"I was surprised how well that thing ran," says Sandor Szilagyi, Troy Metal Concept's main finisher, remarking on the management of last year's Habitat for Humanity project in Detroit. Most of the area drywall contractors in southeast Michigan contributed to this project. Wixom, Mich.'s, Troy Metal was there for two days rocking and taping for the Jimmy Carter Blitz Build. Since the Habitat project, the company has been working at the Beaumont Hospital Macomb Ambulatory Care Center.

This May, Szilagyi and Troy Metal's foreman Regis Girdwood took their lunch break to discuss a few notes on the project. The company was responsible for all the carpentry-exterior wood blocking, level rail, corner guards, drywall, steel studs, light gauge exterior steel framing, doors, trims and finishing. The facility has resources for all levels of medical care.

"I have a subcontractor putting lead on walls," says Girdwood. "They have some type of X-ray equipment in the room and don't want the rays to turn patients into the Incredible Hulk."

Take five with four

Taking Walls & Ceilings on a tour of the facility, Girdwood demonstrates the power of his preferred cornerbead. With the side of a hammer, he gives the corner on the wall a whack.

"That's No-Coat, otherwise it would've ridged," he says.

Both Girdwood and Szilagyi say one of the more interesting aspects to this project was the lobby, with a radius that stretches 267 feet. Because Milwaukee-based architect Hammel, Green & Abrahamson designed a curtainwall lobby/reception area that faces southwest, there will be much natural light shining on the inside walls. In a highly lit area (such as the atrium in the Macomb Ambulatory Care Center), the level of finish will be more visible than in normally lit rooms and hallways.

The project was specified with a Level 5 finish, the highest standard in gypsum board finishing. According to the Gypsum Association's "GA-214-96, Recommended Levels of Gypsum Board Finish," rooms with strong lighting conditions, gloss paints and thin wallcoverings, a Level 5 finish should be applied.

Troy Metal Concept's Foreman Regis Girdwood.

In standard GA-214-96, the association lists for "Surfaces":

"A thin skim coat of joint compound or a material manufactured especially for this purpose shall be applied to the entire surface. The surface shall be smooth and free of tool marks and ridges."

Furthermore, Level 5 should be used whenever the intended paint has an angular sheen of any kind. A lot of premium flat paints (typically 100-percent acrylic) have an angular sheen that will highlight the differences in porosity between the drywall and joint compound if the surface of the board is not skimmed prior to the application of paint.

Paint manufacturers have labored in the past to create a primer that would mask the porosity underneath a low-sheen paint. However, the inability of the primers to mask the profile difference results in the need to sand the finish between coats.

A step less

Girdwood has in the past tried the Level 5 finish two ways: spray applied and hand trowelled. He was pleased with the former though said that the taping and prep work for this is very labor intensive. With hand trowelled, this is an equally time-consuming task on commercial projects.

For the care center, Troy Metal used Lafarge Gypsum's Rapid Deco L5 board and joint compound, which the company is packaging as a system. The system consists of skim-coated drywall and matching joint compound that are identical in both texture and absorption, providing a Level 5 in the same amount of steps as it usually takes to get a Level 4. The company hung 10 units of 5/8-inch 4-feet-by-12-feet board, supplied by Allied Building Products, of Pontiac, Mich., and enjoyed the advantage. As an introduction, Troy Metal made a demo wall so they could work with the material and become familiar with its system.

"It's a good product and worked out well for us," says Girdwood. "About the only thing you can't do with the board is bend it in tight radiuses. Our radius was so slight that it wasn't a concern."

Because the Rapid Deco board has a skim-coat, Lafarge recommends using its proprietary mud, which is tinted a matching color and produces the same texture.

"The mud is tinted, so when finishing the seams, we can see easier," says Szilagyi.

Although the board may be pricier than standard drywall, the benefit is how much companies save in production time by eliminating a step in drywall finishing. By using this system instead of field applying the skim-coat, there is also less job site clean up.

For more information on Level 1 through 5 finishing, visit the Gypsum Association's page http://gypsum.org/pdf/GA-214-96pdf.pdf or peruse any gypsum manufacturers' site.