Smoothing outdated textured walls

Smoothing outdated textured walls

Smoothing outdated textured walls


My husband and I recently purchased our first home in Illinois. HAPPY DANCE! But it needs a lot of work. SAD DANCE! Actually, not really a sad dance. I’m a DIY’er at heart, and making our house a home by putting in some sweat equity is exactly what we were looking for in a home.

There were some things to address immediately. Our house was built in 1964, and when we moved in (as you might expect with a house of this age), most of the walls were either wood paneling or sand-textured plaster. And well, that is not okay by me… which brings me to this tutorial about smoothing outdated, textured walls.  

We had just put up fresh (smooth) drywall in our family room, and as I began painting it, I couldn’t stop noticing the sand-textured hallway walls. It’s like they were staring at me… taunting me with their textured eye-sore-ness. So I did what any reputable DIY’er would do. I decided I’d try something new and smooth out the hallway. 

First stop: My computer. I did a bit of online research and also consulted my handy father-in-law about tackling this project. 

My first thought was to sand the walls smooth. That didn’t work. Other posts online suggested spraying the walls with water and scraping off the texture. Easy, right? Wrong. This technique would be easy with popcorn texture, but we have sand texture on plaster walls. Double whammy. And the walls are also covered (most likely) in the original primer, with 50+ years of paint layers on them. Triple whammy.

Needless to say, neither option worked. And since my “quick” project had already turned into a longer process than expected, I decided I’d jump in to what I knew would do the trick: Skim coating over the texture. Here’s a closeup of the original wall (NOTE: taking pictures that truly showcase the before & after is not easy, but hopefully you can still get the idea):

If you’re new to this (like I was), skim coating is applying thin layers of drywall mud to smooth out a surface. And so… my project began.

List of supplies:

  1. Drywall mud/joint compound
  2. Taping knife/putty knife/drywall spatula/whatever works best for you. I used a 4-inch plastic spatula because I felt I had more control with it rather than a large taping knife. 
  3. Drywall sander: 120-150 grit
  4. Face mask (I’m about to have my first baby, so this was a must for me 🙂 )
  5. Mud mixer & drill (optional)
  6. Large sponge & bucket of water (optional)
  7. Primer

We already had a drywall mud mixer, so that was a bonus. This handy, inexpensive tool attaches to your drill and within seconds you have very smooth mud to make your project much easier (it essentially keeps the mud evenly moist and creamy). The mixer is not 100% necessary, but in my opinion, it’s super useful.

I was already rather happy with the first application of mud, and to my (pleasant) surprise, I only needed about 3 full layers to accomplish a smooth wall. Plus, with such thin layers, it doesn’t take long for each one to dry in between applications. Here’s a quick look at the wall in the middle of the process. Starting to see a difference? :

I sanded between each layer, and after the final one, I used a large, damp sponge to smooth out any rough areas. Look and feel as you sand in case there is a rough patch that you didn’t see, but felt, or vice versa. You’ll most likely have to do a few touch up spots after your third application, but only use as much mud as you need. Take it from me: Don’t waste product by going overboard. And honestly, that’s really it! A few supplies, a little patience and attention to detail. Here’s a look at the “after”:

It’s even easier to see in this picture. The wall is the one I smoothed out, and the ceiling is still the old sand texture:

Remember, a project like this always looks terrible in the middle of the process, but keep going because it won’t be long until you start wiping that taunting, textured smile off your dated walls!

Helpful Tips:

  1. Clean your spatula with water after each full application. You don’t want any dried pieces ruining your project. It only takes seconds, and it’s so worth it!
  2. Use a large damp sponge to smooth out any rough areas. Drywall mud can easily be wiped away by just using water, so use a light hand until you see how the mud reacts.
  3. Prime once you finish mudding – you can thank me later!
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Morgan Hanson

360-degrees of DIY-bliss. Read about my kooky ideas, creations, kids and general chaotically beautiful life. Get inspired. Learn from my mistakes. Steal my ideas. Be merry :)
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