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How to Skim Coat Drywall After Wallpaper Removal

calander Mar 18 , 2021 user-icon Nash Painting

What makes an interior wall “perfect?” The answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Generally speaking, though, a desirable wall will be durable, evenly coated, smooth (or intentionally textured), and free from surface imperfections and damage. Achieving and maintaining these conditions can be a challenge, especially if your walls have recently undergone damage or stress from wallpaper removal or other renovations. Restoring a wall to its more perfect state may require multiple efforts, such as making repairs and re-painting. That said, there is another important step in this process that often gets overlooked: skim coating.

Skim coating is a lesser-known but nonetheless important technique in the realm of home interior painting and renovation. Here we’ll discuss what skim coating is, when and why contractors perform this method, how it’s related to wallpaper removal, and how to skim coat drywall after wallpaper has been removed.

What Is Skim Coating and What Does It Entail?

Simply put, a skim coating is a thin application of joint/drywall compound (sometimes called “mud”) that is used to smooth out brand new and/or damaged walls and ceilings. Two skim coats are often required for optimal results, and the application process is more akin to drywall finishing than priming or painting. During the process, the contractor will use a trowel or drywall knife to spread the compound mixture (usually all-purpose compound for better adhesion) over the surface, making sure to cover all areas -- depending on the extent of drywall damage, they might first apply a coat of surface sealer for better protection. To speed up the process, some contractors will first apply the compound using a large-nap roller and then smooth out the coat with their trowel. Either way, once the final skim coating has fully dried, the surface is now ready to receive a fresh coat of paint.

What Are the Benefits of Skim Coating?

You might be skeptical about skim coating. After all, drywall repairs and priming usually do the trick on their own when it comes to preparing a wall for new interior house paint. While this is sometimes the case, some scenarios call for more drastic measures. If, for instance, you no longer want to look at your popcorn ceiling, but you don’t want to spend the time, energy, or money having it removed, investing in skim coating is a relatively fast, easy, and cheap alternative. Rather than remove the popcorn ceiling texture, a proper skim coating is applied on top of it, sealing the texture and presenting a smooth surface that looks and feels like a brand new ceiling.

Beyond this specific situation, skim coatings also conceal imperfections in drywall, whether caused by water damage, impact, previous repairs, loose joints, popped nails, wallpaper removal, and so on. As long as the underlying problems have been solved and the wall itself remains structurally sound, applying skim coatings over these surfaces essentially erases them and, more importantly, provides a smooth surface for painting. There are additional aesthetic benefits to skim coating, too. In particular, skim coating can reduce drywall “flashing” (or “photographing”) in new drywall, a phenomenon that occurs in brightly-lit rooms when some paint is absorbed into the drywall’s joint compound, creating an uneven appearance. By applying skim coatings, paint is uniformly distributed along the surface.

In short, skim coatings cover up surface imperfections, facilitate the painting process, and allow for better-looking results.

What Does Skim Coating Have to Do with Wallpaper?

So far, we’ve danced around the relationship between wallpaper removal and skim coatings. Of course, if you’ve ever tried to take down your wallpaper yourself after surfing the web for home remedies to remove wallpaper, you may already know where this is going. Otherwise, you might not realize how much damage wallpaper can do to drywall upon removal. It’s best to hire professional contractors to remove wallpaper in order to minimize the potential mess and drywall damage, but even the pros can’t guarantee that a wall gets off scot-free. Indeed, the adherent qualities of wallpaper can take pieces of the wall with it when being removed from the surface. By the time the last bit of paper has been removed, the underlying wall might look like it’s been ravaged by a terrible storm. As such, repairing drywall after wallpaper removal is often the first step to take. But after those fixes have been made, a skim coating can seal the deal, so to speak, giving the drywall a fresh start and concealing whatever visible signs of damage were once present. Attempting to prime and paint your drywall after removing wallpaper without applying this intermittent skim coating can leave you with uneven results that need frequent touch-ups.

How to Skim Coat Drywall After Wallpaper Removal

So, skim coating your drywall after tearing down your wallpaper is an important, if not necessary, step to restoring your walls and preparing them for painting. Let’s briefly outline the skim coating process in this context:

  1. Gather your materials -- you’ll want a large drywall taping knife or trowel, putty knife/scraper, thin drywall repair tape, a stainless steel drywall mud pan, and all-purpose joint compound, which you will eventually thin down into something like a thick milkshake or yogurt, good lighting, and, in some cases, a surface sealer to firmly press down any torn drywall, along with a thin roller

  2. Scrape away surface bubbles, remaining wallpaper, and loosened/torn drywall paper

  3. Fully coat the wall(s) with your surface sealer using your small roller and let fully dry

  4. Place your repair tape over the relevant areas and corners and bed them using your normal-consistency drywall compound and trowel

  5. After all repairs have been made, thin down your all-purpose compound for skim coating purposes

  6. Apply a reasonable amount of compound with your trowel at the top of the surface and smooth it out by gently scraping downwards, upwards, and side to side, always pulling away from corners

  7. Smooth out the coating with long, smooth strokes downward then horizontally

  8. Allow the first skim coat to fully dry, then apply the second -- let fully dry

Skimming for the Best Parts

Removing your wallpaper can be a big hassle -- one that may leave behind desecrated drywall. Hiring professionals to remove your wallpaper is the first step to avoiding such problems, but investing in professional skim coating will seal the deal. Fortunately, the painting pros at Nash Painting offer both of these services, as well as interior and exterior painting, pressure washing, door refinishing, and much more for our clients across Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin, TN. To learn more about us, our services, and our values, call us at 615-829-6858 today!