How to Make Old Walls Look New Again

by Rachel Blackburn in ,

Aka, how to do a skim coat.  

Michael has a thing about the walls in this house.  He wants them to look perfect.  I was a skeptic, but he has made me a believer.  

Behold, the skim coat:  

It's hard to see, but there is a thin layer of drywall mud on the walls and a thicker layer over by the window where there was more damage.  When we took the wallpaper off of the small bedroom walls, we discovered that they were lumpy.  Add to that the gouges from us removing the wallpaper, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. 

Michael did some research and decided to do a skim coat to make them smooth rather than hunting for and patching every divit.  What a difference it made!


- How to Skim Coat Walls - 

1. Test for lead.  You can never be too careful in an old house.  Lead test kits are available in the paint section of your local hardware store.

2. Lightly sand the lumps down with a sander (orbital is easier) and rough sandpaper.  Michael used 80-grit.  Be sure to wear a mask!

3. Wipe down the walls with a damp cloth, or blow them off with a shop vac.  Wear a mask for this part too!

4. Use the biggest drywall knife you can find and a drywall tray.  Load the tray with top coat drywall  mud.

5. Load a little mud onto the drywall knife and skim it onto the wall as thin as possible.

6. Let the mud dry.  Make sure it’s really dry before you sand.

7. Sand the dry mud with a sander and very fine sandpaper (mask here too!).  Michael used 120 grit.  If you can, hook your sander up to a shop vac to cut down on dust.

8. Check to see if anything needs touched up (follow the above steps to touch up).

9. Blow off the walls with the shop vac again.

10. Prime and paint!


Michael found this video to be very helpful.  There's a whole series by this guy that is great!