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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Default How to skim coat walls

    I removed wallpaper in my kitchen and the walls need skim coated. The walls look like what it looks like after removing old duct tape, like cheese cloth.

    I scrubbed the wall really good 2-3 times and primed. Now I wanted to skim coat. Does anybody know of a good website, book, or video on skim coating? Can I just spear all purpose joint compound on the wall with a wide taping knife very thinly, then sand? What is the best approach?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007

    Default Re: How to skim coat walls

    When the first coat is dry.... take the edge of your knife and use it to slice off any ridges or little lumps that may be standing proud of the surface before you apply another layer.

    Apply another thin coat, filling in what wasn't covered evenly in the first coat. Again, don't shoot for perfection.....just better/smoother than the first coat. Looks better, yes?

    Repeat a third filling any missed areas again. Each coat takes far less time than the previous and far less material because you're only filling in what was missed or is uneven from previous coats. On the fourth coat you're only filling tiny little pinholes and such. Goes extremely fast. A tiny swat here, a tiny swat there.

    On the third and fourth coats, make sure to use a clamp-light or similar directional light source up close to the wall to create the shadows that will reveal where the problem areas still are and move that light around with you as you work along. As you skim, make sure the light is really close to the wall and that you move it about so that it rakes each area from the left, the right, the top and bottom. Doing so will reveal any imperfections and you won't have any nasty surprises when you finish, place your furniture and any floor or table lamps and then discover when you turn them on that you missed a few spots.

    When you do four coats you'll have very little sanding to do. In the end, only a light screening is necessary with a fine drywall screen on a hand-held mount/block to even out the surface texture of the wall, but it is necessary even if the skimming result is dead-smooth because some areas will be more burnished than others and this difference would show thru your primer and paint (different hold-out) unless you do that little bit of screening on the entire wall surface.

    You'll probably also want a corner trowel. Using it effectively is very difficult to explain, but trial and error will guide you. Using the 6" knife, lay enough compound material in the corner so that you can then......... make one continuous swipe from top to bottom and get a nice even result. The corner trowel is held on an angle just like a flat 6" knife is. IOW, the whole surface is not used/held flat into the corner. The angle is critcal and you'll dscover this by trial and error. Shoot for a perfect inside corner on the first swipe, but the very inside corner only. Don't worry too much about what happens 1" or more away from the very corner. You'll fill and smooth that out with the 6" knife.

    (One swipe from top to bottom is actually misleading. You'll need to "get out/exit" with the knife before you get to the very bottom and then flip the knife around and finish out those few inches with a bottom-up swipe........blending as best you can where the two come to meet. Practice makes perfect, but this can be a frustrating learning curve at first)

    Here's a video that shows how to do a corner with a corner trowel. I doubt you'll find an adjustable trowel in your local store, but you don't really need one for 90 degree corners. A fixed angle trowel will work just fine. Also note that the guy does three mating corners..one right behind the other.....while the material is still wet. I suggest you don't try this. If you have such areas to skim, do one corner and leave it alone until it's dry and hard enough to support to the knife. Then go at another corner. This because what you see him doing takes alot of experience, control and skill to avoid messing up what you just skimmed. Do it long enough and you'll get that skilled, too.


    After you're practiced at these skimming techniques, you'll probably find it advantageous time-wise to start out a room by laying the compound in the corners first, then placing a fan to circulate air in there while you go to work the major portions of the wall area as the corners dry. When a corner is dry and firm enough to carry the 6"knife, smooth and blend it in with the rest of the wall you've worked.

    One of trickest areas to work is usually where the wall surface interfaces with the baseboards, window and door casings, etc. Quite a bit of finesse with the knife is required along those areas to keep the material as thin and smooth as possible. You'll need to press hard on the knife edge in order to leave the slightest amount of material behind right at the seam and then quickly let off on the pressure as you proceed way from the seam. You might consider blue-taping the trim to keep the material off.......especially if you're going to tape them anyway when you paint.

    (Note that in the videos linked below...none of these guys are working with the woodwork in place. It's difficult, but can be done successfully. It just takes practice and control. Be patient with yourself if you try it.)

    An alternative approach would be to pry the trim just far enough from the wall so that you slip the kinfe edge behind. This still requires that you pay attention because if you crate anything other than a flat surface while skimming, the trim won't seat back down tightly and uniformly onto the wall surface.

    Or remove all/some of the trim and replace when the skimming is done. Impossible call to make from here.

