Posts Tagged ‘mud’

Smoothing Walls – I Can’t See What I’m Doing!

September 15, 2021
To smooth textured walls so you won’t see bumps under the wallpaper, I use this trowel to spread on Sheetrock brand Plus 3 lightweight joint compound (a.k.a. “mud”). This is called “skim-coating” or “skim-floating.”
Problem is, the mud is the same color as the wall. I can hardly see what I am doing! Once it dries it will turn white. But until then, I’m fumbling along.

Smoothing Textured Walls = Sanding Dust

May 19, 2021

This master bedroom had textured walls that needed to be smoothed before the wallpaper could go up. (Texture looks bad under the new wallpaper, plus it interferes with good adhesion.)

I “skim-floated” the walls with drywall joint compound (what we call “mud”). This is akin to troweling on plaster.

Once that was dry, I sanded the walls smooth. In the first photo, you see the amount of dust that is created!

In the second photo are my “sanding sponges.” Some are coarse, some are fine, and one is angled, all with specific uses. These became available maybe 25 years ago, and are a huge improvement over the sandpaper-wrapped-around-a-block-of-wood that everyone used previously.

The putty knife is used to knock off big globs or high ridges, before hitting the wall with the sanding sponges.

Actually, I used to use a hand-held electric sander. That tool was fast, but it put a whole lot of dust into the air, and it traveled all over the room.

The sanding sponges are hand-operated and don’t throw dust up into the air. Also, manufacturers have made improvements to the joint compound formula which encourage the dust to sink to the floor rather than become air-borne.

You still end up with a lot of dust, though. And it does sift all over the room.

No problem. I simply bring in my Shop Vac (not pictured) and vacuum up all the dust. There’s still residual dust, so I use a damp rag to wipe dust off the floor, and a damp sponge to remove dust from the walls. (Important, because wallpaper will not adhere to a dusty wall).

Note that the photo shows an empty room. In rooms that have furniture, I cover it with painter’s plastic. And in most situations, which are usually one accent wall, I put up a sheet of plastic along the wall, draped from ceiling to floor, which contains dust to the 3′ along the wall, and prevents dust from getting to the rest of the room.

I also want to note that I am a big proponent of drop cloths. The reason you don’t see them in this scenario is because you can’t vacuum dust off a dropcloth, because the dropcloth gets sucked up into the vacuum nozzel. Much easier to vacuum dust up off a solid floor, and then wipe up any residue.

I also want to note that all my ladders wear “booties” / baby socks on the feet, to cushion the client’s floors and protect against scratches.

Getting Smoothing Compound to Dry Quickly

May 5, 2021

In my previous post, the wall had the thick, knock-down texture that is typical in new tract homes in the Houston area. You can’t hang wallpaper on this texture, because it looks bad under the paper, and because it interferes with good adhesion.

The solution is to “skim-float” the walls with joint compound, a.k.a. “mud,” which is much like plaster. The mud needs time to dry. When the texture on the walls is super heavy, as in this home, I usually let the smoothing compound dry overnight. That does add an extra day – and an extra day’s cost – to the job.

To save these homeowners from paying for that extra day, we pulled out all the stops. In this photo, you see my two box fans and my heavy-duty black floor fan blasting away at the wall. In addition, we have the room’s ceiling fan. And, in the lower left corner, the homeowner added his yellow “squirrel cage” fan.

Once the wall got half-way dry, I used my heat gun – the yellow gizmo you see lying on the dropcloth, which I call “The Great Persuader” – to speed up the drying process in stubborn areas.

Still, it took a long time for the wall to completely dry. Next I had to sand the “mud” smooth, vacuum up the dust, wipe residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then apply a primer.

Start to finish, all that prep, plus hanging the paper – a whole 3.1 strips in 35 sq. ft. of space – took nearly eight hours.

Smoothing Suburban Heavily Textured Walls

November 1, 2020


In the tract homes in new subdivision developments all around Houston, it’s very common that the builder will use a heavy wall texture like this. You can’t hang wallpaper on this, because the bumps and dips will look horrible under the paper, and also they will impede good adhesion.

So the walls will need to be smoothed. This is accomplished by “skim-floating” or “skim-coating” the walls with joint compound. I do my own prep. And, as I like to say, I’m better at it than any “guy” you can hire. 🙂

The third photo shows the wall with half in original condition, and half with the smoothing compound applied over it.

