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Several years ago, I was looking for a tutorial that would help me fix my damaged walls in the upstairs primary bath. After removing all of the wallpaper, there were imperfections everywhere thanks to torn drywall paper. At the time, I was hoping that there was someone out in the web world who could teach me the right way to fix this problem. I didn’t know what “level 5 drywall” was. I didn’t know the tools I needed. And I certainly didn’t know the lingo.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single tutorial that had all of my answers. So, I bumbled my way through a couple of walls, read various online forums, learned a few tricks, and combined all of that new knowledge into a lengthy skim coating tutorial of my own. It’s not that I was an expert; I couldn’t skim coat like a pro. I still didn’t even know most of the lingo. But I found what worked for me, and I wanted to help other people with the info I’d spent hours collecting.
In reality, that’s pretty much my whole motivation with this blog, and has been from the beginning. I’m a chatty person by nature, and blogging just seems to fit, so I’ll throw in some crazy shit that has nothing to do with DIY every now and then too. But, I’m also a first time homeowner. I had no previous experience fixing things to this extent before moving in. My parents were avid DIYers themselves, so it taught me I could probably do things myself if I just found the right instructions. And therein lies the challenge: the right tutorial for me. Not one that talks to me like I’ve already done this 100 times, and not one that only gives me half of the information I need. Something in layman’s terms that also covers the obstacles I’m puzzled over.
So all of that to say: I needed an answer, I looked it up, collected any helpful info there was on the subject into a workable tutorial for myself, and kept going. More often than not, DIY is a learning process where at least one screw-up is bound to happen. But then you know what not to do, and your completed project secretly holds all of this badass juju from knowing that it was your sweat that made it a reality.
Of course, that also means you learn more new tricks and tips as you do the same projects over and over. I began skim coating in the primary bath, but then there was the guest bath, the dining room, and now, I’m in the home stretch with my kitchen. I’ve dealt with a few more puzzling obstacles with each subsequent room, and despite the frustration, I’m probably better for it (at least for the next house, whenever that may be). Perhaps it was the difference in material (both the wallpaper and the drywall); perhaps I was just less careful and created bigger problems. I’m willing to bet it was a combination of both. This house taught me new lessons about skim coating, long after I’d written what I thought was a comprehensive tutorial. I’m essentially back in the same position I was several years ago: I’ve run into new problems, and thus had to figure out new solutions. And then, once again, pass this new knowledge on to you.
More lessons learned for skim coating drywall after wallpaper removal: a Guide
If you’re just starting out with skim coating, you should still read my first tutorial here. That covers most of the tools I still use, where to find them, a little lingo, and the basic steps for getting a smooth finish. Then, come back and read the rest of these tips as a supplement to that tutorial. I’ll be right here when you get back.
How to prevent blisters/bubbles in drywall
This was a new discovery for me, as both of the upstairs bathrooms didn’t have this happen. But once I started on the dining room and kitchen, I realized that there was a crucial step I’d missed (and hadn’t really needed yet). Bubbling (or sometimes called “blistering”) happens when the paper layers in the drywall become separated. While it may not seem like it’s loose, you may find out differently once you slap your first layer of joint compound on the wall. Bubbling still happened for me, even after checking the wall numerous times. I thought I’d gotten rid of any problem areas. And like me, you may find that all of the prep work in the world will still turn up a bubble or two. It’s entirely defeating to see it
The first attempt to solve this problem was with oil primer. In fact, some pros who commented were very insistent on this after they discovered my first tutorial. Enough commenters gave the same tip that I was sure their ringing endorsement would work – so I put it on every wall in the kitchen and dining room. Its purpose is to essentially harden the loose drywall paper, making it that much more unlikely to cause bubbles. But after giving it a shot, I didn’t seem to get anything out of it except more bubbles and an unfortunate stink from the fumes (be sure to read that sentence in context, ha).
Cue the sad trombone. I was pretty disappointed, since it seemed like such a sure thing. But when it comes to DIY, there is usually more than one way to do something. People give their advice and you hope it works; and yet sometimes, your house just doesn’t fit the mold.
I did a little more research the second time around, and the online forums (of pros/experienced DIYers) seemed to all recommend the same product: Gardz. I’ve had pretty good results with other Zinsser products before, so I went on the hunt to find it. Only trouble was, it didn’t seem to be available except to order online. In large contractor quantities. And the smaller-sized products had been discontinued. No bueno.
A better option: Rx-35
The third (and thankfully, final) attempt worked. I found a product that was available at my local Orange called Rx-35. Unlike most primers you would be used to in the paint world, this goes on more like glue (it looks like skim milk in the can, actually). But, it seems to do the trick and seals the drywall paper.
I’ve experienced a world of difference with using this before applying joint compound… far less bubbling (aka “rage-inducers”). It’s not perfect, and I’ve heard Gardz is even better, but the convenience of finding the right product is often just as important as knowing what it is in the first place. It always frustrates me to read about the usefulness of something and then
I sealed the drywall but got bubbles anyway. Now what?
