How to Skim Coat Walls with the Best of Them.

Here’s how to skim coat walls with the best of them: hire the best of them? OMG YOU GUYS I FIGURED IT OUT! Are you inspired yet?

I’m the worst.

But here’s the deal: renovating a house involved a LOT of different technical skills, and you don’t have to walk into it with any of them, really. I didn’t! And while I think it’s good to dip your toe into all sorts of things to learn how they work and whether you actually like them, after you’ve done that I think it’s OK to be honest about what you find enjoyable/gratifying and cut yourself some slack on what you don’t. For me, I’ve found that I really enjoy some woodworking/carpentry times, basic electrical, tedious crazy tasks that wouldn’t really make financial sense to hire out (removing and planing down all the original clapboard on my house, for instance!), and plenty of other things like painting and restoring windows that’s neither fun nor un-fun but manageable and fine and kind of satisfying. And then there are other things that I have very little interest in, like plumbing and, you guessed it, skim coating. I love a restored plaster wall. I don’t want to restore all my plaster walls single-handedly. I like parts of it (stripping down the plaster, installing plaster washers), but the actual skim-coating part I’m thrilled to hand over to a pro when I can. I can do it. I don’t want to do it. So for the den-ovation (thanks to Jaime for that delightful word combo that I will shamelessly co-opt), I hired my main man Edwin to take on the bulk of it. Lucky for you this freed up my hands to take some process pics which we will now review. Let’s learn from the best in the hopes that we might someday be the best? Or just be OK with not being the best. Up to you.

THIS GUY. I love him with all my heart. He’s straight, just to clear anything up there. Edwin is my next door neighbor who I hired three years ago to install/mud/tape drywall on my first floor ceilings, and we’ve done a ton of stuff together since. It’s the most significant bromantic relationship of my life. I learn a lot from him and, believe it or not, he learns a lot from me. Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but when Edwin and I work together it kind of is. Except that time I dropped a level on his head. Sorry Papi!

Also, what a stud. He likes to inform me multiple times a day that “in my country, they call me El Pollo.” Of course they do.

SO. Let’s talk skim-coating. I should preface all of this by saying that we’re talking specifically about skim-coating with joint compound, which is a bit more DIY-friendly for someone who’s not used to doing it, but IDEALLY we’d be talking about a plaster veneer. Plaster veneer falls into two camps from what I understand: hydrated lime and gypsum-based. Gypsum based plaster veneers are generally available at big boxes and the like, and are generally what people are talking about when they talk about plaster veneer in the United States. It sets VERY fast, dries VERY hard, and is super beautiful (especially when tinted and left unpainted!), but traditional plasterers typically apprentice literally for YEARS before they’re allowed to start “putting up” plaster on their own. It takes a lot of skill just to get the plaster from hawk to trowel to wall, and a lot of built-up muscle memory to get the application just right.

Hydrated lime plasters are WAY cool, and what I’d like to try next. It’s one of the oldest building materials known to man and remains one of the healthiest to live and work with. It has the ability to handle big swings in humidity and temperature, which is good in old houses that undergo these swings due to a lack of central air and modern ventilation and stuff. Lime plaster is essentially extremely finely ground limestone that’s fired at a temperature of about 1500 degrees to remove any impurities, and then some other stuff is done to it that I don’t pretend to understand, and then it arrives to you pre-mixed in a 5-gallon bucket. Whereas gypsum-based products have a shelf life because the wet varieties dry out and the powdered varieties take on moisture from the air and harden, hydrated lime is actually aged after packaging to achieve superior results. Once the hydrated lime is applied to interior surfaces, it takes CO2 from the air to “cure”—essentially completing the lime cycle and returning to a stone-like state on your walls! How cool is that? Application technique dictates whether your walls are kinda rough and uneven or perfectly smooth and shiny, which is just personal preference. Instead of sanding like with joint compound, you keep working the plaster as it’s curing to smooth out it out to your heart’s content. Cure/working time is similar to the dry time with all purpose joint compound, meaning it’s typically a three-coat process spread out over three separate days, and like gypsum plaster veneer it can be left painted or unpainted depending on taste. Also it dries to a PH of 12, making it naturally mold and mildew proof. This is why you can wet the shit out of an old plaster wall to remove wallpaper and stuff, and the wall is totally fine.

