There are a number of options when you are finishing basement walls. The right choice for a particular room depends on how the room is to be used. A storage room or a small area that holds a water heater is finished differently than a bedroom or bathroom. Finishing the walls basically means hiding all of the joints between sheets of drywall and covering all of the fasteners. You are essentially preparing the walls for painting or wallpapering. Read this article to understand several popular solutions for finishing basement walls.
Level 1 Finish
When professionals speak of a Level 1 Finish, they are referring to the roughest type. Level 1 is not suitable for rooms that will be inhabited. It consists of smearing mud into each joint and applying a strip of drywall tape over it. The drywall knife is then run over the tape, firmly pressing it into the mud while wiping away any excess. This level of finish is most suitable for closets, boiler rooms, and other storage areas.
Level 2 Finish
This next level of finish takes it a step further. Tape is applied over every joint, but the tape is then followed with a thin layer of joint compound which is spread over the tape. The joint compound helps glue it to the drywall while concealing the edges of the tape.
A Level 2 Finish also involves smearing compound over all of the fasteners, whether they be nails or screws. When properly set, they should form an indentation, so when compound is applied, it can be smoothed to match the surface of the drywall. A Level 2 Finish is another option for storage areas or closets.
Level 3 Finish
A Level 3 Finish does everything from Levels 1 and 2, then adds a second coat of compound over the tape. Fasteners are covered as well. Level 3 also requires that compound ridges and clear tool marks be smoothed. A Level 3 Finish is suitable for rooms that will receive a heavy texture before painting or thick wallpaper.
Level 4 Finish
The most common finish for residential rooms, a Level 4 Finish takes a Level 3 Finish and adds a third coat of compound over the joints. The third coat enables a painter to easily apply flat paints or thinner wall paper. The wall becomes progressively smoother with each layer of compound you add. For basement bedrooms, dens or play rooms, a Level 4 Finish is perfectly adequate and gives you many options in terms of texture, paint, or other coverings.
Level 5 Finish
Level 5 is a Level 4 Finish with a thin coating of compound spread over all drywall, not just the joints and fasteners. The top layer of compound is known as a skim coat. Skim coating drywall provides the smoothest possible foundation and is done when gloss paint, enamel, or specialty flat paints are to be applied.
The final aesthetic touch that's added to basement walls is up to you. It will, of course, depend on the level of drywall finish in place. Any room that will be occupied in any capacity should receive a Level 3 Finish of higher.