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Community and Q&A

Drywall texture and painting

Ichthyoman | Posted in General Questions on

Hi all–about 70% done with our PGH and I have a drywall/painting question for the experts. Not necessarily a “green” question, but perhaps I can get a little advice.
First, we’re trying to decide on the texture of our drywall–basically smooth vs. textured. The PGH will be more contemporary and it seems that smooth would be the way to go. But, at a 20-25% upgrade in price compared to orange peel. Further, the contractor recommended that, if we go with smooth, a pro painter comes in to spray it. We were going to DIY paint with brushes and rollers–but perhaps this isn’t the way to go with smooth drywall? Any opinions here–smooth vs. textured, painting, etc.?

I thank you all in advance.



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  1. iLikeDirt | | #1

    Aiming for visual perfection increases both the cost and effort required to reach it, and the psychological disappointment if it is not met (e.g. you paint it yourself and it looks a tad streaky due to the lack of any texture). Personally, I would go for the texture. You'll save money on the drywall work, you'll save money on painting, and the texture will hide the inevitable little imperfections that will otherwise drive you mad. I think there's something nice and homey about a rougher look, myself. But that's just me.

  2. exeric | | #2

    There are 5 grades of drywall finishing. See here:

    There is actually an intermediate level between the types of finishes you are describing. The typical tract home has a spray applied texture, knock down or orange peel. This is an OK look but tends to look, well, tractish. Once you become a discriminating and knowledgeable about it, like it looks like you have, then you try to avoid that generic look. One thing nice about it is that it cover a multitude of sins.

    The level you are talking about is two levels up from that, grad. 5. You don't need it and it's expensive and time consuming. The reason I know about this is because I recently had my house (half) done by a person who really knew what he was doing. I went with grade 4 and a hand applied texture. The way it came out was mostly completely smooth with intermittent areas of very subtle texture. It ended up turning out beautiful. You can also go to level 4 and have the opposite effect, i.e. mostly texture with areas that are randomly very smooth. That is not my personal preference.

    The advantage to going to a level 4 is that I was able to paint roll it with the smoothest roller I could get and it turned out excellent. That was with quite large expanses of very smooth walls. The trick is to not let the roller get overly stiff as the paint begins to dry a bit. This can happen after about an hour or two and will leave small speck of fiber as the roller begins to disintegrate with the push and pull of the drying paint. This type of finish was smooth enough that those specks would be noticeable. This level 4 texture with mostly smooth areas is still forgiving enough to be able to use a roller instead of a spray gun. A brush would have left brush strokes.

  3. pwalshe | | #3

    You can also try American Clay which does not need a high level of drywall finish and you can roll just like paint and get textured versions too

  4. Ichthyoman | | #4

    Hi all, thanks for the replies, very helpful. I am familiar with the 5 levels of finishing drywall and the smooth drywall I was talking about is level 5. I agree that we don't need it. Eric--what, exactly, was your texture? Does it have a name? I'm thinking a level 4 finish with a light orange peel or some other texture. This will save some dough and allow us to paint. I've also been reviewing lots of info on painting and painting techniques. Lots of good advice out there and we will use high quality everything. Thanks all.

  5. ntisdell | | #5

    I painted new homes for a couple years in HS/college and I really liked painting the textured since it hid roller or brush lines well - but also didn't like it because it was very difficult to do drywall repair. Plus the vibe i get on that locally (and on TV home shows) is that it is very '90's'...

    I don't see many people that have an issue painting a non-textured wall. Besides the normal issue with painting the trim or ceiling on accident... lol

    When you do paint - ensure you have plenty of light and always look back at your work as you go. To help with roller lines it helps to press roller on roller pan (or wall) at an angle(only edge touching) to remove paint from edge (also pushs nap down). Helps ensure a softer edge to your roller - less pressure on roller also helps (more paint, less pressure, keep roller wetter)

  6. Expert Member

    I haven't seen a textured wall or ceiling in new construction here in decades. If a drywaller told me it would cost more to do a good enough finish for me to paint I'd chase him to his truck with a shovel.

  7. Ichthyoman | | #7

    Thanks guys. I think I get your roller advice Nick, makes sense. Malcolm--I have plenty of tools to chase that guy down--but I think he is saying the cheaper, textured job will be more suitable for DIY painters. If he did the more expensive smooth wall, then he is recommending a pro painter with sprayer. If we go smooth wall--actually something other than a sprayed on texture--combined with a pro painter, then the price really goes up. A significant hit to the budget. Can't say that's in the cards.

  8. wjrobinson | | #8

    You're paying for the finish verses doing it. Price the work, see a sample and pull the trigger. Last home I built I actually painted the walls after letting the painter go. Eggshell finish with top quality rollers, keep the edge wet, finish in one direction, roll out brushed work immediately with trim roller and your wall will look like a million dollars. Buy the best paint. Some of the zero VOC paints can be tricky. The paints prior to such, in top brands... are less tricky.

    Faux finishes... mixing in drywall compounds... using a trowel, knocking it down... are fun too... Try it.... you'll like it... Mikey loves it.

    Edit addendum; Malcolm I like the shovel idea. Who the heck has 5 levels of drywall finish today? We drywall, tape and paint, done. We do the job to the best it can be done, no levels involved in a straight forward manner. Eggshell is standard for us now, flat is fine too... but looks... well flat. Good for apartments, easy to do and redo. Level 1-5 must be a local thing somewhere that I am not part of.

    Who does this level 1-5 thing and for whom and where? Boston? Georgetown? Atlanta?

  9. exeric | | #9

    AJ, et al, the level 1 to 5 finishes aren't a local thing. It's been around for years. It's needed to ensure you get the level of finish you require with no surprises. If you hire a drywall taper and finisher and he does not know what you are talking about then move on. He's not your guy. It should be right on the contract you draw up with guy to do the work so you have recourse if you don't get what you want.

    Matt, the texture I got might have given you the wrong impression. It wasn't something added to the walls. It was more of a process of adding mud at the level 4 until its' mostly smooth, but not entirely. It's really an art and the guys that are good at it have just let it evolve right into their standard technique because they've developed an eye for what looks good over many years.

    If you or I did it we'd have to go all the way to smooth level 5 and then add mud in selected places to get the required texture. Way, way more work than someone who knows what they are doing.

  10. wjrobinson | | #10

    Eric, I looked up the levels. Useful for hiring unknown subs. No one would ever do anything other than what you call level 4 in this area. And no one specs levels. If you didn't finish the tape job you would never get paid and would never be hired again. And as to skimming the whole wall, we do so as an extra but not too often for the homes I build. The primer does much of what we need the level 5 to do.

    Level 4+, eggeshell paint finishes... for aj

  11. exeric | | #11

    AJ, it's great when you have a network like you do. But for me, and I assume Matt, we have to do a little more homework just to insure that we as homeowners don't get taken. Buyer beware, as they say.

  12. Ichthyoman | | #12

    Well, you know, kinda like AJ's thinking--level 4 and eggshell. We're gonna look at a skip trowel finish tomorrow--that's been recommended to us a few times. More spendy than orange peel, but perhaps more contemporary. We'll see.

    And, for the record, all I do is homework. Today it was drywall, tub surrounds, glass tile. Oh, and hidden floating shelf brackets for 12" deep shelves. Not as easy as I thought.

  13. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #13

    Matt, this may be regional thing but almost every home here, from low end track houses to tiny condos, has smooth finish drywall. Any trade that has so little faith in their own abilities that they need a pro painter to cover up their work should get out of the business. They are talking nonsense.

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