So those are some things I know—huge thank you to the folks at Master of Plaster for teaching me. They sell gorgeous restoration plasters which can be colored to your preference, and I’m so excited to try it out someday soon.

We didn’t do that though. I have zero doubt that Edwin has the skills to pick up plastering quickly from all his years of joint compound work, so we’re gonna learn it together. Then he can start charging an arm and a leg to do real plaster restoration work, so it’s a win-win! As long as he doesn’t try to hit me with those new rates, haha.

SO. I digress. We are talking about joint compound, the inferior but totally fine/normal way to do this.

Once the plaster is stripped down, plaster buttons installed, and cracks scraped out, the next step is applying fiberglass mesh to the cracks. You CAN do the window screening we discussed in the last post over the entire wall (particularly if there’s significant cracking), but mostly the walls in this room were in good shape so we used standard mesh tape just where it was needed.

I do NOT like paper tape. I feel like it doesn’t hold up, particularly on plaster. I don’t trust it.

We always end up using some combo of joint compounds for skim-coating, which is something you mainly just need to get a feel for. The All Purpose pre-mixed joint compound 5-gal bucket is fine, but the dry time is quite long (sometimes more than 24 hours, depending on temperature and humidity levels), and I don’t think it dries to the same hardness as some of the powdered alternatives. When I’m doing it myself, I tend to go for Easy Sand with a 90 minute set time, which for me is enough working time (now, not when I first tried this!), dries harder, and—as the name implies—does sand easily. Because Edwin has better technique than I do, for this we primarily used Durabondalso a joint compound but dries really hard, making it probably a poor choice if you rely on a lot of sanding like I do when doing this myself.

It takes some practice to get a sense of the right powder-to-water ratio, but you can always add a little more water after mixing. We tend to mix maybe a third of the bag at once. You’re going for a thick peanut butter type texture.

There aren’t really right and wrong ways to get it up onto the wall. I’m now OK with a hawk and trowel, but I started with a mudding pan that felt more manageable. You’ll notice that Edwin has a rounded trowel in his right hand (typically used more for plaster than joint compound) and a straight 8 or 10 inch taping knife in the other. He was excited to try the rounded trowel but he’s used to the taping knives. The benefit of the trowel is that the rounded edges make it easier to not leave lines, but personally I find the trowel difficult to get the hang of. Also of note—those dark patches are fiberglass window screening that we used over the upper section of wall where the plaster was more iffy.

Essentially you want to load up your trowel or knife, start at the top and smooth it all down (or bottom up, or side to side—whatever the hell makes you happy)—you’re looking for about 1/8″ in coverage or a bit less. Thin! But also thick enough! The key is to apply the right amount of sturdy, even pressure to the knife or trowel to get a smooth, solid skim rather than one with bubbles and other weirdness.

I find this difficult. The Magic Trowel makes this less difficult, but you don’t want to really rely on it—you still have to get a FAIRLY smooth and even coverage with the knife/trowel, because the Magic Trowel is really good for smoothing and filling in tracks left by the knife or air bubbles, that kind of thing, but not for actually getting joint compound up onto the wall.

Obviously, the wall on the left has a coat of compound on it, wall on the right does not. There are knives for finishing both inside and outside wall corners, but Edwin prefers to run a straight taping knife along one side of the corner, wait for that side to dry, and then proceed with the adjoining wall and its side of the corner. Trying to do both at once with this method will lead to some very messy corners.

See how there’s some yellow peeking through the grey joint compound to the left of the door? That’s kinda what you’re going for with a first coat in terms of thickness. I won’t pretend it’s easy.

After the first coat is up and fully dried, go around with your taping knife or spackle knife and knock off any high spots or weird globs. You don’t need to sand at this stage but you do need to get your surface even for the next coat.

Ugh, melt my heart!! Look at him go. This is the second coat going up. The second coat is when things really start feeling covered, much like with paint.

We all know by now that I am kind of a crazy person (if you’re new here, consider this your warning), so even though it’s totally abnormal, I think skim-coating drywall is something worth considering if you’re in an old house and trying to match up plaster surfaces to drywall ones. It’s NOT about adding weird texture or giving the walls some faux-rustic treatment, just about NOT getting those perrrrrrfectllyyyy flat walls that drywall is really designed for. I think this will also lessen the likelihood of the drywall cracking along the seams or screw heads popping over time, which I see with most drywall jobs after a few years. If you can tell where the joints are, it’s not going to look like a plaster wall.