Some people use a wide taping knife to spread the “mud,” as we call it. But I prefer the trowel shown in the fourth photo, because I am closer to it and can see everything that I am doing, and also I feel the position of the handle gives me better manual control.

Sometimes, using fans and playing with the A/C or heat systems, the compound will dry in a couple of hours. But with texture this heavy, the material must be left to dry overnight.

Tomorrow morning, I will sand the walls smooth, vacuum up the dust, wipe residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then roll on a primer. Once that dries (again, call in the fans!), the wallpaper can go up. The second-to-last photo shows it finished and ready for wallpaper.

The last photo shows the brand I prefer, USG’s Sheetrock brand “Plus 3,” which you can find at most big box stores and most paint stores. It sands a lot more easily than the standard joint compound in the red, white, and green box.

Washing Texture Off of Walls

March 5, 2020


The owners of this new-build home in the Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston knew that they wanted wallpaper in the dining room and powder room. So they instructed the builder to not texture the walls.

Well, as often happens, the drywall/paint guys didn’t get the message, so while they were spraying texture on the other walls in the home, they also textured the dining and powder rooms (sorry, no picture).

But – they got stopped before they primed or painted. This is good.

The textured surface had to be smoothed before wallpaper could go up. I’m quite good at skim-floating, and I quoted the homeowners a price for me to float and sand the walls smooth.

But the homeowner is also pretty handy. He opted to smooth the walls himself.

Since no primer or paint had been applied, the texture on the walls was raw mud (drywall joint compound). With no coating on it, this stuff is water-soluble. That means that the homeowner could simply wipe the walls with a wet sponge to remove the texture.

Well, it’s actually a bit more than that. You have to wet the walls well, and keep on scrubbing, to the point where the joint compound / texture softens up and can be scraped off the wall with a stiff putty knife, or scrubbed off the wall with a drywall sponge.

And that’s what the homeowner did. He did such a good job that he cleaned the walls all the way down to the bare drywall. That’s what you see in the first two photos. This guy was way more thorough and meticulous than any “professional” I’ve seen out there.

The best primer for bare drywall is Gardz (third photo). It penetrates and seals both the paper face of the drywall, as well as the joint compound “mud” that is troweled over the joints and tape (see white areas in photos).

So my task for today was not to work on smoothing the walls, because the homeonwer had done such a great job of that. OK, well, I did do a little tweaking in a few areas. But primarily, what I did today was roll on (and cut into the corners and edges) a good coat of Gardz.

Besides sealing drywall, Gardz is a good primer for wallpaper. So once the primer was applied and then dried (about an hour), the room was ready for wallpaper.

Patching Gap Around Light Fixture

November 8, 2019

The original light fixture had a rectangular base. The new one had a base that was barely larger than the electrical box. The electrician ended up with a slight gap on the left side of the box.

The wallpaper would most likely bridge that gap and look just fine. But since there was a slight difference in height between the wall and the base of the fixture, I wanted to close the gap to minimize chances of a visible pooch or bubble around the fixture.

I bought some drywall repair kits, and ended up using the one that had a thin aluminum mesh patch. I cut it to fit around the electrical box, using a few scraps to fill in gaps.

I then used drywall joint compound (“mud”) to smooth over the area. It took two of these skim coats, and a lot of time holding my heat gun to get everything to dry. Once sanded, it was nice and smooth.

A coat of Gardz penetrating sealer / primer, and the patched area was ready for wallpaper.

Elapsed time: Two hours.

This saved the homeowner having to hire “a guy” to do the repairs – and most likely, I would have had to “fine tune” whatever he did, anyway.

Getting Smoothing Compound To Dry

June 13, 2019


The walls in this powder room were textured. (see top photo) To ensure that the new wallpaper looks good, and that it has a solid surface to cling to, the walls need to be smoothed. This is called floating, or skim coating, and I do a lot of it here in Houston. To do that, I trowel on a plaster-like substance, let it dry, then sand it, vacuum up the dust, wipe residual dust off the walls with a damp sponge, and then prime.

