Want modern smooth wall texture in your home? Follow this DIY tutorial to learn how to skim coat a textured wall to get a beautiful smooth finish and get rid of that ugly bumpy wall texture!
How to Skim Coat for Smooth Wall Texture
Wall texture is one of those home features that you might not really notice… until you REALLY notice. (I’m looking at you, 1970’s!)
Since we prefer a nice modern smooth wall texture, we’ve removed wall texture and smoothed out textured walls a few times in our different homes in a process called skim coating.
We’ve done this many times in our remodeled homes and it’s an easy DIY — just takes some practice and patience.
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Today I’m sharing all the details for prepping and skim coating a wall to give it a smooth finish.
What is skim coating?
Skim coating is a process for re-texturing a wall with a smooth finish. To skim coat means to apply several thin layers of drywall mud (joint compound) to cover up drywall tape or previous texture and create a smooth wall texture.
This post and video includes all the details about how to smooth textured walls for a beautiful flat looking wall.
Are there other ways to remove wall texture?
Sure! If you don’t want to skim coat your wall like we show you could try to:
- wet and scrape to remove the wall texture
- remove and replace the drywall, then finish that with your preferred texture
- cover it up with a disguise such as wainscoting like board and batten, wallpaper, or modern textured wall panels.
We like our skim-coating technique because it gives us great results, even on our 50+ year old walls.
Can I smooth the texture on an existing wall?
Yes, you can skim coat drywall like this on an existing textured wall, or on new drywall that has been taped and mudded along the seams.
We applied this skim coat to smooth out the knockdown texture on our walls (shown below), but this technique will work for orange peel texture or any wall texture (even popcorn walls!).
Can I skim coat over damaged drywall?
Damaged drywall from removing wallpaper or a backsplash? Unless the damage is extensive, you can still use this skim coating technique to smooth and fix the drywall!
If the drywall paper is ripped, you’ll likely want to start with a peel stop primer/sealer to give the joint compound a good base.
See how we installed drywall in our basement bathroom.
How do I get a smooth texture on new drywall?
To create a smooth wall texture on a bare new drywall wall, install the drywall and tape and mud the drywall seams like usual.
Then you’ll pick up the skim coating process after the prep step below. I did this when we retrofitted with soundproofing drywall and it worked great!
Before we get started, we need to answer one important question:
What’s the difference between joint compound and drywall mud?
Answer: These are just two words for the same thing! Joint compound is the official term and what you’ll see printed on the bucket. Drywall mud is the unofficial term for the same product (which we also often call plaster). We use these terms interchangeably in the post and video.
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How to Skim Coat to Remove Texture from Walls
The skim coating process is pretty straightforward — just time consuming and a little bit messy! And it gets easier with practice.
Here is a full video tutorial of how I created the smooth wall finish. (Be sure to subscribe to the Remodelaholic channel to see the other projects we’re working on!)
To make textured walls smooth, you’ll
- Prep and clean the walls
- Apply a first rough coat of joint compound.
- Apply a second coat of joint compound.
- Apply a third and final smoother coat of topping compound.
- Sand the wall texture to a nice even smooth finish.
Materials & Tools Needed to Skim Coat for Smooth Wall Texture
To smooth your textured walls, you’ll just need a couple buckets of each joint compound (drywall mud) per room.
- (2) – 4.5 gallon buckets of All Purpose Joint Compound
- (2) – 4.5 gallon buckets of Topping Joint Compound (with the light blue lid)
This amount of joint compound covered our walls which were 15′ by 12′ at 8′ tall. A total of about 1395 sqft of wall surface without the door and windows.
You’ll also need
- Wash rags and Towels
- Drop cloths and/or sheet plastic
- Empty 5 gallon bucket for water to thin compound and wash tools
- Drill and mixing paddle attachment for drill
- Drywall Mud Pan
- 8” Drywall Joint Knife
- 10” Drywall Joint Knife
- 12” Drywall Joint Knife
- Drywall Inside Corner Tool
- Drywall Sandpaper Block
- Shop Vacuum and Vacuum Sander Attachment
- Shop light or box light (optional)
- Particulate mask and safety glasses
An important note about your drywall joint knife: The blade of a drywall knife (aka plaster knife) is slightly curved to help apply plaster or mud evenly without leaving lines along the right and left edges of the blade. As you apply the mud with the knife, be sure to keep that curved edge against the wall.