Will anyone EVER notice this? No. It’s a normal wall that looks like a normal wall. That’s the point. But I will know it was treated the same way as its plaster counterparts in the same room, and I will appreciate it.

Same for the ceiling. You’ll notice for both that we mudded and taped as usual for the first coat, and then proceeded to a full skim for the second. It made my heart go all pitter-patter. Skim-coating a ceiling is my personal version of hell, but Edwin was undaunted. Told ya. He’s good at these things so they don’t seem like a big deal at all. Just another surface.

Look at that! The man’s an artist! I do NOT achieve these results pre-sanding. Or even post-sanding. That is why it’s worth it to me to hire out. It’s faster and easier but it’s also BETTER long-term than what I can do. My work is sufficient. His work is excellent. It’s not like this is the kind of thing you ever want to redo.

I’ve increased the contrast on this picture a bunch so you can see that up close, it’s not perfect. Not yet! This is after the second coat, and there are some track lines from the trowels and knives and unevenness. As with the first coat, you want to knock down any high spots and lumps after drying, and depending on how things are looking you might want to do some sanding. With Edwin we can mostly skip the sanding and just save it for the end. I have to sand when I’m going it alone.

Your final finish coat is primarily to fill in any of that weirdness, and Edwin likes to mix a soupy batch (think pancake batter!) and paint it onto the wall with a roller. It’s nice to have two people at this stage—one to mix and roll and the other to smooth.

Once it’s rolled, you work quickly to smooth it down—taking most of it off the wall as you go. Just enough to fill in pesky spots.

I might need to do this final coat a few times over as I continue to spot imperfections, but a more skilled skim coater can do it in one shot.

After that’s all totally dry, you can move on to the sanding! Confession time: right after I bought this house and was operating under the delusion that I’d be doing all the skim coating work myself, I bought myself this super expensive drywall sander that primarily just takes up room in my basement. It’s designed to hook into a running ShopVac to suck most of the dust, but honestly I find it difficult to control and I don’t like using it myself. Edwin is a big fan, though, and I often let him borrow it for jobs he’s doing. When sanding, even on a bright day, it’s good to shine a work light at an angle on the wall you’re working on—it just helps you see whatever needs to be sanded down.

This doesn’t get you entirely out of hand-sanding, though—you need to go back in with a sanding block around moldings and in corners and areas that are missed by first pass. After a first coat of paint, these seams where the wall meets molding get caulked.

The final step for me is typically knocking down the globs that like to accumulate on top of door casings and baseboards. You can’t see the top of the door casings if you’re just in the room, but I like knowing that these spots didn’t just get painted over because someone (who is me) was lazy.

So there it is, skim coating with Edwin! At this point, the room is pretty much ready to paint! Now I can get in there and tackle the moldings, CLEAN, and get some paint on these walls!


78 Comments

  1. What a happy thing it is when my email dings and it’s a new post from YOU, Daniel! THANKS for the wonderful break from cleaning out crap that has accumulate in my house for too long. Your post give me strength to carry on with the task at hand.

  2. oh lord….love Edwin.
    you two are a match made in plaster.

  3. It’s a tricky balance to strike as a homeowner – knowing when to DIY and knowing when to pay someone to do it right. Seems like you made the right call! Do you know if you can skim coat over existing plaster without tearing it all down? We have some plaster in our kitchen wasn’t done with much care, but I don’t know that we need to gut it.

    • Yes, that’s mainly what we’re doing here! Unless I’m misunderstanding your question. I scraped off all the old paint-covered wallpaper, but the yellowish mottled walls that we skimmed over are the original plaster walls of the house. The post before this one goes into some repair techniques that I do prior to skim-coating. :)

  4. It makes such a big difference! Breathing new life into your house one wall at a time. I totally feel you on realizing what you are good at and enjoy doing and then being okay with hiring the other stuff out. It’s best to focus your energy where it’s needed most and will get the most done instead of wasting it doing something you hate because the result will hardly ever be worth it.

