Q: I live in a home built in 1979 and want to create a smoother surface on my walls. They were finished with a textured finish of long strokes of finishing mud, which I have heard called a skip-trough finish. I believe what I want is called a Level 4 surface, which looks like fairly smooth plaster with a minimum of texture. Is there a way I can fill in and/or sand down the wall and ceiling surfaces myself before painting to achieve the desired effect?
A: Yes, you can get the finish you want. The process is well within the abilities of the average do-it-yourselfer. Sanding the high spots is not the way to go. We’d "skim coat" instead.
What you refer to as a skip-trough finish is actually known as skip-trowel, a method of texturing walls that was common in the 1970s and 1980s. Skip-troweling replaced the smooth-wall plaster or drywall finish. It took less time and expertise to do, thereby lending itself to the construction of mass-produced housing. The disadvantage of textured finishes is that they are not conducive to wallpaper.
Unlike a smooth wall, skip-trowel texture can be applied as the third coat over taped drywall. The second coat doesn’t have to thoroughly dry for the application of the texture. If the edges of the second coat of mud are "feathered" smooth, no sanding is required before the texture coat goes on.
To get a smooth finish using drywall and joint compound requires four coats of mud — one to tape and three to top with a light sanding after the third and finish coats.
You’ll need these tools to skim coat your ceiling and walls:
- An 8-inch drywall knife, a mud tray, 5-gallon bucket with lid, a sanding pole, some 100-grit sandpaper and some drop cloths.
- We also recommend that you invest in a mixing paddle specially made for mixing dry mortar or joint compound. The paddle is attached to an electric drill. …CONTINUED
First, remove the furniture from the room and lay out the drop cloths on the floor. It’s also a good idea to tape clear plastic over the windows.
Empty a box of joint compound into the 5-gallon bucket. Attach the mixing paddle to the drill. Add about 8 ounces of water to the mud and mix it thoroughly. Mix to the consistency of a heavy cake batter.
Fill the tray with mud and work the ceiling first, smoothing the mud on the surface. Don’t apply too thick a coat and don’t play with it too much, but do try to keep the ridges to a minimum.
If you’re shooting for some texture, a kind of a Tuscan plaster look, one pass should pretty well do it. That should give you the Level 4 surface you describe in your question.
Once you get the look you want on the ceiling and walls, a light sanding will knock off any ridges that might be left.
To finish the job, give the mud a day or so to dry and prime the raw joint compound with PVC primer to seal it. Then paint the room the color or your choice.
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