We got involved in a spec house about half-way through the build. We paid up for "Level 5" drywall throughout.

Initially, it looked beautiful. The walls still look great, and most of the ceilings too. But in three rooms (the largest), the ceiling drywall started to fail very quickly (within a month or so).

The drywall company said they could fix it, so they spent a week re-skimcoating the ceilings in those rooms. It looked worse when they were done (they said they were understaffed and put a relatively inexperienced person on the job).

The main drywall guy asked us to give them 10 months. He said after 10 months they'd come back and make us happy. Unfortunately, it seems like the story is changing now. Now they're saying they expect to do normal "warranty" work (fix any popped screws or cracks), but will not undertake a major rework of the ceilings in these rooms.

So my question is, what do you think of these ceilings? Do they look anything like level-5 to you? Our position is, we paid for a level-5 finish which we didn't receive. We don't know why it failed, but it failed. So either the GC or the drywall company need to correct it. We need level-5 ceilings. Are we being unreasonable?

Thanks for any suggestions you might have.

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  • 1
    Can you define what "level 5" is? I'm skeptical about this tem "level 5", I've never heard it before. Moisture from behind and/or cheap initial materials are the only things I know of that can cause that. Document everything that has happened up til now as best you can, it sounds like you may need an attorney.
    – Tyson
    Jan 11 '17 at 12:49
  • The "level 5" finish has become common to use (incl. by those not providing it). From what I can tell, the tape mud wasn't sanded and feathered as it should have been (not lvl 5). I found this which has link to PDF download: drywall101.com/articles/taping/whatislevelfive.php Jan 11 '17 at 13:44
  • Note: my comment above does not explain why the ceiling might have "looked great for a month or so". I'm just describing how it appears and posing the possibility the OP just didn't notice for a month or so. Jan 11 '17 at 13:50
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    In what way has the ceiling "failed"? What has changed? It's unreasonable to expect perfect flatness from a surface built of wood, paper, and mud, subject to seasonal movement and human workmanship. A level 5 coating is intended to mask some of the inherent waviness in such a surface. It's not intended to give you a steel-plate outcome.
    – isherwood
    Jan 11 '17 at 17:59
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    Steel plates don't even give you that. Plus the pic shows cove lighting, which is really good at revealing flaws. Jan 11 '17 at 18:49

The Gypsum Handbook describes finish levels beginning on page 157. It is worth noting that the finish levels prescribe the method of construction not the 'quality' of the end result. Or to put it another way, the only direct way to technically determine whether or not a finish is Level 5 is to observe the construction during the construction phase.

While it might be possible to hire an expert such as a construction testing lab, conduct a forensic investigation, and then lawyer up to seek redress; the cost in time and money of doing so is likely to be prohibitive and the benefit minimal.

The odds of a positive outcome are pretty low since other factors, e.g. deflection of the ceiling-joists/trusses; thermal movement of other systems due to changes in temperature or humidity; or simply a claim that the proper procedures were followed make other causes for the appearance plausible.

  • While I see your argument, the point of paying for the highest quality finish level is to have a high quality finish. Certainly if you paid for "Level 4" and got "Level 1," there would be a problem, regardless of whether appropriate methods were used. That's my position. And the "Standard Specification for Application and Finishing of Gypsum Board" (ASTM C840) states, Level 5 is required where "gloss, semigloss, or enamel flat paints are specified or where critical lighting conditions occur." Everyone knew we would have cove lighting ("critical lighting conditionals") and flat paint.
    – mla
    Jan 12 '17 at 23:27
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    @mla I understand where you are coming from. I'm just providing a factual answer regarding the finish and some speculative opinion based on my experience regarding your options. I'm not making an argument and not taking sides. The US homebuilding industry is what it is.
    – user23752
    Jan 13 '17 at 19:12

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