Ok, this part sucks. But until I found the right product to help prevent them, I had to do this a lot. And even after getting a good sealer, it is still not 100% foolproof, so I have to still work out a bubble from time to time. As I mentioned above, putting more coats over a bubbled area doesn’t really help matters much since it just wets the paper again (which actually runs the risk of bubbling more), so the best way to get rid of a bubble is to get rid of the paper that’s causing the issue
To get rid of the bubble, get rid of the paper
Re-prime and allow to cure
Then I allowed it to fully cure (if it was wet), and fully saturated the area with the Rx-35 sealer. It doesn’t take very long for this stuff to dry, so don’t worry too much about this putting a lengthy hiccup in your progress. After all, it’s better to remove them rather than seeing the bubbles in your paint job (spoiler alert: they only become more noticeable).
Then, patch up the area with more joint compound. Easy, but time-consuming. So do yourself a favor, and prevent this as much as possible. You’ll damage your liver less by not drowning your frustrations in beer.
Tips on joint compound
Learn which joint compound types you need and are easiest to worth with.
In the first tutorial, I shared some info on what kind of joint compound (aka “mud”) to look for and where to find it. At the time, I was using regular all-purpose joint compound (with a green lid), but I’ve since switched to a lightweight version that produces less dust (or at least, claims to, with a blue lid). I’ve found that switching this up did help me to get a better finish on later projects, but it’s more prone to scratching (so prime that wall asap when you’re done!).
Always mix the joint compound thoroughly.
I didn’t really find either of the types I’ve used all of that difficult to sand, but I did notice a difference between mixing and not mixing when it comes to sanding down the wall (on one or two occasions, I’ve been too lazy to mix up a new batch and have slathered the stuff on to fix a tiny mark in the wall, only to see it do this weird ridge-like lump after sanding). So, always mix the joint compound (I prefer to make mine a tiny bit runnier than some of the other tutorials will tell you to do, but find what works for you). Using a paddle mixer can be extremely helpful if you’re doing a lot of application in a single day. DIYDiva has a pretty great post (or two) on that.
Let the joint compound thoroughly dry before adding more.
I get it. It looks dry. It feels dry. It may even feel dry enough to sand. But unless you’re working with the chemical-hardening stuff (that has a much shorter curing window of 20, 45, or 90 minutes), you need to wait 24 hours before applying a second coat. Really. It prevents cracks and other issues when the base layer isn’t fully dry. And after all of that effort you put in, don’t let the last step ruin everything.
Speaking of 45-minute compound…
There is an “easy-sand” joint compound product that also dries in 45 minutes. As with most of the other quick-drying stuff, you will need to mix this on your own from a powder form rather than buying in a pre-mixed bucket (like you would with all-purpose or the lightweight stuff). I haven’t used it yet myself, but I have considered it after watching this helpful video from Our Home From Scratch. Not just because of the quick dry, but using a compound that cures into a more rigid base may also help with the bubbling issue. (You’d still want to finish your final coats with the lightweight stuff.)
You don’t need to sand in between every coat.
If you’re a beginner and aren’t confident about your technique, you can sand in between coats if you want. But I learned that you don’t really have to. You can easily scrape down dried ridges with your taping knife, and the last sanding job gets rid of just about everything else. The perfectionist in me wanted to get rid of everything immediately, but don’t forget that you are building a smooth finish, not creating one in the first coat.
Game Changer: save time and mess with a vacuum attachment.
The amount of dust you can accumulate when sanding drywall is a beast. Seriously. But instead of sanding by hand and looking like a ghost, I now use a shop vac and get rid of most of the drywall dust right from the start thanks to my Hyde drywall sanding kit. I highly recommend it. It’s cheap, easy to use, and can be used with a pole attachment as well. I’ve also used it for backsplash tile prep. It sucks up the dust so well that I don’t feel like I’m putting myself in harm’s way when I can’t find my dust mask (PSA: you should probably always wear them. Non-PSA: But sometimes I’m lazy and the sander is right there, so I will let my motivation to get something done
Priming before paint
Scratches from sanding screens can often be fixed with the right primer.
I noticed an increase in the number of superficial scratches I get in the wall when using the vacuum sander than when doing things by hand. The culprit is mainly sanding screens (recommended in my last tutorial), and the suction from the vacuum sticks the sander on the wall pretty closely. But I typically do a light pass with a sanding block after everything else is finished. It’s probably not even
There have been other tips I’ve come across that I haven’t yet tried myself, but am open to trying now that I’m on the last room I need to fix (for a while, I hope). Chris from Picardy Project recommends a
Most paint products (especially paint/primer combos) are formulated to work on walls that have already been painted. Not new drywall. Normally, when dealing with fresh drywall, you still want to prime separately, as it not only primes, but seals the joint compound (I’ve tried using some formulas in the past that scared me off for a while… fresh paint coming off the wall & back onto your roller is gross). But lately, I’ve heard good things about a couple of painting products that do not require separate priming before use. I’m still doing research to see if the reviews stack up to the claims, and you’ll hear about it (good or bad) if I try one out.
