The first thing any drywall finisher needs to know about is the many different types of drywall levels. Just like how there are different types of drywall, there are, in total, six types of drywall finishes. They range from level 1 to level 5 drywall finishes or otherwise known as construction levels. However, there is one level that not many drywall finishers discuss. We will go over each level of drywall finish and when they are applicable. At the end we will reveal the one drywall finish that no one will tell you about. First thing we will cover though is what does the term mudding drywall mean?
What is Mudding Drywall?
Mudding drywall is a common expression by those in the business. This means that you are using a joint drywall compound either pre-mixed or in a powdered form that you mix with water. You then apply this compound to drywall to fill in any gaps or holes in the wall. Check out our ultimate guide to drywall mud.
Level 1 Drywall Finish
A level one drywall finish is not intended for public viewing. It is the first step between installation and seeing the final finish of a drywall job. In a level 1 finish, the only thing applied to the drywall is one layer of drywall taping mud plus a strip of tape placed across the mud taping drywall joints together. There is no other coat of mud applied to the drywall.
You may find a level one drywall finish in an attic or a hidden corridor. Otherwise, you will never see a level one drywall finish in a residential or commercial building. If you do, you will want to get it fixed and upgraded to at least a level 2 finish.
Level 2 Drywall Finish
Level two drywall finish includes a thin coat of a joint compound spread across the drywall tape placed in the level one drywall finish. A level 2 drywall finish also includes compound placed over the nail and screw holes.
Level 2 drywall is used for most workshop-type of spaces including garages and storage rooms. You can also stop finishing your drywall at this level if you plan to place tile on the surface of the drywall installed. If you plan to have a texture or smooth wall for paint, you will need to advance beyond level 2.
Level 3 Drywall Finish
A level 3 drywall finish includes a second coat of drywall joint compound applied after the first coat of mud. Screws and corner beads will also need two different coats of compound. Sanding will be required for removing any edges or tool marks found in the compound.
You will not have a smooth finish with a level 3 drywall finish. The drywall will still be rough. If you plan to have a medium to heavy texture finish, drywall finishers can end at this stage. For smoother finishes you will need to advance to a level 4 or level 5 drywall finish.
Level 4 Drywall Finish
A level 4 drywall finish is the typical drywall finish in the business. For a level four drywall finish, a drywall taper will apply a third coat of drywall mud to both the drywall tape and the nail or screw spots made during installation of the drywall.
When you are preparing drywall for painting, you will need to reach a level 4 drywall finish at the bare minimum. Level 4 and above are ideal for interior wall finishes.
Level 5 Drywall Finish
A level 5 finish is the highest tier finish for drywall. A level 5 drywall finish is similar to a level 4 drywall finish however, it includes a skim coating walls and skim coat ceilings. Prepping drywall for paint with a dark or deep tone a level 5 finish is preferred.
How Do I Apply a Skim Coat?
There are three main ways to apply a skim coat to drywall.
- Using a flat box: Allows for fast application of a skim coat while a skimming blade allows removal of any excess mud that was applied.
- Use a taping knife: A slower but manual option
- Spray finish: Using spray equipment quickly spray on drywall compound for the final skim coat.
Level 0 Drywall Finish
In a level zero drywall finish, the sheets of drywall are fastened to the frame and studs with either screws or nails. There is no tape, corner beads, or mud applied to the drywall. Level zero drywall is never used in a finished product. The only time you will ever see level 0 drywall is in a temporary state. This is the cheapest cost to tape and mud drywall as none of those materials are used.
How Many Coats of Mud on Drywall Needed?
You may ask, how many coats of drywall mud is needed for my job? It all depends on the level of finish you or your client requires. Level 0 and level 1 require no coat. Level 2 requires one coat, level 3 requires two coats, level 4 requires three coats and level 5 requires three coats plus a skim coat.