    • Right! And with skim coating, it shouldn’t be very expensive…in this case Edwin was in and out of here for under $500, and that included hanging the ceiling with me. To me, that’s totally worth it.

  5. Daniel, I love the look of unpainted plaster, which I haven’t really seen in the states but is done in the UK and gives a lovely authentically old feel to a room. Do you know if the Durabond (I think you said that was the harder drying one) could be a candidate for leaving unpainted, as you can with real plaster? If so, have you ever experimented with adding powdered pigment to the mix? As you know, real plaster naturally has a pinkish tint to it, which I love, but I’ve seen it tinted other colors too. Also, have you ever beeswaxed a plaster wall?

    • I love that look too, and it’s becoming more common here but definitely at a cost! The US is a country of drywall and joint compound, so plaster veneer work is generally only done by people who specialize in that work—I believe in the UK it’s just a much more common practice. My friends Tara and Percy from Jersey Ice Cream Co generally do tinted plaster veneers on their projects (I got to assist once! terrifying!) and it’s incredibly beautiful! Percy is a trained plasterer though, with many years experience under his belt. Like most plasterers in the US (and I think internationally), he uses a gypsum based plaster veneer that they custom tint for each project. The lime-based plasters I discussed in the post seem MUCH more DIY friendly (I don’t know how the costs compare, but I’m sure the hydrated lime is more expensive), and are actually more authentic as a material to the era of my house. I’ll of course report back when I give it a shot!

      I guess in theory you could leave the Durabond unpainted and tint it, but at that point I think real plaster veneer is probably easier and definitely better! Joint compound essentially gets sealed with paint, so you’d definitely want to still paint with a clear coat if you wanted to go that route—otherwise anything rubbing up against the wall will get a fine layer of white dust!

      (no, never beeswaxed a plaster wall! It sounds nice!)

  6. That is skill!

    I wish plaster walls were more common nowadays. There’s something very warm about the finish of plaster.

    • Me too! I definitely want to try it in the kitchen. And then I’ll probably want to redo the whole house, haha. But in here, I figured the rest of the upstairs has painted walls that I’m A-OK with, so I’m not gonna sweat it. :)

  7. El Pollo did an awesome job!
    I really enjoy reading you Daniel! Hope you come down to NM soon and come visit with Anna :)

    • Thank you Geninne! I’ll definitely come out soon and would love to meet you guys! Your feed on instagram kills me and makes me want to move to the desert IMMEDIATELY!

  8. I always recommend that clients hire out the jobs that are a. Very hard to do right and b. Super obvious when done wrong. Plaster work is both, and if you don’t have a passion for it, don’t spend your finite time learning it, because it is so involved. Kudos on making the best decisions.

  9. It’s true artistry.
    I love the raw walls. When our renovations were replastered, I was sorely tempted to just leave them like that and not paint. Our Edwin is named Jacques and also is an artist. He used limed plaster. The walls even are stuffed with 400-year-old straw (called torchis). Great insulation.
    Thank you for this detailed explanation of the process. And hats off to Edwin.

  10. Personally love, love, love all aspects of skim coating. And now I won’t spend so much time on the final step because of that paint roller idea. Totally awesome idea! Thanks to Edwin and to you for the pictures of the entire process. Now I can steal the post and show my family how I spend my time. Of course, I usually end up covered in joint compound dust, especially when I do a ceiling. Nothing pretty about that image. Thanks for sharing this!

  11. i love like every part of this- i wish I had an Edwin in my life! I mean, i’m very happily married, but he can’t skim coat. El Pollo, gah, can it get any better?!?

  12. Can’t wait, can’t wait! Your recent updates are my new favorite reality series :)

  13. OMG.

    I live in one of those 100 year old Brooklyn buildings and have been living with half-wallpaper-torn-down walls in one room for a year and a half because I thought “how hard can it be to skim coat?”. Um, hard.

    I wish I could afford Tara & Percy, because I love their aesthetic and really want tinted plaster (and really want to do it in lime! so effective! so ancient!). But this is inspiring. I’ve actually thought of offering to apprentice with someone just so I can get the drill of it. These old crafts like plastering and upholstering and whatnot are valuable skills!

    Nice job!