Since this is pretty much a novel at this point, why not add a conclusion, right? I considered chopping it up into smaller bits, but when I look for tutorials, I don’t like having to click around a lot. And that’s how 2600 words are made. Ultimately, DIY projects are about learning; you learn once, and then you learn again. And if you do the same project enough times, you might actually get very good at it. So good luck with your next project, and I hope these tips helped!
Drywall can be intimidating; luckily, I’ve got more posts to help you learn what you need to know! Check them out below.
Good post for sure. I don’t have any wallpaper to fight or any need for glass-smooth walls here in the southwestern land of forgiving, texture spattered walls, but I appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears it must have cost you to gain this knowledge. (How’s that for a run on sentence?). Thanks for sharing.
THANK YOU! I’ve been to so many hardware/paint stores (big and small) and have said “My wall started bubbling after I started skim coating” and there was no help at all. I’ve also seen the tip to use an oil-based primer, but I can’t stand the smell. I got so lightheaded the last time I used it that I hate to buy another gallon. (I also tend to forget masks/respirators in the process of getting stuff done.)
Of course, now I won’t have an excuse for why my kitchen/dining area still isn’t painted…
Sure you will. Thanksgiving. And then Christmas. And then there was something good on TV. I don’t judge. ;)
Really great post. I had a similar problem some years ago when I had removed wallpaper and apparently the three scrubbings were not enough to keep the glue from attaching itself to the roller when painting. What a mess. The wet paint caused whatever glue I had missed to soften and lift. It took multiple paintings to cover it all. I think the primers you mentioned would have prevented this. Wish I could have read this seven years ago.
Regarding paint & primer combos; I hate them. I used it for outside trim on my shed and it went on like wallpaper glue (obviously I have a glue problem.). It was thick and did not spread well at all. That “Do not use again. Ever.” box is checked. I’d rather do multiple coats that go on smooth and easy than use that stuff again.
Yes! Sorry you had so much trouble. I use the primer/paint combos from time to time, but I am cautious when it’s not a simple wall repaint. Plus, tinted primer as your first coat plus a single coat of paint is usually cheaper than two coats of paint. Same amount of work, less $$.
Great information! I’ve got one room with drywall that’s been waiting on me to make it pretty and when the time comes, I’ll be referring back to this post. Sadly for my little room, it will be the last room I tackle since it is the most unused room in the house. In the meantime, I’ve got to figure out how to smoothe/repair the plaster walls in the rest of my house. Too bad for me I can’t be expecting a wonderful tutorial on that from you!
I love opening my email and finding you have a new post. You’re my absolute favorite blogger :)
Donna, I can’t tell you how MUCH I appreciate your kind words. Hearing positive feedback from readers can make an entire month’s worth of headaches disappear :)
As someone who reads via email, can I ask your opinion on them, specifically? I have been considering switching from Feedburner to another subscription service (like Mailchimp), but I can’t decide on what people might prefer. Would you want to continue to get emails the day (or day after) they are published, or would you prefer to get a single email each week that contains all of my latest updates?
I really like getting them as soon as possible. I do truly get excited when I see that there’s a new post.
Thank you for that feedback! Very helpful.
Very good article. I go around the web and see what people are doing. Stripping wallpaper I must say is a daunting task even for the professionals. I have found that while removing the wallpaper if you can just pull the vinyl part or solid paper off of the backing, then use hot water, Vinegar and fabric softener the paper backing and glue comes right off with little trouble. If the wallpaper was put up on a wall that was unprimed or unpainted it tends to soak into the drywall paper thus creating tears. This is virtually unavoidable, so bust out the trowels, mudpans and sheetrock mud and prepare the walls (skimcoat) A little vino and music helps it go by quicker.
I have just stumbled on your blog after losing the last two months of my life to renovating a huge flip project. Wallpaper – sometimes painted over – in every single room and bathroom in the house. Thank you for the tips on skim coating the wall damage, and in particular the pole sander shop-vac attachment. I had no idea these even existed and they saved my life!!!
Glad to hear it!
Im relieved to read this. We are renovating our Master bath and the wall paper has been a nightmare and my bathroom looks just like your very first picture. I plan to do some serious drywall replacement in this room as well, and Im wondering if I should primer this new drywall as well? It all looks so easy on You tube but the reality is different. Thanks for your blog!
Glad I could help! I think you should definitely prime the new drywall.
Enjoyed your tutorials. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool DIYER. I’ve learned the same way you have-hopefully getting better each time also and learning about the different products. I’ve never tried the skim coating and wanted to try it this time around in a bathroom that just has nasty walls from the get go. So was checking out the net as usual for more tips. I did want to draw your attention as I’ve read through your 2014 update to the material for skim coating. It was puzzling me as to which product to use. I thought that the 90 min. setting type that I had been using for the repairs seemed like a good idea. Not having to wait for a day at a time as with the premixed varieties. I also though that the harder surface was more appealing. However, I have a bag of 20 min. and one of 90 min. and they both specifically say “not intended for skim coating.” Both of mine are from the same company. I don’t know if another company’s products are different or not, but it might be worth looking in to. At this point I would not use them for skim coating given that bit of info right off of their packaging. I appreciated the comments regarding the paint and primer in one products. I have had my doubts about them and am glad that I intended to go with a good primer first. Keep up the good work!
