Long ago, in a construction industry not that far away, there was confusion about the countless number of finishes available in the hardware community. In an effort to provide the widest variety of colors and options for Architects, hardware suppliers went to great lengths to create unique finishes. Fortunately, standards were eventually put in place to ensure a consistent quality and uniformity of finishes. Today we have the Builders’ Hardware Manufacturers Association, or BHMA, that sets industry standards for quality.

Bright or Satin Finishes?

Hardware finishes that are considered “bright” have a polished appearance, such as Bright Brass or Bright Chrome. These have a more natural appearance. A coating is often applied to protect and preserve the finish.

Satin finishes include Satin Bronze, Satin Chrome, or Satin Stainless Steel. These finishes are polished and buffed with abrasive wheels and have a more “dull” appearance.

Oxidized and Oil-Rubbed finishes are also becoming more popular for bronze materials. These give a more antique look to hardware.

Oil Rubbed Bronze Lever

Oil Rubbed Bronze

Hardware Base Materials and Plating

There are two different methods for identifying a finish. Former U.S. codes are used to identify a finished look and begin with US such as US32D. ANSI/BHMA codes are used to identify not only the appearance of the finished hardware but also the base material used. BHMA symbols will be a three digit number, such as 630.

Door Hinge

Ball Bearing Hinge

Knowing the base material can be useful for ensuring specifications are met for things like corrosion resistance or fire rating requirements.

For example, hinges that are identified as US26D Satin Chrome appearance may have a brass base material or a steel base material. BHMA will identify a satin chrome plated finish with brass base material as 626 and a satin chrome plated finish with steel base material as 652. Brass would be suitable for corrosion resistance at exterior doors but not for fire rated applications. Steel is appropriate for fire ratings but not for areas where corrosion is a concern.


So, you can see how knowing the base material can be important when specifying hardware that will perform as needed for various applications. Simply indicating a color is only part of the design. Some codes or locations will recommend or require certain materials be used for finish hardware. Be aware of which method hardware manufacturers are using (U.S. symbols or BHMA codes) when they specify finishes.

For reference, download this finish table showing the description of each finish code.