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Topping Off: Why a tree on a piece of steel?

November 8, 2017

Welcome to the wonderful world of construction, one with a language of its own. In construction, there is a term for everything. Let’s start with the title of this post “Topping Off”. What does it mean exactly?

The term “Topping Off” refers to the last piece of steel erected on a building’s structure. The tradition comes from the steel erectors having all the people who worked on the project sign the last piece of steel to be erected. A ceremony symbolizing they were the first to reach the top of the building, a bit like mountaineers planting a flag when reaching the top.

You may have already seen a video or photo of “Topping Off”. Did you notice there is a conifer on each one? Just like me, you may think that even in the middle of July, the workers have the holiday spirit and put a fir tree on the finished building! So, really? Why a tree on a piece of steel? There are several answers. The fir tree symbolises a construction site without accidents. It is also said that the tree brings life to the building.

Some even say this tradition dates back to ancient times in Scandinavia. At that time, it was believed that putting a tree on the roof of a new construction would appease the spirits. Other sources date back to 2700 BC in Egypt where slaves placed a tree at the top of a pyramid to honor their fellows who died during construction.

Each project has its “Topping Off”, but the goal remains the same: to celebrate with all those who enabled the construction of this building!

And you, what are the traditions on your site?