    • Thank you! As much as I whine about it, it really is a manageable thing to try out even if you’ve never done it. And really if you like the unpainted look, look at Master of Plaster!! They insist that it’s easier than skim-coating with joint compound, and that people pick it up quickly who have no experience with plaster or joint compound! There are some nice tutorials online, including Alex who recently tried it at Old Town Home: https://www.oldtownhome.com/master-of-plaster/

  14. Hi Daniel,
    I’m so curious, does Edwin read your blog?

  15. Edwin is the dreamiest skim coater ever. El Pollo for lyfe.
    I have a plaster question. If I have a plaster wall that’s texturized and that’s been painted, that I now want to put wallpaper on (some really great wallpaper from Hygge & West), do you think I need to sand any of the textured, painted surface off before skim coating to make the wall flat? Does joint compound have trouble bonding to a painted surface? I’ve been pondering this for an entire year, but your detailed explanations about skim coating make me think I’m almost ready to start actually doing something with it. Maybe my question should really be – what do I need to do to make my plastered bumpy wall suitable for wall paper? Thoughts?

    • Hygge & West! The best. :)

      Here’s what I’d do, I think:
      1. knock off/sand any really high spots—those will be a pain during skim-coating, so get rid of em.
      2. Clean the walls with TSP substitute. Good step before painting anything!
      3. Especially if the walls are glossy, but either way just as a precaution, paint a coat with drywall primer. It’s super cheap, like $10 a gallon.
      4. Then skim coat! You’ll probably need a few coats to even things out, but Hygge & West! So worth it! Wallpaper can handle some irregularities in the wall, but not texture.
      5. Drywall primer again once the joint compound is dry and sanded and walls are wiped down, and then a wallpaper primer isn’t a bad step to take if you think you might ever need/want to remove it.

      You can do it!!

  16. You say no one would notice, but that’s just not true. Those of us who are used to living in old places (a lot of people who live in New York City, for example) and/or who grew up mainly in old houses that were plastered (like me on both counts) would totally notice the odd look of drywalled walls without any skim coating in older houses! It is totally worth it to do what you are doing to get something that reads like plaster!

    And it isn’t because it isn’t totally flat like you seem to think drywall is (most drywalled walls in old houses are oddly bowed, angled at not at a true 90 degrees to the floor or ceiling, which may themselves not be in a straight plane anyway, and/or bent in places), but because of the 1) feel of the wall, and 2) the way the seams and screws don’t pop out, and 3) that you don’t see the bowed or crooked sheets of drywall.

  17. Daniel, I noticed that the wall with the window doesn’t have baseboards yet. I got curious. How does one attach baseboards to a wall that is basically a void? I hope you can cover this on a next post.

    By the way, hiring out Edwin to do this was the right call. It looks like a lot of difficult work and he made it seem easy.

    We do something similar in our walls here in Brazil, even though our walls are brick with a layer of cement to level out the indentations of the brick. It’s called “massa corrida” and it looks a lot like joint compound. The massa corrida layer comes after the cement, to level out its coarseness and give you a perfectly smooth surface to paint. I do use it for minor fixes but I also hired out when it came time do do every wall in my apartment.

    • To install the baseboards, I basically shim out the studs an inch (to match the depth of the drywall) and then install the baseboards, nailing into the studs! You could just run the drywall all the way to the floor, but this is actually how my original walls are done and it’s a bit easier to leave the drywall off that bottom of the wall to add baseboard outlets. :)

  18. Some tutorials make me really curious to try something and others not so much! This is one job for the experienced pro, Edgar. But, what a great job!

    • Haha! I didn’t mean to make it TOO scary! Donna in the comments above really loves it—everyone’s got their something!

  19. Oh, hell yeah!

    I love the nitty gritty process posts, and you’re not the only one who notices & obsesses over details that most people don’t even notice. I totally get skim coating the whole wall. Which brings me to my next question– my house has shitty textured drywall, and I hate it. I’d love to replicate the look of plaster, or at least something smoother. Do you think I could just skim coat over it, painted surface & all? I tried sanding off the texture with a palm sander, but it wasn’t enough.

    Also, $500 is A STEAL. Totes jealous. Edwin is a prince among men!