I got the 90-minute tip from a friend who has skim coated walls with it many times… but ONLY as a first layer. The hardness of it is the draw, and especially useful on new drywall seams. I’ve only used it once or twice in patching areas where there was a significant chunk to fix rather than the whole wall, but I’m glad you called attention to that. Always a good idea to follow manufacturer instructions (but then again, I also like coming up with creative fixes).
I just heard about how fabulous Zinsser Gardz is, and found it both on AMAZON (QTS & GALS) and also at my local PORTER PAINT STORE – in a 1-gallon can. No other local stores carried it, so yeah for Porter!!
Loved reading your experiences at home improvement!! Have you tried a Mudd Trowel & Hawk yet? Also, have you used the SHEETROCK brand of LIGHTWEIGHT All-Purpose Ready-mixed mudd which claims lower shrinkage & easier sanding?
Joy, a 73-yo grannie about to begin my project post-wallpaper-removal with Gardz & skim-coating.
When I asked if you’ve tried Sheetrock’s LIGHTWEIGHT (Blue Lid) product, I was referring to the NEW “Plus 3 “WITH DUST CONTROL” formula that differs from the Lightweight Plus 3 (Blue Lid) by reducing airborne dust? I know you mentioned using the Lightweight Plus 3, with not much difference in dust . . . but wondered if you’ve tried the new DUST CONTROL formula. — I’m just wondering if it is tough enough to use as a first coat as well as the finishing coat.
Love ya work and not even sure how I ended up here but glad I did :-)
I’m in the same boat doing the single DIY and learning by mistakes everyday but on the other side of the planet with a shed full of power tools a house full of sanding dust and now a big smile.
Thanks for the info and you have just found a new follower of your adventures ;)
So glad you stumbled onto the site. Happy to have you following along and relating to the DIY life! Lots of luck on your projects!
Oh boy, after reading the original skim coat tutorial and then the follow up, I’m trying to decide whether to just hire someone to come put wallpaper up again or try my hand at the venetian plaster finish, anything sounds less daunting then what you have done! You should be proud!!!
Hi I’m a professional wallpaper hanger for almost 40 years. We often skim coat walls. We use super lite joint and topping compound. Scrape first coat tight to wall then roll (yes roll) on thinned down top coat. Very little sanding I used to use the sander attachment you use but upgraded to a power pole one from Amazon cost about $150. It attaches to my shop vac with hepa filter and vacuum bag so no dust (yay). We then use gardz to prime and seal. It penetrates plaster and leave a nice hard finish on plaster surface to roll on your paint.
Very late to the party, but here goes:
I have a couple of walls that I have just pulled wood paneling off of, and found they nailed and glued the stuff up on top of a finished, satin/eggshell painted surface. Now there are vertical runs in the wall where the paneling glue pulled the paint layer off down to the drywall paper layers.
Since most of the surface is painted, I looked to see if RX-35 would adhere well to the finish as well as the drywall paper, or if I should just paint it onto the areas that I plan to float/fill with joint compound (I’m not floating the whole wall). No results online about it sticking to a sheen surface, so I called the company directly, and was told it will adhere just fine to the eggshell, but not to skim coat over the RX-35 because the joint compound won’t adhere to it properly. I repeated this back to her, and she reiterated that I should first do my floating, and only afterward prime it with the RX-35. Their advertising blurb says, “Rx-35 Sealer/Primer repairs torn drywall to create a wall surface that can be floated, spackled, painted or hung with wallpaper,” so what I’m thinking is she believed I bought R-35, not RX-35 – two different things.
I’m going to try it on the whole surface and cross my fingers, pray, throw some salt (probably not, that’s messy). In any case, RX-35 is the drywall repair primer, friends, and R-35 is a primer for difficult surfaces like ceramics.
I’ve spent most of my summer removing wallpaper. I’m a teacher, and I’m usually not so excited to go back to school in the fall. This year, I couldn’t wait! That’s what removing wallpaper did for me! The main floor is finished, but I have an entire second floor with cathedral ceilings left to do…someday. I’m left with wall that are in pretty rough shape. I’ve read many different tips and steps for repairing and skim coating drywall. None as thorough as yours. While I haven’t started the repair process, I am going to abandon my plan to used oil based primer and opt for the rx 35. I have high hopes that my walls will look great…someday. Maybe I’ll build up some ambition by Christmas break! Thanks for the post!
Glad it helped you! It took me many tries before figuring out what worked best for my walls. And I understand your desire to procrastinate on it… now that I’m on the final room that needs skim coating, it’s taking me FOREVER because of how much I hate doing it now. Fingers crossed we both get things done asap!
