbed finishes. This finish is designed to create the look of a patina, giving metal an aged, more vintage-style look.

Different Metal Finishes

There’s more to consider than looks when you’re choosing metal finishes, though this is what you’re going to notice first.

If you want all the metals in your home to match then you’ve got to consider price, maintenance, cleaning, and many other factors. After all, you’re going to live with your faucets and other fixtures for a long time.

Pieces of stainless steel sheets stacked.

Stainless steel is a metal alloy and it’s an extremely common metal finishing choice. Stainless steel is corrosion-resistant and very low maintenance. Stainless steel is a dull silver finish that does show fingerprints well, so it needs to be cleaned often.

Large pieces of aluminum stacked and on display at a store.

Aluminum has a silver appearance that is similar to stainless steel. However, aluminum is far more affordable. It’s not as strong as stainless steel but aluminum will not rust. This is why it’s a good finish to use for outside areas.

A brass plate attached to a red brick wall.

Brass is a shiny metal that’s golden in color and may be bright and shiny in a polished finish or duller in a matte finish. Brass finishes come in a variety of colors and levels of shininess. You may even see it in a more brown tone or a bright gold color. Brass is highly corrosion-resistant and naturally antimicrobial. Brass can be one of the more expensive finish choices.

A close look at a bunch of copper tubes.

Copper has a very distinct look that immediately stands out. Copper has a reddish-orange look to it. This metal is antimicrobial and corrosion-resistant. Copper is associated with high quality and luxury because it is one of the more expensive choices.

Save money by choosing faucets that are copper-plated. Copper can oxidate in time, which turns the metal a greenish color. Prevent this by regularly applying wax (beeswax or carnauba wax) and buffing with a cloth. Add a coat of linseed oil and cover it in lacquer after this.

A close look at a pile of nickel spoons.

Nickel is silver in color and has a shiny luster that’s not quite as bright as chrome. Nickel has a slightly warmer look to it and is more of a matte than a polished finish. Nickel does not easily show fingerprints and it’s easy to clean and maintain.

A close look at a bunch of chrome tools.

Chrome is a bright, shiny metal finish. it’s scratch-resistant and easy to maintain. Chrome is bright and shiny and stands out, but it does show fingerprints easily and must be cleaned often to maintain its shine.

What Is Mixing Metal Finishes?

When you mix metal finishing styles, you have more than one finish on the faucets and other fixtures in your house. You may have stainless steel in the kitchen, which is a popular look for this room, and have brass in the bathroom.

Many people like the look of brass in bathrooms because the gold adds warmth to space. You may even see designs that mix metal finishes in the same room. The sink faucet may have a different finish than the tub faucet, for example.

There are lots of ways to mix metals to create a great overall look. You may use one finish as your main look, then choose one or two other finishes as accents. This can create a more interesting, multi-tonal design.

Choosing a Metal Finish

Choose the metal finishing style you want based on how it looks, how much maintenance it takes to keep it looking nice, how much it costs, and what you want your overall home design to be.

There’s a lot to consider with metal finishes and a lot of reasons why you may choose the finish or finishes that you use in your home. The more you know about metal finishes, the better your decisions will be.