A Step by Step Guide of Drywall Finish Levels

Drywall FinishThe quality of finished drywall depends on several factors. The framing job and overall care given during the drywall installation are both main determinants of the results. As long as these steps are completed with success, the only remaining challenge will be to tape well the joints and finish the product to your expectations. It’s important to point out here that even if a wall serves solely as a separator and not as a decorative structure, proper drywall finishing is required. After all, that’s why there are five different levels of finishing drywall. Each one of them is used to cover different requirements.  So, let’s explore them.

Level 0

Since this is considered a temporary construction, no drywall taping or finishing is needed. Level 0 drywall finish is also used when you haven’t decided on its finish yet.

Level 1

Drywall contractors use level 1 in attics or garages and areas not accessible by the public. Drywall joints and angles have tape in the joint compound but the compound doesn’t cover fasteners. If this is used in corridors and other areas where there is pedestrian traffic, drywall companies can add accessories while some boards have tool marks and ridges.

Level 2

The interior angles and the joints have tape in the joint compound while excess compound is immediately removed to leave a thin coating over the joints and angles. The joint compound also covers the fasteners and accessories while you can still see tool marks and ridges. Level 2 drywall finish often serves when a water-resistant board is used as a tile substrate.

Level 3

Just like level 2 finishes, level 3 includes having the tape embedded in joint compound and wiped to leave a thin coat over the interior angles and joints. The difference here is that there is an extra coating of joint compound applied over the joints and interior angles while the fasteners and accessories are covered with two layers of joint compound coatings. There are no tool marks and ridges here. When the surface is prepared, it is finished with a drywall primer prior to the final decoration.

Level 3 drywall finish is used when heavy wall decorations or drywall textures will be applied as a last step. It’s not the finish level you want for casual flat residential painting or lightweight wallcoverings.

Level 4

The first steps are repeated here as well. In other words, the joints and interior angles have tape in the joint compound and then the area must be wiped to leave nothing but a slim coating over them. Now, the difference here is that the drywall contractor will apply two hands of coats of joint compound over the flat joints and one coat over the interior angles. The contractors apply three coats of joint compound over accessories and fasteners while all joint compounds will be smoothened and there will be no ridges or tool marks. Before the surface is decorated to your wishes, the contractor finishes it with a primer.

This is the recommended drywall finish level for light residential wallcoverings, light textures, and flat paints. And so it’s important that all joints and fasteners are well concealed so that they won’t show under the flat or glossy paint or light pattern of the wallcoverings.

Level 5

drywall-PrimerThis is the highest drywall finish grade that ensures uniformity and all imperfections perfectly concealed. The interior angles and joints still have tape embedded in the joint compound which is quickly wiped to leave a thin coat before two separate coatings of compound are applied over the flat joints and one coat over the interior angles. The fasteners and accessories are concealed with three coatings for better results. Finally, the entire surface is finished with a skim coat of joint compound. This ensures the smoothness of the surface and successful concealment of any imperfections. Naturally, there are no tool marks or ridges.

Before drywall is decorated, it requires a primer. The good preparation of drywall ensures that the fasteners don’t show and the smooth surface is perfect for semi-gloss, gloss, or flat paints. Since level 5 drywall finish hides all imperfections, it’s perfect when the angle of the wall in conjunction with the lighting might show flaws.

To sum up. When you want to use glossy and flat paints or the lighting conditions don’t work in your favor, you need a smooth surface with no imperfections. That’s level 5. When it comes to drywall finishes, the higher the level the better. So if you opt for texturized commercial painting, you don’t need to pay for level 5 but if you want a flat paint, you do.

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