Hi Sarah! I’ve been searching for help with wallpaper removal (now done — is it OK that I’m more proud and relieved by that than following childbirth?!), and now, prepping for painting. And I keep finding links to your blog. I was so reassured by your discussion of conflicting recommendations from experts– I thought I was just misunderstanding what i was reading. Regarding the RX-35… Do you just use that on sections of drywall that appear torn, or the entire room? I just have spots here and there, but mostly kept the drywall intact. Does bubbling happen even where drywall still looks fine? Totally new to all this… :-/ Thanks! Laura
Where the drywall still looks fine, you’re probably alright not to have to use the RX35 (but it doesn’t HURT the process, so if you decided to go over the whole wall with it, you’re still probably alright). You really want to concentrate on the areas that have the potential to bubble, which is anywhere the drywall was torn. So if a bunch of spots don’t have that problem, you’re in much better shape than most of my walls! Lots of luck!
Great, that’s exactly what I needed to know. It’s aa 22x24ft room, so I’m currently in glue-scraping/wiping purgatory. Will it EVER end?!!! Trying to get my ducks in a row for the next step, even though it might be a year in the future ?
I LOVE your site and your post is invaluable!
Question..in lieu of Glidden Gripper, can I use RX-35 or Gardz after the final coat of joint compound has been applied?
I’ve only used the RX-35 as a sealer, not a paint primer, and the residue is kind of tacky to the touch when dry… if you try it, let me know how it performs!
Where was this post three months is ago? is what I’m saying…we just bought our first house, there are a few rooms that need to have wallpaper stripped, my husband started in our guest bath because it’s tiny and we thought “how hard can taking down wallpaper be?” ha ha, what a joke. He ran into EVERY problem you talk about here, especially the bubbling! It was such a mess trying to layer and cut, layer and cut all of those holes. The bathroom is far from perfect, but we’re proud of it as our first go around. If we had, had your tutorials before hand I’m sure things would have come out more smoothly (pun intended), but hey you don’t know what you don’t know I guess right? I stumbled on your blog accidentally just looking for a new diy/lifestyle blog and then I saw this post, like kismet. Anyway, thanks!
Sorry you didn’t catch it beforehand, but glad you have it now for the next project!
Hi! I’m in the middle of doing the first of a 4 room remodel. First step, get rid of the nasty popcorn on the ceiling. Mission accomplished. After what I thought was a very thorough mud and sanding process, I painted with one coat of the infamous paint and primer – in – ones… :(
Now, I see so many dings, lines, scratches in the ceiling that need to be gone!!! What is your recommendation from this point? RX-35 over the paint, then skim, and, prime, and repaint?
I haven’t been in your same situation, so just hypothesizing here. You probably don’t need to use the RX-35… it’s meant to work as a sealer, which the paint did already (as long as it stuck), so you can probably just start filling in the dings like you would when you mark up your walls after moving a picture frame. Skim and prime and repaint the areas that are causing you some irritation, but don’t worry a lot about it… ceiling paint is ultra flat to hide imperfections on purpose, and most people won’t look at your ceiling very much, so it’s just something that you know about but doesn’t stand out, if you get what I mean.
If you’re skim coating in that situation, it’s not going to be as intense; you’re not building up a surface as you are when starting from scratch. In this situation I’ve had good results adding about a cup of water to gallon of joint compound.
I’m soooo happy I found your blog! I’m in the process of removing wallpaper from my bedroom & haven’t had too many nice things to say about the paperhanger & I’m the one that hung it, ha!! It’s a tough job to say the least! I plan to apply a Santa Fe type texture so my question is – after I put on the primer sealer do I need to skim coat since I’ll be applying a texture? I’m really new to painting after wallpaper removal and was never so happy to hear the sealer doesn’t need to be oil based. I was getting very light headed just thinking about doing that & didn’t trust myself going up the ladder while contemplating it. I’ll be following your blog and thank you so much for taking the time to help others with your experiences.
Are you recommending the RX-35 sealer prior to the skim coat, with a different primer in between the sanding and the painting? We removed some chair rails and are hoping for a nice smooth wall once we’re done. But we have the dreaded bubbles right now after trying a layer of mud. Also – we have the lightweight compound. It doesn’t say anything on it about thinning it – should we be?
This was supposed to be easy….
From my personal experience, here’s what I got:
1. Yes, prior to skim coating, I began by sealing off the old paper. The RX-35 is a sealer/primer, so this has worked well for me. I use a different primer between sanding and painting. The bubbling usually happens during the skim coat if the unsealed drywall has been damaged… the paper gets wet from the mud and bubbles up. The only way to fix a bubble is to remove it and the offending unsecured paper that’s causing the bubble. Then seal it and try again.
2. Lightweight compound goes on smoother for me if I thin it out, and that’s what was recommended to me when I first did it several years ago. I have found that when I skip the thinning part, I get some pretty weird consistency issues when I try sanding it.
