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Front Page - Friday, August 28, 2015

Do It Yourself

Skim coating walls

Have you ever moved into a home with less than fabulous walls? Perhaps the previous owner wallpapered a design uncharacteristic of your style. Later while removing it, were you able to get rid of it without tearing up the drywall? This recently happened to me with one of my bathrooms that I was trying to bring out of the eighties.

The bathroom walls were covered in dark green wallpaper from top to bottom when the home was built. There were many, many frustrating moments. I would even have to completely leave the project and regain my sanity at various intervals.

I steadily plugged away at the walls until the wallpaper was off, but the walls were severely damaged and I was heartbroken and unsure of how to proceed. After much researching, I finally realized that I needed to skim coat the walls. I have watched others complete the skim coating process numerous times, but have never attempted it on my own. I was jumping into the unknown, and I was scared.

I was unfamiliar with the lingo, the tools to use, and could not find one single tutorial to answer all of my questions. I researched and studied my way through a couple of forums, learned a few tricks, and combined everything I read from the multitude of websites and videos to help you become a skim coating pro! When I finished my project, I was definitely able to stand back and rejoice at my accomplishment!

First, you will need to gather all the tools needed to complete the project.

-joint compound


-sanding screens

-mud pan

-mud knife/taping knife ( I used a 10 inch taping knife)

-wet rag

-oil based primer

-breathing mask

-putty knife

When purchasing the tools for the job there will be many different brands to choose from. If you’re confused about which ones to buy in order to save some money, head over to the drywall aisle. There you will find contractor-size buckets of joint compound that are cheaper, as well as taping knives, sanding tools, and mud pans.

Before you start, always use an oil-based primer to seal anything and everything on the wall. Trust me. This will save you so many headaches. By applying an oil-based primer, you are essentially hardening the layer beneath. This will almost completely minimize the chance of any peeling or bubbling underneath the skim coat.

Once you have primed the walls, it is time to prepare the joint compound. The compound will need to be thinned; you can do this by simply adding water. Scoop some compound into the mud pan, and start adding water a little bit at a time, mix, then add a little more. The mixture should be similar to the consistency of pancake mix.

Next, start at the top right corner of the wall, scoop some mud onto the knife, and press the knife against and down the wall leaving a think layer on the drywall. The idea is to fill in any imperfections that are apparent, and create a new smooth finish.

It might take a few passes to get the hang of it, but once you do, it is rock and roll time. Remember, you are not trying to do the skim coat process in one coat, and thinner is better. ‘More is better’ does not apply here. In addition, the mud is thin, wet, and forgiving, so fix any mistakes right away. You can fix little mistakes Little during the second coat, so only focus on the larger ones the first time through.

Make sure to keep the blade of the knife clean with your wet rag while working.

After you are satisfied with the skim coat, and it has had time to dry, the next task is to sand.

A few pointers before sanding:

-always use a breathing mask when sanding

-sanding screens last longer and do not clog like tradition paper

-the better your lighting, the easier it will be to complete the sanding process. You will be able to see any areas that are uneven, missed, or have scratches. If you find such an area, use a putty knife to fill it in, and simply re-sand.

Skim coating always seemed like a scary DIY project to me, but now I realize that although it is a time-consuming project, it is an easy way to adequately repair damaged walls before painting.

If you are in the position I was in, then I hope this calms your nerves and gives you the confidence needed to tackle those damaged walls. Happy skim coating!

April Sherrill is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald. Contact her at april@dailydata.com.