Understanding the Levels of Drywall Finishing

The finished appearance of a drywall wall or ceiling is largely dependent upon the quality of the framing job and the care exercised in applying the drywall panels. The better the framing and cladding, the easier it is to have a near-perfect wall. Once that is accomplished, the last remaining challenge is to finish the joints to meet your appearance expectations. This following recommendations will help you determine the level of quality you need in your finish.

Levels of Paint Finish Over Gypsum / Drywall Board

The recommended level of paint finish over gypsum board wall and ceiling surfaces varies depending on location in the structure,the type of paint applied, the finish achieved on the gypsum board substrate prior to final decoration and the type of illumination striking the surface. The following recommendations from the Drywall Finishing Council Incorporated describe various levels of paint finish as the final decoration over new interior gypsum board surfaces.

Level 0

No painting required. Note that this is recommended where final decoration is not required.

Level 1

a. When final decoration is undetermined, all appropriately prepared gyp-sum board surfaces shall have one coat of drywall primer applied. Drywall primer shall be applied to the mil film thickness and application conditions specified by the primer manufacturer, or

b. When wall coverings are to be applied, all appropriately prepared gyp-sum board surfaces shall have one coat of wall covering primer applied. Wallcovering primer shall be applied to the mil film thickness and application conditions specified by the primer manufacturer.

Level 2

All appropriately prepared gypsum board surfaces shall have one coat of topcoat material applied to yield a uniform surface. Paint shall be applied to the mil film thickness and application conditions specified by the paint manufacturer. Note that the painted surface may not achieve a uniform appearance, color or sheen, but shall be absent of defects caused by the painting contractor’s workforce. This level is recommended where economy is of primary concern.

Level 3

All appropriately prepared gypsum board surfaces shall have two separate coats of topcoat material applied to yield a properly painted surface. Paint shall be applied to the mil film thickness and application conditions specified by the paint manufacturer. Note that this is typically recommended for areas having textures (spray or hand applied)over a primed gypsum board surface and the area is not subject to critical lighting. Refer to Drywall Finishing Council document titled,“Recommended Specification For Preparation of Gypsum Board Surfaces Prior To Texture Application.” When subjected to critical lighting, a Level 5 gypsum board finish as defined in GA-214-96(“Recommended Levels of Gypsum Board Finish”) is recommended.

Level 4

All appropriately prepared gypsum board surfaces shall have one coatof drywall primer applied to yield a properly painted surface and one separate coat of topcoat material applied to a properly painted surface over the drywall primer. Paint shall be applied to the mil film thickness and application conditions specified by the paint manufacturer.Note that this is typically recommended for smooth surfaces not subject to critical lighting and areas having light to medium texture finishes (spray or hand applied over a primed gypsum board surface). Refer to DrywallFinishing Council document titled, “Recommended Specification For Preparation of Gypsum Board Surfaces Prior To Texture Application.”When subjected to critical lighting, a Level 5 gypsum board finish as defined in GA-214-96 is recommended.

Level 5

All appropriately prepared gypsum board surfaces shall have one coat of drywall primer applied to yield a properly painted surface. Two separate coats of topcoat material shall be applied over the drywall primer to yield a properly painted surface. Paint shall be applied to the mil film thickness and application conditions specified by the paint manufacturer.Note that this level is recommended where the best paint finish is required, such as under critical lighting conditions or when paints that have a glossy surface are used. Recommended with a Level 5 gypsum board finish as described in the “Recommended Levels of Gypsum Board Finish” (GA-214-96). This system, when combined with the Level 5 gypsum board finish is the most effective method to minimize joint and fastener photographing and provides the most uniform final finish

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