Before reading any further, I should note that I’m reading this blog entry after I attempted a similar “drywall restoration process” of my own, if not nearly identical to the tips given above.
So…..I had extensive drywall paper damage after removing beadboard that had been glued to the drywall–similar to the problems you outlined in your original post–and I tend to regret undertaking the process to “restore” the area of drywall in question. It’s very time consuming and the end result isn’t particularly adequate for the time spent trying to perfect the imperfections. If you’re not adverse to the greater cost and heavier labor associated with demo’ing and hanging new drywall, I tend to think that’s the better way to go–especially for larger areas of damage. I don’t see why I wouldn’t use this technique for a piece of drywall that has some paper damage here and there, though.
Oh man, I am so happy to have found this! I had never even HEARD the term “skim coat” before a few weeks ago, when a coworker was describing the process to me. I’m redoing a ton of stuff in my house, trying to increase the value so I can refinance. Anyway, I discovered that underneath the WINE RED paint in my LR/DR, I have THREE LAYERS of wallpaper. And below the chair rail in the DR, I have wallpaper, then paint, then three layers of wallpaper. Excuse me a moment while I curse whomever did this along with every one of their ancestors. Anyway, everyone has just been telling me “oh yeah, once you get the wallpaper down you can texture it and you’re good to go!” I kept thinking to myself, “but I want smooth walls, not texture – does the word mean something else in this context?” So I finally googled it last night and sure enough, everyone has apparently been telling me that I should do some sort of faux finish which will hide imperfections, but unfortunately that’s not what I want. Googling some version of “skim coat after wallpaper” led me to your original post, and here I am! I am soooooo not looking forward to this process but at least I feel a little better about starting it. If I ever get the @!(@*^ wallpaper down, that is.
That’s definitely the more infuriating part, so I feel ya on that! But once it’s down and your walls are smoother, you’ll be really happy you have the result you want. Don’t set your expectations too high would be my advice; even after doing several rooms, I still have imperfections that I see but don’t have the patience anymore to fix (they are small ones, so the only person who would ever probably notice them is me).
Thank you for this post, especially the RX-35 tip. I really hate skim coating but with an 85-year-old duplex covered in layers of wallpaper I don’t have much choice. I’m not a pro by any means but I can usually get a wall smooth enough in three passes of increasingly larger drywall knives. I use only setting type joint compound. I have a bag each of 20-minute, 45-minute, and 90-minute compound on hand and which one I use depends on the job. What I’ve found is that the minutes only refers to the time available to use it, NOT the time it takes to cure for a subsequent coat and/or sanding. And the times are optimistic. After 15 minutes the 20-minute compound starts to get “sluggish.” So If I have a quick small repair I use 20. If I have an entire wall to skim coat I use 90. In my experience the setting type compounds are perfectly capable for skim coating.
Great tips! Thanks for commenting!
Your blog and all the comments were nice to read. My husband has been a licensed contractor since 1982, so this blog brought back memories of problems we encountered when we were first in business. The best recommendation you were given to help with the problem of the torn surface of the drywall was Guardz. We have been using it for years with consistent results. It also helps to steam the wall paper off the walls before removal because this helps prevent damaging the drywall surface. Good luck to all!
Tried steam, didn’t work, but I guess I just got the short straw with this house, ha!
I removed Tons of wallpaper in my last house & learned A Lot! The walls that were “pocked” I ended up just using orange peel texture. My dining room wallpaper became “symbiant” with the wall, so I primed & painted right over the top of it! I guess you could say…I took the Cheat way out!! My new house is my “grown up house”, so I’m planning on doing things the “right” way!! Thanks for your words of “wisdom”, clever with & refreshing potty mouth!!
So happy I found your blog- it is just what I needed! What I desperately want to know is…..How did you put up that wainscot in the after picture? Is there a blog about that? It is EXACTLY what I want, but am having trouble finding it. PLEASE share!!
Sure! It’s in my recaps in my dining room, but here’s the main post on it. I also did a follow up one about tips on getting around pesky things like windows and outlets, so you can find that here.
I took down my wallpaper and am having a painter coming to spray texture for me. Do I have to do all of these steps if your shooting texture?
I thought I would do any prep that needs to be done ahead of time to save me some money.
I haven’t ever tried spray texture so I can’t say for sure, but I would think you would need to seal it first or the texture might bubble in weird ways (but texture hides a multitude of drywall sins, so it might not). Your best bet is to ask your painter who is doing the job if anything needs to be done between the wallpaper removal and applying spray texture steps.
