One of the basic tenets of interior design—if you ever plan to sell your home—is to avoid overly personal choices of the more permanent variety. Yet, as anyone who has ever house- or apartment-hunted before can attest, many people think that textured walls are a universally appealing design choice. Fact: They are not. To be fair, textured walls are often employed as a cost-saving measure, because they save on drywall installation costs and hide damage and imperfections that would otherwise need to be repaired—but that doesn’t make them any less divisive.
If you find yourself with a textured wall that you’d like to be, well, not textured, don’t despair: There are ways of removing that texture. It just takes some time and elbow grease.
How to remove texture from non-painted walls
If your textured wall has been painted, you’re going to have to employ a more complicated fix (see below). That’s because paint acts as a sealant, protecting the texture from its enemy (that would be water, and you). These approaches apply to textured ceilings, as well. If the wall in question isn’t painted, you can use the “Soak and Scrape” procedure to get that texture off the wall. Like so:
- Protect your floors and furniture with drop cloths, because this could get messy.
- Spray the wall evenly with water. You can use a pump sprayer, but a regular plastic spray bottle will work just as well in a small space.
- Let the texture soak for about 15 minutes.
- Using a scraper or a large drywall knife, start scraping at the top and work your way down. Unpainted texture should peel off easily, making an enormous mess. Be careful not to gouge the drywall—hold the blade at an angle and go slow.
- Re-apply water if you hit a patch of stubborn texture, or if the wall starts to dry out too much.
- Once the main bulk of texture is off, let the wall dry for at least 24 hours.
- Sand the wall with a sanding screen or fine sandpaper. Don’t go crazy—you just want the walls to be smooth and even.
- Patch any gouges or dings with drywall compound, sand, and prime.
How to remove texture from painted walls
If your textured wall has been painted, you’re facing a more difficult task. In fact, for painted textured walls, you might consider the nuclear option of just tearing them out and having fresh drywall installed. If that’s not an option, you’re going to have to apply a skim coat—a thin layer of drywall mud over the existing wall. This is not nearly as easy as it sounds—yes, anyone can smear compound all over the wall, but getting it to look good and have an even, smooth finish requires a lot of skill. You will be much better off hiring professionals to do this. But if you’re an enthusiastic DIYer and want to do it yourself, here’s how:
- Remove the baseboards and trim.
- If the paint used has a gloss finish, sand it lightly to get the gloss off. Otherwise your compound won’t stick very well.
- Scrape off texture that comes off relatively easily. It’s okay to use the soak-and-scrape process to get more off if you can.
- Mix your compound. You can use powder drywall compound or pre-mixed—the latter is much easier, the former is more affordable. Either way, mix your compound with water—you’re looking for a batter-like consistency—thinning out the compound so it can be rolled on with a paint roller. This will require a mixing attachment on a power drill to do it right, and might take some experimentation.
- Pour some of your thinned compound into a rolling tray, and start “painting” the walls with it. This will make an enormous mess and be more of a workout than you might imagine. Roll your way through the pain and suffering. Work in small sections unless you’ve got a team working to smooth the walls behind you; otherwise, the compound will dry out as a lumpy mess before you get to the next step.
- Smooth the coat you’ve just applied from the bottom up. You can use a standard drywall knife for this if you have some experience, but a “magic trowel” (aka an adjustable squeegee trowel) will make this a lot easier. Damp the blade of your trowel or knife a little, then scrape it across the drywall compound, smoothing and blending it. Even with a “magic trowel,” this is a maddening process and takes some time to get right. Have a receptacle for the excess compound you scrape off the walls. Your goal is a layer of compound as smooth and free of imperfections as possible, so take your time.
- Let your skim coat dry for 1-2 days. If your wall still shows some texture, apply a second skim coat, smooth, and let dry again. Don’t sand between skim coats.
- Once you’re satisfied with the smoothness of your wall, sand it lightly using a sanding sponge. Don’t go too hard—the skim coat is delicate and will crumble under too much pressure. Be gentle.
- Once you have the smooth walls of your dreams, prime and paint.
Yep, it’s a lot of work no matter which procedure you have to use. Is it worth it? That depends. It’s a lot cheaper and less disruptive than having new drywall installed, but your chances of ending up with wonky walls that don’t look great are…well, pretty high, actually. You have to put a lot of time and effort into this project to get it to look right—be patient and don’t rush.