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March 18, 2004

Ask Darrell - Issue 05

Drywall Finish Limitations

Darrell Paul

Drywall, Sheetrock or Gypsum board is a material that has been in use in housing since the 1960s. The materials are manufactured using a gypsum material sandwiched between two layers of paper.

Today there is no such thing as standard drywall. There is a material for every aspect of the house. To eliminate sagging ceilings but keep the weight to a minimum there is a CD board. Fire resistant sheets, exterior sheets, drywall that will not mold, heavier density to resist moisture and so on.

Installation Techniques
For most interior applications in a home the drywall is a 1/2 thickness. It is fastened to the interior walls by applying it over glue placed on the studs and nailing the perimeter. This makes for a very straight wall, since if the studs are bowed slightly, the drywall remains straight and is held there once the glue dries.

The exterior walls are using fastened with drywall screws. These are required since you are applying over poly and glue wont hold.

The process of preparing the drywall for painting is called taping and involves applying several coats of joint compound or drywall mud over a thin layer of paper tape wherever the drywall has been cut or joined.

When the sheets are manufactured they are recessed on the edges to allow for that tape and joint compound. At the ends of the sheet there is no recess. Additionally, where a wall or ceiling is longer than a sheet of drywall, there will be a joint without a recess, this is called a butt joint.

To finish a joint requires that tape and joint compound be built up and feathered out over the joint until it is not noticeable.

The corners are much same in that there is a paper tape fastened over a metal corner. This is embedded into the joint compound and again feathered out over 2-3 coats.

Each coat requires that it be thoroughly dry prior to subsequent mud being applied.

Since the corners must be built up to make them look smooth, baseboards don’t always fit tight to short walls where inside and outside corners are close.

Fasteners  Wherever fasteners are used, such as nails or screws these too must be covered with drywall mud.

Ceilings  For ceilings they can be left smooth, or coated with a variety of textures. A smooth finish is more work and will be more money than a texture finish.

Most people make the assumption that the walls in a home should be perfectly smooth no matter what paint is used, what lighting is shining across the surface or how far away you are from the wall. However due to the nature of the process this is not possible.

Every builder has different guidelines and some are better than others at explaining how to inspect the finished product.

Lighting  Drywall will show more of its natural imperfections under certain lighting conditions. Using a flat paint hides better than gloss.

Keeping lights from shining directly down a wall, such as wall sconces and lights near the edge of a ceiling also hide imperfections.

Dark Paint?  If you are planning on painting with a dark color, pay the extra to have the entire wall floated or coated with drywall mud. Without this process you will be applying the paint over joint compound at the joints and paper on the rest of the sheet. This will show the paint different.

Inspecting the finished wall  When inspecting the drywall, don’t stand too close. Once the furniture is in the home you wont be standing that close anyway. About 4-5 ft from the wall is a fair distance and you will see any serious imperfections.

Settlement & Shrinkage  Additionally there will be settlement and possibly nail pops and small cracks that appear. These are usually repaired after most of the settlement and shrinkage of the lumber in the home is complete. This usually is at the end of the first year of occupancy and will not usually include the repainting these repairs.

The reason for this is that the paint will fade due to UV from light and absorb things like cigarette smoke, materials from cooking and so on so they can’t guarantee that the color will remain exact. So you will have to break out your touchup paint.

Darrell Paul has dedicated his entire career within the residential building industry, is President of Qualistat Builders Ltd. (1986), current Director of Board of Governors
with the Professional Home Builders Institute of Alberta (PHIBA), accomplished speaker/presenter in addition to instructing with SAIT.

If you have a question you would like Darrell to address in CondoSource please forward to: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Subject: Ask Darrell.

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