After drywall has been hung, the final step is drywall finish. Drywall sheets are joined from side to side and at the corners. This leaves thin grooves between the sheets that must be covered up before any paint can be applied. In addition, drywall screw heads and the indentations they make must also be covered. Corners must be capped and taped as well. Finishing drywall consists of applying drywall compound or mud and tape over joints. There are, however, 6 different levels of drywall finish. Each refers to a specific level of finish required for the joints in that particular area. Beginning with Level 0, this article will detail each level of finish and what it entails.
This level requires no taping, mudding or finishing of any kind. This is usually only a temporary level. Drywall hangers who are not finishers reach this level once the hanging is complete.
Also known as fire taping, level 1 stipulates that all joints, angles and corners must be taped and mudded and cleared of excess mud. It only requires one layer of mud, though, so while the tape must be properly affixed over the joints, it need not be completely concealed. This level is often found in service corridors, unfinished attics and anywhere else not visible to either the public or the inhabitants of a structure.
Level 2 also does not make final appearance a priority. This requires, in addition to tape and one layer of drywall compound, a second layer of compound covering the tape. Tool marks are acceptable. Level 2 finishing is called for when greenboard or water resistant drywall is hung to be covered with tile. Garages, storage areas and crawl spaces may also use level 2 finishing.
This is the first level of finishing that requires all 3 layers of drywall compound. The first adheres the tape while the second and third fully conceal and smooth out the joints. All joints, angles and corners must be covered in this manner followed by primer. Rooms that will receive heavy texture call for this type of finish.
Level 4 is essentially the same as level 3, requiring 3 layers of drywall compound over all joints, angles, fasteners and bracing or other accessories. The biggest difference between this and level 3 is that this level is required where light texture or covering such as wallpaper is applied.
The final level requires everything that level 4 specifies. In addition, a thin layer of joint compound will be spread evenly across the entire surface of the wall. This level is used when non-textured paints are used and the builder needs to achieve the smoothest, highest-quality finish.
Different building requirements call for different levels of drywall finish. Whether a room is out of sight and just needs a single coat of mud and tape over joints or a room will be entirely visible and needs the best finish possible, there is a drywall finish level that explicitly details the work that must be done.