There are five official levels of drywall finish. The designations made by industry organizations are based on the guidelines of the America Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), an accepted authority regarding building standards.
Level 0 is essentially unfinished drywall. This designation refers to temporary walls, which have no drywall tape or joint compound.
Level 1 drywall finish consists of two parts: a bed coat of drywall joint compound and an exposed strip of drywall joint tape. The joint compound and tape provide structural resilience to the installation, but remain unfinished for aesthetic purposes.
Level 2 finish builds upon the components of a level 1 finish. A level 2 finish receives a layer of joint compound atop the tape, and a filling of joint compound over all nail and screw holes.
Level 3 requires two coats of compound over fasteners and a smooth, mark-free coating of compound over tape. Drywall finishers achieve a smooth coating of compound by sanding.
Level 4 requires two coats of compound over flat joints and one coat over angled joints. This level of finishing prepares a wall for priming and painting without texture.
Level 5 finish prepares a surface to receive severe light and high-gloss paint. Level 5 finish requires the components of all previous levels plus a thin, "skim" coat of compound over the entire surface.
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