What takes the most time is waiting for the smoothing compound (drywall joint compound, which we also call “mud”) to dry. If the texture is heavy, often it has to dry overnight. The downside of this is that it adds an extra day of labor and expense. But when the texture is lighter, the drying can be speeded along.

In the second photo, you see some of the ways I get mud to dry more quickly. On the counter* you see two box fans, and on the floor is a much stronger fan. On the counter is also a space heater. Hot air in the room absorbs moisture, sucking it out of the wet smoothing compound. I let the room heat up, and then I have to open the door and let the moist air out – over and over again.

The yellow objet on the floor is a heat gun. A heat gun acts like a hair dryer on steroids, and can get small stubborn areas to dry pretty quickly.

A few other things help speed drying … Walls coated with flat paint will dry more quickly than with glossy paint. And having the air conditioning and / or heat cranking away will help, because, while regulating the temperature, these climate-control systems also pull humidity out of the air. I also like to turn the HVAC system’s fan from “Auto” to “On,” so that air is circulating continuously, which also pulls humidity out of the air and helps the walls to dry.

*I normally keep a dropcloth on the vanity counter. But the vibrating fans can cause the dropcloths to slip, and you don’t want anything crashing down on the homeowner’s countertop. I do have lengths of self-grip shelf liner that help keep the fans from moving around too much.

What’s Missing?

March 29, 2019


Here’s a wall in an entry in a 1960’s ranch style home in the Briargrove neighborhood of Houston. See that brown line around the middle? Someone has removed the chair rail.

All that is fine and good – but no one told me that the chair rail would be removed, and that they wanted their wallpaper to go floor-to-ceiling.

So, unfortunately, when I measured this room (while the chair rail was in place), I did not figure for enough paper to do the full-length walls. In other words, they don’t have enough paper to do the job.

The other thing is, the walls have a light-to-medium texture, and I planned to skim-float them to smooth them before the paper goes up. That was to take the first half of the day, and I would hang the paper in the afternoon.

But removing the chair rail changes things … Because when the chair rail came off, it took many 50 years’ worth of paint with it – about 1/4″ worth – which means that the area of the brown horizontal stripe needs a thicker layer of smoothing compound than the rest of the walls. This means that it needs more time to dry. A LOT more time, like at least overnight, or even better, a second day. (Quick dry hot mud was not an option, for several reasons.)

This means that this one-day job now requires two, and it means that the homeowners will not get their room done as they expected, and will have to put up with me being there another day. It’s also disrupted my schedule.

Good communication at the beginning and when I first visited this site would have prevented this, kept us on-schedule, and kept everyone happy.

Contractor Patches On Top Of Wallpaper – Bad Idea

February 19, 2019


This home experienced a water leak, and the bottom 2′ of drywall had to be cut out and replaced. When taping-and-floating in the new drywall, the contractor didn’t bother to remove the existing wallpaper, but put his smoothing compound right over it. This is bad enough if the old paper is paper, but this wallpaper is vinyl – something you really don’t want buried under layers of joint compound and new wallpaper.

Vinyl is shiny, and few materials will stick well to it over a period of time. It is also thick, and that increases the likelihood that seams will pop up, even if they are buried under this “mud,” as we call it.

So I took a razor and cut above the contractor’s patch. Then I stripped off all the wallpaper above the patch. This left a difference in height between the patched area and the newly-stripped area, which would create a visible ridge under the new wallpaper. So then I took my own smoothing compound (joint compound) and floated over his patch and the now-bare wall, to eliminate any uneven areas.

Waited for it to dry, sanded smooth, removed dust, primed with Gardz, and finally was able to hang the new wallpaper.

This took a LOT more time than I originally planned for this job, but it was worth it to keep vinyl wallpaper from being underneath the new paper, and to prevent any bumps or irregularities from showing under the new paper.

If You Want Smooth Walls, You’ve Gotta Put Up With a Little Dust

July 7, 2018


The walls in this house had a pretty heavy texture, which I wanted to smooth before hanging their wallpaper. This involves skim floating the walls with joint compound (commonly referred to as mud). Do a search on those terms here to learn more about this process.

Once the mud is dry, I sand it smooth. This makes a dust – and the thicker the wall texture, the more the dust. Here you see what has accumulated on the floor after sanding.

Don’t worry – I bring in my Shop Vac and clean all the dust up.