    I'll include some links to videos you can watch to get an idea about how skimming is done....although these guys are using trowels for the most part. Be aware that there are numerous different ways to do skimming. Which one works best in any given situation depends upon circumstances, the nature of the wall you're covering and the skill of the applier. The hawk and trowel method is as old as Rome. It is the "classic" method. But you'll also see another method that's developed over the years. The one you'll see where the guy applies the compound with a roller...may or may not be applicable in your situation. (You'd need a heavy duty 1/2 drill and and paddle blade to mix up large amounts of compound and water. Either that or do it by hand which can get physically tiring.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZbTnko0-YI - hawk and trowel skimcoating

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IBUniNenAU - putty coating drywall

    More related good info and videos can be found here -


    Last edited by goldhiller; 03-19-2008 at 09:34 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007

    Default Re: How to skim coat walls


    I see no one has touched your question yet. Probably because it's not an easy one to answer, but I'll give it a try. Gonna be a lengthy post.

    As a matter of fact..I just discovered that it's too long for one post on this board. Gonna have to break it into two parts.

    I have included links to videos in the second part. You might actually want to view those first and then come back to read the rest of this.

    Trying to get the job done with a big heavy coat and then sand it down smooth will not only waste alot of material, but you'll be knee-deep in drywall dust by the time you get done. Getting a skim job done in one application without any sanding is only a pipe-dream for a beginner/novice........ because it takes a long time to develop the skills and the feel to control a trowel to accomplish a quality one-coat job. And so I will try to describe a method that works pretty well for a first-timer/beginner.....especially so if the woodwork is to remain in place for the skimming.

    This is done incrementally, one coat at a time, each coat requiring less material and less time until the final coat is only a little touch-up swipe here and there. It will take several thin-ish applications with a 6" knife. I'm suggesting that you use a 6" drywall knife (or 10" maybe") because it doesn't require as much skill to control as a trowel does and isn't as taxing on the involved muscles, shoulder, etc. We all learn to walk before we learn to run. Same deal here. Figure on four coats to get dead smooth with the least amount of sanding/screening.

    Do you have a hawk? You'll want one for this job. $10 or so at a big-box or hardware store. That and a spray bottle with water so you can add and fold some into the material on your hawk when it becomes a bit too dry to work nicely or to get it to a consistency where it works the nicest for the job at hand. (My final touch-up coat is usually done after making the material pretty darn loose (as compared to how it comes in the bucket).

    The ready-mixed drywall topping compound that comes in a 5 gallon pail should work fine for this job as there won't be any deep fills. I usually use Plus 3 for this because it's readily available here, has a nice working texture and the end result is always good. If topping compound gets too dry it can be rehydrated an infinite number of times and you continue to work away. If you were to try this with setting type compound (the powered stuff that comes in a bag) , you'd likely get in trouble in a hurry. Once it starts to set up.......the game is over. There is no rehydrating setting type compound. Instead, you'd best run outside in a hurry to clean it off your tools and bucket or you can kiss those goodbye, too. (Never clean up drywall tools down the sink, floor drain or similar because it will set up inside your drain pipes and you'll be calling Roto-Rooter)

    To get the hang of this, scoop a medium size pile onto the hawk; softball size or so. Create a bunch of ridges/waves in that material with the knife edge and spray some water onto it. Use the knife to fold and blend that water into the compound. You want it real smooth, but not runny by any means.

    Slice some of that material onto the edge of your 6" knife and head for the wall. (Hawk in one hand, knife in the other) Apply by holding the knife at something like a 30 degree angle to the wall and wipe.....leaving a very thin coat behind. Lots of pressure on the knife is a necessity or the coat will be too thick. Think thin. I keep my index and middle finger extended on the backside of the knife to make ensure the necessary pressure at the working edge. I think you'll find this works well. Grab some more and repeat beside the first swipe, etc. Don't even try to get a perfect job, just cover the wall in a fairly uniform THIN coat. Keep the pressure on the kinfe edge and the angle of the knife correct or you'll get too thick. You'll get the hang of this in a hurry. Yes, your arms and hands will get tired after a while. <G> I keep an empty bucket near by so I can set the hawk down on that when I need a little rest.

    Wipe your knife clean frequently on the hawk and then fold that material back into your pile. A messy knife makes for a messy result.

    As the material on your hawk begins to dry out and get stiff, fold in a little water again.
    Last edited by goldhiller; 03-19-2008 at 09:35 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Tarkio, Mo. in the middle of this wonderful country.

    Default Re: How to skim coat walls

    Go to my website there are some pics of walls that I'll have done.If you want that look Email me and I give you simple instructions.

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