HI Sarah, I just found your piece on “more skim coating tips” when I had a bubble pop up after priming over a skimcoating job I had done in my basement. Thanks for sharing your experience! I found info. on the web about the need to get to the root cause by digging down and removing any tear in the paper. But I could not see any tear and there was never any wallpaper on the wall – at least that I’m not aware of. I didn’t know what to do so I called a drywaller guy I trust and he told me that it was just an issue of the primer pealing off. I asked him if he thought there was an issue with the drywall itself in that spot and he didn’t think so. So last night he put on a new layer of skim coat over that spot and then came back today to put on another coat. It all looks good now but last night after he put on the first coat, that spot looked to me like it had a few bubbles in it. I wanted to look at it this morning but he got there pretty early and had already put on the 2nd coat. Now it’s sanded and looks great but I’m concerned that the bubble might reappear when I prime. I was able to purchase a quart of Gardz today and plan to put that on before I prime over that spot. I’m hoping that doing that will take care of the issue but know that I may not be addressing the root issue by sealing the seperated drywall paper below the skimcoat. Do you have any thoughts on this?
If you prime and the bubble pops up, then the drywall guy might not have actually fixed the problem (the fact that you hired out to have the problem fixed means that if it again pops up, you should make him fix the job you paid for). In my own experience/home (so I can really only speak to what happened for ME, and mine was peeled drywall paper because of wallpaper removal), any bubbles were because of drywall paper, so I had to undo the layer that was covering/causing the bubble and removing the underlying tear in the paper. The Gardz helped my issue a great deal. I’m glad to hear it looks fine right now, but shine a bright light on the spot in all angles to see if you see it already bubbling… usually in my case the bubble was present well before the paint went on. I hope that helps you and I hope the bubble is long gone!
Thanks for your feedback! It looks like the problem has been fixed. After the patch dried, I decided to put a coat of Gardz on the entire wall to seal it up real good and to help the primer and paint go on more evenly and uniformly. There is no sign of bubbling after the primer coat so it looks like Gardz worked. If I have this problem again, I will make sure to dig down below the bubble(s) and then put the Gardz on to address the underlying issue. Thanks again!
I just wanted to thank you for these skim coating tips. I’m really glad that you mentioned that the joint compound you use should be mixed thoroughly because it can make a difference when sanding a wall. It definitely sounds important to make sure you give yourself enough time to do this and to do it right.
I appreciate your hard work on your walls and the time you took to write your helpful hints. My opinion differs from yours in the choice of primer. You suggest Glidden’s Gripper primer which is an organic solvent based primer. I love such primers for wood. I would not use such a primer for walls that have been partially mudded or skim coated. Latex paints are water based. The water in the latex paint will soak into the very top layer of drywall mud. If the mud is the drying type mud as opposed to the setting type mud, the latex paint will partially dissolve the top layer of mud, smoothing out some very minor drywall imperfections and the latex paint will create a great bond with “clean” mud. After mud has been sanded, it needs to have the dust removed (to clean it) before it is painted. I vacuum the walls. If not, the paint will have only a partial bond to the wall and may come off during the painting process, or years later when the wall is taped for cutting-in during a later paint job. Home centers sell drywall sponges for smoothing dried mud with water. The water in latex paint does the same thing, but on a “micro” basis. One more example (an example to be avoided) of the effect of latex paints on drywall mud is the “hatband” effect that people get when a paint brush is used to cut-in when painting the area where a wall meets a ceiling. The back-and-forth motion of the brush leaves a pattern in the mud at the top of the wall that is called a hatband. It looks ugly. I use a brush to cut-in, but I only do that for a few feet before I follow over the brush marks with a roller. Myron Ferguson, “that drywall guy” states that he uses flat white latex paint as his “primer.” I do the same thing. Just. Flat. White. Latex. Paint. Success!
Your drywall guy is right about flat paint being the best way to prime walls but all the mud has to be consistent and it should be applied with a sprayer with good pressure and a wide fan . If done correctly it’s the way we do million dollar mansions. It only takes a few roller marks or sprayer lines from inadequate pressure to ruin a beautiful project that takes weeks of prep. Keep on mudden
Welcome to the mudslingers club. 27 year painter. First started with patching vent holes in plastered homes getting remodeled. Then simple texturing. But like you found out tearing down the wall paper reveals old patchs , a lot of glue. And plus any damages you did. Look at the walls after pulling paneling off. Ouch . But your method is always the best way. Hot mud (20 min is what I prefer) works well for patching. Red dot all purpose has glue or adhesive mixed in and works well over painted walls. Green Dot or topping mud is exactly that ,top coat and easy sand . Always prime is the rule. And in bathroom and kitchen areas there are better primers. As there are for wood .
Thanks so much for your comments, Mike! Always good to hear from a pro. :)
You are just amazing, I can relate with so much of your struggle since I’ve been doing the very same thing these past few months, thanks for the tips SUPER HELPFULL, I also couldn’t find anything comprehensive, dealt with bubbles, dealt with adding another coat just to create more problems, disappointment, scratches, conundrums, lots of forums and the “just to make sure I did everything I could mentality” lol. I’m about to throw down primer this weekend with an airless sprayer, first time using it, hope it turns out good. Your end result is sooo motivational, so worth the work if it ends up looking like yours.
Thanks so much, Raul! Your comment made my day. I work so hard on some of these posts to make sure I can be as thorough as possible, so I’m thrilled you found it helpful. I hope your walls turn out great. Good luck!
