Project Description

Skim Coating (Making Your Walls Smooth)

Skim coating…what? Making your walls smooth….ohhh I get it. Learn all about skim coating.


Skim coating is one of those terms industry professionals use that leave the average DIY’er befuddled. What exactly is skim coating? Skim coating is a process where joint compound – a white cake-like batter substance is applied to walls, left to dry and then sanded down to a smooth finish. You repeat this process 2-3 times and voila, your walls are like new.

Why Skim Coat?

If you live in an old house, there is a good chance your wall has multiple textures going on. This can be due to years of patching holes and paint build up. As the years progress, it gets worse and the only way to remedy these irregularities is by applying a new surface to the wall – skim coating. You also skim coat over newly installed drywall.


Photo: Bauen

What is Joint Compound?

Joint compound – aka “dry wall compound” and “mud” most often comes in a ready mix form in 5 gallon buckets. It’s pretty cheap and will run you approx. 15 dollars. It is a white creamy substance that is composed of water, limestone and a few other things. The compound takes a few hours to days to dry through the evaporation process.

Don’t get joint compound confused with “Setting Compound”. Setting compound is a white powder that dries much harder than joint compound. It is mixed with water and starts to chemically harden once water is added. Setting compound comes in various drying times – 5 20 45 90.

TMI – but tell me more…

Level 1,2,3,4 or 5?

A level 5 wall is the ultimate outcome from skim coating. A level 5 wall appears flat and no seams or cracks show through.  Finish levels 0, 1 and 2, as defined by a Gypsum Association document, are appropriate for areas hidden from view, such as attics, garages and unfinished storage spaces. A level 3 wall needs a heavy coat of texture to hide the taped seams, and a level 4 wall is one that has flat seams and will appear flat when properly painted.

To hire or not to hire?

That is a very good question. It is really up to your personal finances (as is everything) and your patience. Skim coating takes a little getting used to, but DIY’ing can save you decent bucks. It is a weekend project that requires the area to be 100% percent isolated from everything else. If you hire a professional to skim coat. Ask for a Level 5.

ottom Line. Skim coating is a labor of love but the results are truly fantastic. If you are smooth wall snob then this is the project for you.