What is the quickest and most efficient way to attain a Level 5 finish?

October 2016

Spray drywall mud through an airless over a level 4 finish. Light sand and touch-up, and it always turns out beautiful.

I prefer to use a Graco Mark V with USG all purpose (or other fairly hard mud) with about 5 pints of water per 3.5 gal box, spray, and have second person wiping down if possible. This will need to be sanded. I haven’t found sprayable level 5 coatings to match the finish of a true mud applied level 5.

Educate the design team sufficiently that they choose to require the use of one of the many proprietary coatings specifically designed for this purpose over an inspected and accepted Level 4 finish. Having the painter create the “level 5 finish” saves both the painter and the drywaller from multiple point-up and spot priming returns and saves the final occupants from seeing the unavoidable evidence of all the returns, plus, it removes the drywaller from the scene once the painter has commenced work, making them both very happy!

Spray apply USG Sheetrock® Brand Tuff-Hide™.

Cover it in wood and I guarantee you won’t see any drywall imperfections, hence a Level 5 :)

We have to educate builders, GCs, architects and owners not to use LED and 500 watt lights shining across the surface as a standard for point-up, and don’t use semi-gloss paint unless you are going to spec level 5 finish. Explain the differences between the two, the reasons you can see imperfections under different lighting conditions and what you can expect of each level of finish. Then use the new level 5 primers and apply correct mils as per spec of the paint product being used at least 12 mils.
    We still do a light sand after prime coat with a pole sander or electric sanders to give a pristine smooth finish. But you have to get paid for it. Much quicker, easier and cleaner than the old traditional method of thinning down compound, skimming and sanding. That is a level 5 finish, not a level 4. There is an upfront cost, and it’s not free!!
—Mark Owens, Bison Drywall, Inc.

Skimming the walls covers up all the imperfections, but is time-consuming. I believe the quickest way is to spray the final coat with a smooth coat product that comes in a 5 gallon bucket.
    Please remember every job is different, and you may have to take the slow route.
—Chris Estrada, Extreme Drywall Concepts, LLC, Glendale, Arizona

If you have a great spray man, there are lots of really quick products that cover well and are priced right. The best way, in my opinion, is still to water down a good mud and roll it on with a thick nap roller and pull it tight. If you don’t mind a little stipple, use a small nap, keep it even, prime/paint and go have a beer.
    Now make sure you are trying to get a level 5 finish and not trying to turn a bad frame/drywall job into a flat surface—that’s a whole new question right there.

Go with a plastered wall.

Let the painter do it.

We have been using Continental’s Rapid Deco® Level 5 system. It’s quick, cost effective and does a great job.

USG Tuff-Hide. Spray it on thick (18 mil). Let it dry for a day, sand it the next day.
—Giles Turgeon Green Mountain Drywall Co., Inc., Wallingford, Vermont

Start with a level 4 sanded with 220, spray apply a high solids product like equalizer or Sprayplas, then buff with a spent 220 pad. Also, dust control during spraying is essential. Then have your painter use a high quality primer and finish paint.
—Rick, RWE, North Carolina

Glaze.

Have the painter use a level 5 primer.

Stucco it. :)
—Bruce Brown, CEO, Asars Inc., Atlanta, Georgia

Two different answers: Quickest is to spray on Tuff-Hide. Best results is to apply lite mud and completely skim the surface.
—Scott Steward, Gibson Lewis of Indianapolis

Find skilled plasterers and let them do the job.
—Rob Aird, President, Aird Incorporated, Frederick, Maryland

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