Before the Skim Coat: Preparing Walls for Smooth Texture
As with any painting or finishing project, preparation is so important.
Begin by covering your flooring with drop cloths or plastic. This will get messy!
If there are any major dents that require repair, fix those first using spackle or joint compound.
Minor scratches and dents (less than ~1/4″ deep) will be easily covered by the skim coating, but that hole where your couch leg nearly punctured the drywall (oops!) would be better filled before beginning.
Then, follow these 3 steps to prepare walls for a smooth texture:
- Remove switch and outlet covers and any hardware from curtains or blinds, decor, etc.
- Wash the wall with a small amount of mild detergent added to a bucket of water.
- Dry the wall thoroughly with old towels or rags, making sure they are as lint-free as possible.
Layer 1: Rough Skim Coat
This first thin layer of joint compound is a rough coat, meant to cover all of the existing wall texture.
Be sure to stir the joint compound well before beginning so the texture and consistency is uniform throughout! I recommend using a mixing paddle attachment for a drill.
Apply a thin coat of all-purpose joint compound to the entire wall using a wide drywall knife (10″ or 12″).
You want this first coat of mud to fill in the “pockets” of the previous texture. Don’t stress too much about this layer being perfectly smooth. Just cover the wall texture and then come back for the corners later (see below).
Allow the mud to dry 8-10 hours (following the manufacturer instructions).
Touch Up Corners
After the first layer of joint compound has dried, the corners will need some work, as you can see in the video.
Apply a thin layer of mud to the corners, and use the corner tool to smooth it out.
Then, use a wide drywall knife to feather out the edge of this fresh mud, applying slight pressure to the edge *away* from the fresh mud to level it out without creating a line in the mud.
Layer 2: Skim Coat to Fill Holes
This second layer of drywall mud is another skim coat using the all-purpose joint compound.
Lightly sand the wall using either a hand sanding block or, like I did, a damp sponge to keep the dust down.
Pay special attention to covering any holes from the first layer. Touch up corners as needed on this layer as well.
Layer 3: Final Smooth Skim Coat
This final skim coat is where the magic starts to happen!
Depending on your previous walls, you may need more layers of the all-purpose joint compound before you’re ready for the final smooth skim coat.
If you see bubbles like this, don’t despair!
This happens sometimes on walls like ours that have been painted many times over the last 50+ years. If bubbles or holes like this appear on your walls, skim coat with additional layer(s) of drywall mud.
Once your foundation layers of joint compound are dry and bubble-free, you’re ready to finish with the final smooth coat.
Lightly sand the walls again — I used the vacuum sander for a quick light sanding job.
Apply a thin smooth layer of top coat joint compound using a large plaster knife. You may want to add some water to get a texture you’re happy working with.
Allow to dry.
Finish Sanding for a Smooth Wall Texture
This is the messiest but also most magical step to smoothing textured walls.
Be sure to wear proper safety gear when sanding drywall mud! A particulate respirator mask at a minimum, and safety glasses are helpful as well. I also recommend using plastic sheeting to block off the doorway to contain the dust to the room you’re working in.
Since you’ve done an awesome job smoothing out the walls already, the last step is to lightly sand the walls to finish.
I highly recommend using a vacuum sander attachment to keep the dust down for the initial sanding.
Then, use a spongy sanding block to hand sand and smooth out the last of the texture remaining on the walls. Pay attention to any imperfections or scratches and smooth those out.
Use a shop box light at the bottom of the wall and from various angles to help see any uneven spots of texture.
What Next: How to Paint a Smooth Textured Wall
We’ll be painting this wall with a layer of drywall paint to act as a primer for the drywall mud. This helps seals the joint compound so that the regular wall paint will go over the wall smoothly without soaking in and allow it so stick better and have better color uniformity.
What about the ceiling?
You can also skim-coat the ceiling in the same process as skim coating the walls, if you want.
With this room, however, we installed a whitewashed pine plank ceiling and we love it!
You’ll also like learning more about:
- How to Install Board and Batten (with Perfect Board and Batten Spacing!)
- 50+ Interior Wall Painting Ideas
- Choosing the Right Whole Home Paint Color For Your House