How Much Does It Cost to Have Someone Finish Drywall?
If you have unfinished rooms in your home with drywall already hung, you’re probably eager to check “finish drywall” off your list. But according to Popular Mechanics, there are few home improvement tasks greeted with more dread than finishing drywall.
If that’s true for you, you’d rather pay an experienced pro to handle the job.
The next question, then, is “How much does it cost to have someone finish drywall?” Overall, the cost of finishing drywall is less than the cost of having someone both hang and finish drywall.
Since you’re already halfway there with drywall panels hung and in place, you can expect to pay somewhere between $1.00 to $1.65 per square foot, or about $560 to $742 per room with materials and labor included.
But there are several factors that will affect the cost of finishing drywall. In this guide, you’ll learn about the cost of finishing drywall and the things to consider before you hire someone for this project.
We’ll also talk about the process of finishing drywall and levels of finish so you’ll know exactly what to expect. Finally, we’ll include a list of the most frequently asked questions about finishing drywall.
Average Cost of Finishing Drywall
- Average drywall finishing cost per square foot: $1.00-$1.65/sq. ft.
- Average drywall finishing cost per hour (labor): $36/hour
- Average drywall finishing overall cost: $560-$742/room
How much does it cost to have someone finish drywall? The answer varies based on a few factors, like the square footage of the area, the height of the ceilings, and the general layout of the room.
You can expect to pay somewhere between $560 and $742 to have drywall finished in an average-sized room.
The Long Answer:
The cost of finishing drywall is typically in the range of $1.00 to $1.65 per square foot, not including labor. For an average 12’ x 12’ room (144 square feet), those costs would translate into a drywall finishing cost of anywhere from $144 to $238.
But you’re not just paying for the materials used, so labor needs to be worked into this cost.
While it’s cheaper to just have drywall finished than installed (hung) and finished, finishing is actually the most expensive part of this project. It requires time, attention to detail, and multiple coats of drywall compound.
You don’t have to be an expert to finish drywall, but the more experience someone has doing it, the better the final results will look.
On average, drywall labor costs about $36/hour. You might pay less or more than this price depending on your location and the hourly rate of the workers hired.
An experienced worker can complete their active work (actually taping and mudding the drywall joints) relatively quickly. But drywall compound, or mud, takes anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to dry before it can be sanded and the next coat applied.
This adds to the overall time it takes to complete the project. Most drywall finishing projects take about 3 days from start to finish and use 3 coats of drywall mud. The workers will need to return each day to sand the dried mud and reapply coats 2 and 3.
In total, you can expect to pay for about 6.2 hours of labor for a drywall finishing project. The cost for this labor ranges from $416 to $504.
So, how much does drywall finishing cost on average?
Pulling the cost of drywall finishing materials ($1.00-$1.65/sq. ft.) and labor ($416-$504) together, you can expect the average drywall finishing cost to be around $560 to $742 for a 12’ by 12’ room.
Steps of the Drywall Finishing Process
When you hire someone to finish drywall in your home, they’ll follow a process to ensure the drywall seams (joints) are hidden for a smooth, solid finish. Before drywall is finished, the sheets must be hung.
Once the large drywall sheets are in place, it will take one or two people about 3 days to finish it. Here’s how the typical drywall finishing process goes.
Day 1: Taping and Mudding
Drywall compound (or “mud”) is smoothed over the joints (seams) where the sheets of drywall meet. This is the first coat out of three. Then, fiberglass or paper tape is applied on top of the smoothed mud.
Another layer of mud (coat two) is applied to create a smooth look that hides the seams. The holes left from screws or nails used to hang the sheets are also filled with drywall compound or mud.
Day 2: Sanding and Mudding
Once the drywall mud from the first step is dried completely, it will be sanded to smooth out the finish. After sanding, another layer of drywall mud is applied.
This is the third coat. Multiple coats of drywall mud are required to completely hide the joints or seams where the drywall sheets meet.
Day 3: Sanding and Cleanup
On the third day, the project is nearing completion. All the sanded and mudded joints will be sanded once again. This completely evens out the finish and ensures the drywall mud isn’t piled up over the joints.
The result is a smooth wall that is flat without bulges. Once the final sanding is completed, the workers will clean up the area to remove any excess materials and drywall dust from the project.
The 6 Levels of Drywall Finishing
When you have drywall finished, you’ll need to talk to your contractor to determine which level of finish you want. The Gypsum Association has industry standards and labels these finish levels as 0-6. Most residential areas will have a finish level of 3-5.
Level 0 involves zero taping or finishing, just drywall hanging. It’s typically used in new constructions where the owner is still deciding how the room(s) will be used or in temporary construction that will be taken down.
Level 1 finish involves an incomplete finish with joint tape and drywall compound over the seams and angles of the drywall panels. This is typically used in attics, above ceilings, service corridors or hallways, and areas that will not be in public view.
Level 2 finish involves the use of joint tape and a double coat of drywall compound over seams and angles, plus a coat of compound over screw head holes and any accessories.
This finish level is usually found in garages, storage areas, and unfinished areas behind tile or built-in cabinets or appliances.
Level 3 finish takes things a step further with joint tape and a double coat of drywall compound over all seams, angles, screw holes, and accessories.
This is the level of finish usually found in homes where walls will be textured before painting because it’s not quite as smooth as level 4.
Level 4 drywall finish is more common than level 3 and is found in many homes. It involves application of joint tape over seams, plus a double coat of drywall compound over all flat seams and 3 coats over interior angles.
It’s used in areas that will be lightly textured, painted with flat paint, or wallpapered.
Level 5 finish is the finest finish available. It involves complete joint taping and a thin coat of drywall compound applied to the entire surface of the drywall panel.
This results in a smoother, more even surface. The joint tape is applied, then 2 coats of drywall compound, then a separate coat of compound over angled joints. Screw holes and accessories get 3 coats of compound to completely hide them from view.
Level 5 finish is smooth enough for high or semi-gloss paints. It is often used in areas with critical lighting that would show imperfections in other levels of finished drywall.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few frequently asked questions we’ve gotten about the process and cost of finishing drywall.
How long does it take to finish drywall?
The application of joint tape and drywall mud doesn’t actually take long, but the mud has to dry for at least 12-24 hours in between coats and sanding.
Most drywall projects involve 2-3 coats of drywall mud, so expect the project to take about 3 days with one or two workers.
How much does it cost to have someone finish drywall?
Expect to pay around $560 to $742 for drywall finishing in an average sized room (12’ x 12’). This includes the cost of materials (joint tape, drywall compound, any texturing) and labor.
How can I reduce the cost of finishing drywall?
Have your contractor use longer sheets of drywall (less work to hang and finish with fewer seams), cover any furniture or areas you don’t want damaged before the contractor arrives, and choose the lowest level of finish you’re okay with in each area.
For many homes, a level 4 finish is perfectly fine for main rooms – just make sure to use flat paint or wallpaper.
Level 2 or 3 finish can be used for attics, areas that will be covered by tile, or hidden behind cabinets or built-in appliances. Keep in mind that contractors often offer lower prices per square foot for larger jobs.
Do I need a permit to have someone finish drywall in my home?
In most cases, you won’t need a permit to have someone finish drywall in your home. Permits may be required if you’re doing drywall in a new addition to your home. Make sure to check local and state codes and standards for your area.
Can I finish drywall myself?
Finishing drywall is a project you can certainly take on as a homeowner, and it does reduce the cost by taking away the price of labor.
But for walls that are smooth without showing the seams between the panels or sunken holes where screw heads are, it’s better to pay a little more and go with a professional.