Skimming the Walls to Prepare for Painting: Old Wallpapered Walls and New Walls Built for a Great Room

After the wall paper is removed, is the wall surface still uneven?

Last month's home remodeling article series focused on removing wall paper. This month, we're going to talk about preparing the walls for paint. In some cases, the wall may be very damaged, crumbling in some places, or scuffed up through either the scraper, the paper might have left a sticky glue on the surface, or someone may have simply punched the wall in a fit of desperation trying to remove uncooperative wall paper and not having the patience of a saint.


Never the less, you started the job and you want to finish it. In fact, you have now vowed to never put wall-paper up in another room of any home you ever own.

Now the walls look like crap, and if you were to splash paint over them, in that condition, be assured, they would still look like crap.

The underlying surface will show right through the paint, take the time to get it right and skim, skim, skim

In terms of painting, the key is always in the preparation. The better the surfaces of the wall look before the paint is applied, the better they will look after the paint has dried.

If you don't want to see blemishes in the wall surface, you will want to skim the wall's surface with mud, carefully leaving the surface baby smooth, and allowing it to dry, and then giving it a light pole sand to make sure the surface is even and level.

Glibby, Gloppy Goopy, Nibby, Nappy, Noopy, la la la la low - Using Mud or Joint Compound

My husband, Bob the Painter, calls it "mud" but it is actually joint compound that he uses to lightly skim the surface of walls that are unsightly because of uncooperative wall paper.

Usually you use this stuff to patch holes in dry wall, and the sheet rockers will lay it over tape and corner beads to even out the surface of the new walls. But painters use it to fill in larger holes or cracks, and when the wallpaper is hard to pull, over wall-papered walls and glue.

The consistency of the mud needs to be soft enough so that it spreads easily but not so soft that it drips. Get the consistency to be like peanut butter, not running but spreadable. Using a drill with a mixer attachment and adding a bit of water will smooth out the bucket of mud so that it is easier to work with.

Applying the mud or joint compound to the wall and skimming

For materials you will want to use two trowels. Watching my husband do it is like watching an artist. He uses one trowel as his "painter's" pallet. It holds a glop of the mud. He uses the other trowel to push the glob to the end of the first trowel, and then he slices off a portion with the tip, and uses that tip and places it in the edge of the wall that meets the ceiling (see inset pictures).

Using the long side of the trowel to bring the mud down the wall, slowly, and evenly, in three strokes, left, right, and center, he then moves to the next six inch area, and begins the process again.

When the trowel is empty, he goes back, gets another gob of mud, and goes back to where he left off, until the entire surface is covered with a thin film of dry-wall compound. He makes sure there are no ridges or bumps before it dries.

Sand the compounded surfaces using a pole-sander

The following day, he uses a 80 grit or higher paper and puts it on a pole sander, and gently sands the walls. From there, he vacuums the area, making sure there is no sawdust on top of baseboards or on the floor or windowsills or in corners, that might get kicked up by the paint.

Provided the area is smooth, dry, and dust free, the previously choppy glue covered, formerly wall-papered area, is now baby butt smooth and ready for a primer, or first coat of paint.

Read all of articles including our informative article on paint zoom sprayers