Well holy hell. This is the second time I’ve stumbled on your blog via The Google Gods. First time was right after my divorce and I made my kitchen my divorce project and fucked up my butcher block sink hole. Here I am, again, with blistering drywall paper even after priming. I guess at this point I’ll bookmark you haha. Grateful you’ve made the same mistakes I have, and that I can learn what the heck to do to fix them!
Haha, I’m glad to hear my lessons are helpful so you can avoid the same mistakes! Guess I must be doing something right as far as Google is concerned. ;)
Sarah, what color blue is that wall? Looks great! Thanks!
I forget the name, but I know that details are here.
Thank you so much for the tips! I also am a DYI person and have run into many problems. Like you I could write a novel. I’ve looked a lot of places and this is by far the most helpful tips that I’ve gotten so far. I thought that you said at the bottom of this that you had a YouTube channel. If you have a channel count me in as a subscriber. Thank you very much for the tips. Well back to the sanding grind!
I do! You can find me at youtube.com/c/UglyDucklingHouse — we’ve got some fun projects over there!
I’m a retired Marine with zero DIY skills yet I’m attempting to skim coat my 60 year old home. My demons are not so much old wallpaper, rather plaster that is delaminating. I’m cautiously optimistic I can overcome this demon with the correct primer, mud and tutorials such as yours. You wrote this in your article, and truer words have never been written…You’ll damage your liver less by not drowning your frustrations in beer. Sage advice but I’m afraid my frustrations have done irreparable damage to my liver :-)
Hi Ken, thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I have ZERO experience with plaster but some friends of mine called Old Town Home have a plaster repair series where they do more of those kinds of repairs! If you wind up running into an issue, I’m sure Wendy and Alex might have the skills you need! Best of luck.
I had the same issue today googling a fix for my bubbling problem. It didn’t help that I, like you, don’t have the lingo down and didn’t really know WHY this was happening. I’ve made myself crazy!! But THEN I found your article!!!! Thank you SO much!!! I won’t need to drown my sorrows tonight like I thought I would!
I’m so happy this tutorial may have helped you, Sheila! Lots of luck in getting the repairs you need!
When I moved onto my old condo the walls in the bathroom were not in great shape. Someone had applied layex directly on old oil paint and so there were spots of latex paint peeling or lifting. I decided to put up wallpaper and was happy with the results. Fast forward a few years and its time to sell my condo. I removed the wallpaper and it came off very easily. I believe thats because newer wallpaper adhesives are water based. The wall looked in good condition. I did a pass with an oil primer spray and it still looked good. Then comes the first layer of paint and the glue residue (that I couldnt see) was reactivated by the water in the paint (primer did not work or was too thin???) and the gluey areas appeared as unsightly texture and it looked awful. I then tried a primer sealer but they appeared again. So I decided to skim coat. Took days but I was excited to have glass smooth walls. Waited for skim coat to be dry then went at it with sealer Bulls Eye 1-2-3, which the paint guy at the hardware store said would do the trick, even though I was about to buy oil based sealer. Well all that drywall skim coat effort was a waste of time because it happened again. The surface tecture was blotchy and the areas of glue magically floated over my beautiful drywall skim coat to the surface again. Yay or darn, I scraped it off and because the sealer was still wet it was somewhat easy to get not only the sealer, but the skim coat and most of the latex paint off the original surface. I could feel the tackiness of the glue in the resulting mess on the wall so tedioulsy washed the wall several times, scraping more where the latex paint was still adhered and flaking, as well as that awful wallpaper glue. I could actually see it on my scraper. Oh my heavens, what a nightmare. I tried the Bulls Eye again on the THOROUGHLY CLEANED AND DRIED WALLS and ta-da, it adhered smoothly. What a disaster and and entire week of time and products down the drain.
Heres my two cents:
If wallpaper job is NOT too old, the glue is water based. Forget skimming and attempts to seal with sealers.
Use WATER, a sponge and your scraper and clean those walls. Its super messy and wet and annoying but overall way less time and products down the drain.
It will take several washes, rinsing your sponge copiously in fresh water on every pass. Wet the walls, wait 30 seconds and use scraper and a rinsed sponge at the same time on every square inch of the wall. You may even see the glue on your scraper as you move along. When you think you are done (no more wet glue coming up on the scraper,) keep going. Yes, keep wiping and rinsing and wiping and rinsing. Dont use a bucket of water because you will just end up with gluey water, rinse at the sink. Keep going until you cant feel the wet glue residue on the wall anymore. You will feel the wet, tacky sludge with your hand once its reactivated with the water.
After you have lost your mind and are wallpaper glue free, ONLY THEN can you try a sealer coat. The wall MUST BE FREE OF WALLPAPER GLUE before any skim coat or sealer or primer or paint.
If the wallpaper job is really old with the glue they used in the old days I dont know what to say. Probably easier and cheaper to just put up a quarter inch sheet of new drywall all over the offending wall and start fresh.