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  • Writer's pictureEthan Aylett

Level 4 or Level 5?

When it comes to drywall finishing, Level 4 and Level 5 are two specialty standards that dictate the smoothness and quality of the finished surface. Understanding the differences between these levels can help you make informed decisions about your drywall projects. Let's take a closer look at each level:


Level 4 Drywall Finish

Level 4 is a step up from the basic finishing levels and involves a higher degree of finish. Here's what you can expect from a Level 4 finish:

1. Tape and Joint Compound: All joints and interior angles are covered with tape and three separate coats of joint compound.

2. Embedment of Joint Tape: The tape is embedded in joint compound and smoothed out to create a flat surface.

3. Smooth Surfaces: The finish is smooth and free of tool marks and ridges.

4. Minimal Tool Marks: Tool marks are permissible but should be reasonably well-distributed and not readily visible.

5. Sanding: The finish requires sanding to blend joint and surface textures, but the sanding marks should not be visible.

6. Primer Application: A coat of primer is typically applied before painting to ensure uniformity of the finish.


A Level 4 finish is suitable for walls that will receive heavy or medium texture finishes, as well as walls in areas with less critical lighting conditions.


Level 5 Drywall Finish

Level 5 is the highest quality finish for drywall and involves an additional step to achieve an even smoother surface. Here's what distinguishes a Level 5 finish:

1. Skim Coat: In addition to the Level 4 requirements, a thin skim coat of joint compound is applied to the entire surface.

2. Surface Uniformity: The skim coat creates a uniform surface that is free of imperfections.

3. Light Reflection: The finish provides a high degree of light reflectance, minimizing the possibility of seeing joints in even the most well lit situations.

4. Surface Texture: The finish is suitable for surfaces that will receive a gloss, semi-gloss, or enamel paint, as well as for areas where severe lighting conditions exist.


A Level 5 finish is ideal for areas where lighting conditions are critical or where flat or glossy paints are used, as it provides the smoothest and most uniform surface.


In summary, the main difference between Level 4 and Level 5 drywall finishes lies in the smoothness and quality of the final surface. While Level 4 is sufficient for most applications, Level 5 provides a higher level of finish that is necessary for specific lighting conditions or paint types. Understanding these differences can help you choose the right finish for your drywall project.

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