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You can 2 coat screws if you use a lite joint compond(Goldbond Lite or Ultra Lite or USG Plus3) and use it strait out of the box.I don't think it is worth the chance on a custom home because that 3rd coat only takes alittle time to do but I've done it in the past on apartments where we only had only a few days to finish .Even with the Lite compond you might still get a screw that was set deep to show up here and there.....
I've tried this dozens of times with various *hot mud*(s). There are a few problems with the hot mud approach.
1. you always seem to get a bunch of screws with pimples on them that need scraping - a big slow down you don't see with properly run screws.
2. You really need to run each screw individually in lieu of one stroke for the field - so you have twice the motion - therefore it takes alot longer to coat them (vrs regular mud).
If I have a small job that I need to get 2 coats on - I'll use hot mud on the first coat.
A non shrinking mud has been wished for - probably since drywall replaced lath and plaster. Maybe we should ask that some of that mars research money go to better mud development.
I haven't had much luck with *non thinned mud*. You reach the point of diminishing returns - you still have shrinkage - and a little water really cuts down the friction and lets you run the field in two motions.
My experience with only coating screws twice,(first coat hot mud,2nd coat lite mud)still didnt cut it, It really needs 3 coats,Therfore just use regular mud(lite)3 times and save the painter having to touch up screws before final paint coats.
I've tried mixing my mud with every possible viscosity. I think we all know how to run nails (or screws). Have you seen that NFL/United Way comerical where the football player is spotting nails? Like most beginners he applys/wipes in the same direction.
It perplexes the heck out of me too. I think it has to do with the deep/sharp screw inset. Try making the same impression in painted drywall, then run it. You will fill it on application, but on the wipe stroke you seem to wipe some out. It as if it drags some out and forms the Janet jackson superbowl thing.
The best approach I've found is learn a little spanish :)
If I run screws with my 8 or 10 (flexible blade) and don't wipe (keep blade nearly flat), it doesn't pull the material out. You can't do this with hot mud tho. If you do it with regular mud (lite), you still see the shrinkage on the screw head, and subsequent coats suck up too much water (from all the mud you left on the first coat) - and you have some sanding to do.
So the fastest approach is still the way it was done 30 years ago (on nails), 3 coats.