Drywall Finishing Levels

Drywall finishing requires a good deal of craftsmanship, which is why the gypsum industry and drywall professionals have codified a set of professional standards that breaks the process of finishing drywall into five distinct levels. 

Our standard is a level 5 finish on the ceiling so that it is completely smooth and can be painted. Level 4 finishing on the walls* except where large spans are needed at the conjunction of the second floor with the main floor ceiling.   

Drywall Finishing Levels 

Level 0: Level 0 implies that no finishing of any type has been done. The drywall is only fastened to the walls or ceiling. 

Level 1: This level means that your drywall joint tape has been embedded in jointing compound, and nothing more. 

Level 2: This level means that you have skimmed a thin coat of joint compound over the tape and covered the drywall screw holes. You can stop at this level if you intend to cover it with tile. 

Level 3: For this stage, you apply a coat of joint compound to the tape and screws. Walls that will receive a heavy texture, such as knockdown texture, can end at this level. It would be pointless to progress beyond this level, since texturing is rougher than level 3. 

Level 4: This is the classic drywall finish. Here, you apply another coat of joint compound to the tape and screws and sand the dried compound. 

Level 5: The highest possible level of drywall finishing involves applying a skim coat, if applicable 

In a perfect world, all drywall, every square inch of it, would be mudded and sanded down to a mirror-smooth surface. While this is possible, it’s not cost-effective.  Here are the areas we are going to want to save some money on the budget where a high level of finishing is just not required  

  • Garages:  level 2 drywall finish is frequently used in garages and workshops. Why mud and sand a space that is rarely ever seen? Typically we see plywood installed on the walls for hooks, tools and shelving.  On the other hand, a car aficionado or an obsessive tinkerer might enjoy having a workspace that is as clean and smooth as any other wall found in the residential part of the home.   
  • Cabinet-Hidden Areas: Because kitchens are often blanketed with cabinets and appliances, much of the wall space doesn’t need a level 5 finish. Conversely, ceilings tend to get exposed to lots of natural light through the windows, highlighting pops, bumps, and depressions. For many homeowners, nothing less than a level 5 will do on their ceilings. 


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