Skim Coating Textured Walls DIY

One of the first things we did when we moved into our lovely home was tackle our not-so-lovely second floor walls. For some reason (we seem to say that a lot about the people we bought the house from…) the sellers of the house wanted textured walls in the entire second floor. I’m talking heavily veiny, pimple walls. Yikes.

skimcoat textured walls DIY

Needless to say, I hopped onto Google even before we moved in and did a ton of research on what we could do about this. The traditional way to get rid of textured walls is probably just sand it down to a smooth finish and paint over it. However, there is almost definitely lead in at least some of our paint since the house was built in 1944. Sanding the paint off would release particles into the air and sure, it might not be so bad, we could have gotten the paint tested to be sure, or we could have gotten professionals who know how to properly work with this type of situation, but we didn’t want the extra hassle or cost, and even thought it might be fun to tackle this project ourselves.

skimcoat textured walls DIY hallway staircase

I’m warning you right now… It was fun for about a week. Then I got over it real fast and even suffered some shoulder injuries. Skim coating is no joke. It took us about two months to do three rooms, a hallway and the staircase, working almost every weekend, all day, and weekday evenings.

In our defense, this is the first kind of heavy-duty DIY/renovating we’ve ever done and there was a lot of trial and error in the beginning as we tried to feel everything out to get the best result. Also, we didn’t do it how a professional probably would have. I found a more “foolproof” way, which no doubt ended up taking longer, but I think worked better for a couple of amateurs.

So here’s how we got rid of our textured walls by skim coating:


-joint compound
-rubber trowel
-metal trowel
-sandpaper/sanding block
-paint rollers (at least one for joint compound, one for paint)
-painting trays (at least one for joint compound, one for paint)
-painting tarp/plastic/drop cloth
-painter’s tape
-rags/paper towels
1. Prep the walls and room. 

We laid down some plastic sheeting, tapping it against the edges of the room. We also tapped off the outlets and door/window frames. We then washed all the walls just to get any dirt or oils off (by the third room, the laziness set in and we stopped doing it and the results were pretty much the same).

2. Prime the walls and allow to dry.
You might not need to do this step, but our walls all had really glossy paint and since we were not sanding the original walls for fear of lead, we decided to prime the walls with some all-purpose primer to help the joint compound stick better. I’m not sure if this really did anything but it definitely didn’t hurt.

skimcoat textured walls DIY prep primer

3. Mix the joint compound following the labelled instructions until it resembles a runny mayonnaise.

We had to trial and error this a lot to get the right water to joint compound ratio. Basically, if it’s a little difficult to smooth onto the wall, it’s too thick. If it runs down the wall, there’s too much water. You’ll just have to adjust as you go to find what really works.

4. Pour the joint compound mix into a painting tray and start rolling it onto the wall with a paint roller in small sections. 

Here is where you could go straight in with some metal trowel action instead of rolling it onto the wall first, if you know what you’re doing and can get a smooth finish. We could not.

5. Once you get a thick enough layer on a small area, go over it with a trowel to smooth it out.
As you can see by the photo below, we went too thin in our layers at first and learned that it’s better to roll over the same area maybe two or three times before going in with this rubber trowel to smooth down the compound mix. It is so much easier to work with a rubber trowel than a metal one!

skimcoat textured walls DIY plaster

6. Once the layer of joint compound dries, repeat steps 4. and 5. until the texture is gone and you’re left with only smooth walls.

We ended up doing around three layers of joint compound in each room/area. In tighter spots, like around the door and window frames, we had to go in with a small metal trowel to deposit the joint compound and then smoothed it out with the rubber trowel.

7. Sand the last layer of joint compound. 

You might want to sand in between layers (we didn’t bother), but definitely sand the very last layer before painting, to get rid of the lines and uneven parts left by the rubber trowel.

8. Prime and paint.

All that’s left once the walls have been smoothed down, is to prime and paint in your colour of choice. Because the walls still had a bit of texture in some areas, we went with a matte paint to help hide the few remaining imperfections. If your walls end up pretty much all smooth, definitely go with a semi-gloss or satin cause matte walls are a pain to clean!

skimcoat textured walls DIY guest bedroom finished

I would say I’m pretty happy with how the walls turned out. No one else would ever notice this, but I can definitely see the progression of us being very careful and methodical near the beginning of the process, to when we basically stopped caring and just wanted it to be over. But overall, not too shabby for a couple of amateurs!

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