What is a Level 5 Drywall Finish? Understanding Drywall Levels Updated 2024

Jun 26, 2019
level 5 finish

Drywall installation may seem straightforward, but when it comes to finishing, there's a level of complexity that can significantly impact the final outcome of your project. From basic finishes to premium options, understanding the different drywall levels is essential for achieving the desired results. In this guide, we'll dive into the various gypsum board finish levels, with a particular focus on the coveted Level 5 finish, to help you make informed decisions for your next drywall project.


What are Drywall Levels?

Drywall levels, also known as gypsum board finish levels, are a standardized system developed by the Gypsum Association to define the quality and appearance of finished walls. Each level corresponds to a specific set of finishing techniques and requirements, ranging from Level 0 to Level 5. Let's explore the characteristics of each level to better understand their applications:

Level 0

This is the most basic finish, where the gypsum board and joint fasteners are visible. It's typically used in temporary spaces or areas where final decoration decisions have not yet been made.

Level 1

In a Level 1 finish, the drywall joint tape is embedded in drywall compound, with no additional finishing work done. It's suitable for spaces not frequently accessed by the public, such as attics or service entrances.

Level 2

A Level 2 finish involves applying a thin skim coat of joint compound over the tape and covering the drywall fastener heads. It's commonly used in areas that will be covered with tile.

Level 3

Walls that will receive heavy texture or commercial-grade wall coverings require a Level 3 finish. This involves applying joint compound to both the tape and the screws.

Level 4

The classic drywall finish, Level 4 is used in everyday residential settings where flat paints, semi-gloss paints, or light textures will be applied. It involves applying another coat of joint compound to the tape and screws and then sanding the surface once dry.

Level 3 vs. Level 4 Drywall Finishing

While Level 3 and Level 4 finishes both involve applying joint compound to the tape and screws, they differ in their intended applications and final appearance. Level 3 finishes are typically used in spaces where heavy texture or commercial-grade wall coverings will be applied. In contrast, Level 4 finishes are more suited to everyday residential settings where flat paints, semi-gloss paints, or light textures will be used. Additionally, Level 4 finishes require an additional coat of joint compound and sanding to achieve a smooth surface suitable for painting.

Level 5

The pinnacle of drywall finishes, Level 5 requires all aspects of a Level 4 finish, plus an additional skim coat of joint compound to cover the entire surface. It provides a uniformly smooth surface suitable for high-gloss paint and areas with severe lighting conditions.

What is a Level 5 Finish?

A Level 5 finish is the highest level of drywall finish. It's characterized by a uniformly smooth surface that is free of imperfections, tool marks, or depressions. Achieving a Level 5 finish involves meticulous attention to detail and additional steps compared to lower levels of finishing. It's ideal for applications where an abundance of natural light or specialized paint treatments will be utilized, such as interior public spaces, office spaces, luxury housing, and art galleries.

Level 5 Sheetrock Finish

Drywall is a building material used for interior walls and ceilings, consisting of gypsum sandwiched between layers of paper. Sheetrock Level 5 finish is the highest standard of drywall finishing, characterized by a flawlessly smooth wall and uniform surface achieved through meticulous application of joint compound, sanding, and successive skim coats. While drywall refers to the material itself, Sheetrock Level 5 finish represents the pinnacle of craftsmanship in drywall finishing, reserved for projects requiring the highest level of quality and aesthetic appeal.

Applying a Skim Coat for a Level 5 Finish

To achieve a Level 5 finish, one common technique involves applying a skim coat of joint compound over the entire surface. This can be done using a roller, taping knife, or sprayer, depending on personal preference and project requirements. The skim coat is then smoothed out and scraped off to create a flawless surface ready for painting or other finishing treatments.

How to Apply a Skim Coat

There are three different ways to apply a skim coat when applying a Level 5 finish.

Use a roller – Thin out the joint compound and then roll it onto the wall using a thick-nap roller. Scrape off immediately for best results.

Use a taping knife – Apply a series of dabs of mud and then immediately smooth the mixture across the surface before scraping off.

Use a sprayer – Some choose to apply the joint compound by using spray equipment that can be found at rental yards or hardware stores.

When to Use a Level 5 Finish

Not every application calls for a Level 5 setting, and since it requires additional time and cost, you should be sure it’s necessary before applying. A Level 5 finish is best-suited for settings where an abundance of natural light or a specialized paint treatment will be utilized, such as:

  • Interior public spaces

  • Office spaces

  • Luxury housing

  • Art galleries

Lesser finishes are typically appropriate depending on setting. For instance, a Level 1 finish works well in garages and other spaces that will remain unfinished. Rooms with walls that will be mostly covered by things like cabinetry don’t need a Level 5 finish, as there’s no need to apply a Level 5 to a surface that won’t be seen.

A Level 5 finish is more expensive and demanding, but can provide the high-quality look needed for more elegant spaces.

Choose Al's Taping Tools for Your Drywall Project Needs

When it comes to achieving professional-quality drywall finishes, trust the experts at Al's Taping Tools. With over 30 years of experience, we offer a wide range of high-quality drywall tools and expertise to help you tackle any project with confidence. Shop our products today or contact us for assistance in finishing your next job to perfection. Let Al's Taping Tools be your partner in achieving flawless drywall finishes every time.

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