The dust from drywall finishing requires a major cleaning of the space afterwards, often performed by a specialized cleaning crew. Glass fiber textile eliminates most of the cleaning expense and delay associated with joint compound finishing.
Application is an environmentally friendly process, since there is no sanding necessary and, therefore, little or no impact on indoor air quality (IAQ). Volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions may depend on the adhesive being used, whether it is roll-on adhesive or pre-glued fabric. Pre-glued products are available that have exceptionally low VOC emissions (0.01g/L [0.002 oz/gal] or less after three days).
In addition to saving on labor cost and reducing construction time, glass fiber textile imparts several performance benefits to the finished wall. Pre-primed glass fiber textiles:
Take paint better than finished drywall, which can enhance the quality of the paint job and may reduce the number of coats necessary to fully cover, saving time, material, and labor costs;
Increase impact and abuse resistance;
Increase crack resistance;
Increase fire resistance since, unlike the paper facing of drywall, it is a non-combustible material;
Are water vapor permeable, allowing the wall to breathe; and
Do not support the growth of mold.
Other performance enhancements such as noise reduction or thermal isolation may be obtained by use of specialized glass fabrics.
The cost of joint compound finishing is mostly labor. Materials amount to a small fraction of the total. Labor rates vary by region. Recent, informal online surveys suggest many contractors in the U.S. are paying more than $2 per square foot for drywall installation finished to Level 5. That cost is comprised of all materials including the drywall itself, and labor to hang the drywall, tape it, mud it, and sand it for three coats, and clean up the dust produced by sanding.
In this calculation, the cost of the drywall material and labor to hang it and bring it to a Level 2 finish is 96 cents. Those steps, and costs, are common to both a joint compound finish and a glass fiber textile finish. The remainder of the cost to bring it to a Level 5 joint compound finish, cleaned and ready to paint, is almost entirely labor. Materials—joint compound—account for about four cents. If many contractors are paying more than $2, it means the cost above Level 2 is $1 or more.
The cost of glass fiber textile application is mostly materials, especially if pre-glued fabrics are used. Pre-glued materials eliminate the step of spreading adhesive on the wall, which lowers labor cost by about 25 percent. Non-woven glass fleece, pre-glued, costs about 65 cents per square foot (woven, textured pre-glued fabrics start at about 85 cents per square foot). Application labor is the same for either type of material, seven cents per square foot. The cost above Level 2, including fabric application and minimal cleaning, for a Level 5 ready-to-paint wall, is about 81 cents per square foot. That is 20 percent less than joint compound finishing, depending on local labor rates. Even some woven, textured fabric options would still be cost-competitive with a Level 5 joint compound finish, despite the increase in material cost.