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Q.A recent customer wanted to do his own painting and used an airless sprayer to apply primer to the bare drywall. He then rolled on the finish paint, but now he's complaining that the surface is rough wherever the drywall finisher sanded. He is blaming the drywall contractor, but I'm not sure that's fair, as I haven't had the problem before with this drywall sub.

A.Drywall contractor Myron Ferguson responds: Something similar happened to me in the past. I taped a house to a Level 4 finish, which should have been good enough because the rooms were relatively small. The homeowner then hired a friend who had an airless paint sprayer to spray on the primer. He applied a thin coat that left the surface a little rough, especially where the paper was roughed from sanding. This is perfectly common when spraying on primer. It's easily corrected by sanding with a fine-grit paper before the finish paint is applied; or it can be prevented by backrolling as the paint is sprayed.

In this case, neither action was taken, and a low-sheen finish paint was applied. The rough areas were visible and I was blamed for doing a poor sanding job. And in fact, if I had given specific advice on painting before I left the job, I would have saved everybody a lot of trouble.

A heavy-bodied primer like USG's Tuff-Hide Primer-Surfacer would have prevented the problem, even if it were only sprayed and not backrolled. These primers work well to hide taped joints and sanded paper because they are applied thick - typically 15 to 20 mils. Ultimately I was able to fix the problem by sanding the top coat and having the painter apply another coat of the finish paint.

With drywall jobs I now always ask the G.C. how the owners plan on decorating before I give a bid on the job. I find out whether high-gloss paints will be used, whether the painting will be done professionally, if the paint will be sprayed or rolled, and what the customers' expectations are. If they expect a top-notch finish, I quote a level 5 finish, which is easy to obtain with a thick-bodied drywall primer.