    • Yes! Yes! And if it’s the sort of texture I’m thinking of, I think it’s significantly easier than dealing with the irregularities/crumbiness of raw plaster. Sandra Powell has a good tutorial on youtube! I’d just add that you should wash the walls and prime if you have gloss or semigloss walls! Enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kAgc_b9fSU

      • Thank you, I’ll check it out! Someday, this house will be classy! :D

  20. I need an Edwin in my life. Sigh.

  21. Fascinating. I would rather read stuff like this than novels. Can’t wait to see how it all ends.

  22. Those walls make me wish I didn’t own anything, so that I could skim-coat a wall and lean a broom against it and just admire the internal quiet it produces. Sigh.

    Of course, when you do get around to putting stuff in the room, I will sigh over the stuff. I fangirl like that.

    And hats off to Edwin! I tried to fix one wall of my last apartment thinking “how hard can it be?” and discovered that a) it was a lot harder than I thought and b) I don’t have the patience for it.

    • Haha! The broom moment was unstaged! Sometimes renovations reveal a quiet beauty when you look up…or something. Although after I saw the picture I wanted to move the broom to the right two inches to cover the baseboard outlet…such is my blogger training!!

  23. Hi Daniel!
    We’ve been re-doing the lime plastering in our cottage. Like you, I had eyes bigger than my stomach and thought diy-ing the plaster would be no big deal, but it is a huge amount of heavy messy work and I am so happy that we decided to hire the rest of the work out to a local pro. The walls we tackled ourselves are all upstairs and slightly more…. rustic and homey? Which I’ve told myself is preferable for bedrooms, but downstairs in the more public entertaining spaces, which we hired out, the walls are amazing. When its serious, or expensive to do twice, I’ve always rather a pro take over and do the job right the first time, because you are so right, demoing plaster is not something you want to do twice!
    Do you wear gloves when skimming? I found the lime to be extremely caustic and drying whenever I’ve been lazy about protective gear.
    The walls look lovely!

    • Your project sounds so niceeeee! And AH, I should totally wear gloves, but I don’t, and then my hands are so dry. I’ve never worked with lime plaster though, so I’ll keep that in mind when I do!! Thank you!

  24. Ugh, I wish more than anything that I had an Edwin in my life. When I bought my house it had popcorn ceilings and excessively lumpy texture on the walls, but apparently no one in Eugene Oregon has heard of a smooth wall so I have to do all the work to achieve my desired look myself. Any chance Edwin would be willing to fly to the west coast and do my three remaining rooms for me? Oh, and can he also do the work for a price a broke grad student can afford? For real though, this is a great post. I’m using a different process for my walls, and my results are nowhere near perfect cuz, you know, I’m not a professional, but it’s great to see how someone with the right set of skills does this properly.

    • That spray-on texture stuff desecrates walls throughout the PNW. I’d never seen it until we moved to this coast (but popcorn ceilings, oh yah, had a ’60s-era houseful of those in New England). When we were house-hunting west of the Cascades, I found one–ONE–smooth wallboard wall. In any house in any price range and from any era. When I asked around, I was told that spray-on texture is a quick way for contractors to hide imperfections. It will always look a little cheesy to me.

    • Haha! Steph, I think that might be a *little* outside of his preferred geographic range. He’s terrified of air travel! <3

      Gilliane—I know, it's funny how it's such a regional thing! I don't think we really do that on this coast, even in new construction. You can actually skim over that type of texture too, if so inclined!

  25. Whoa — that painting on the final coat with a paint roller is genius. Hope to see you guys trying out that fancy plaster some time in future. Those walls look great!

  26. Hahaha. That first sentence is basically how I approach ALL renovation projects ;-)
    But I still love reading your posts. It gives me a much better idea of all the hard work and incredible skill that goes into jobs like this.

  27. It looks great. Can’t wait to see the finished product. On another note, doesn’t El Pollo mean the chicken?

    • Yes, although my understanding is that it’s taken a little more to mean…the Rooster. The cock. Like I said, stud!

  28. love it all ! the relationship between you and Edwin and the finished walls. Out west we call it drywall and we have that textured look on our walls. Love this! laura

  29. OMG- Perfect timing! You just saved me SO much puzzling this weekend! We’re rescuing the kitchen from the previous owner’s half-assed attempts at home repair/upkeep (so. many. things. wrong.) I’m trying to really honor the old bones (101 years!) of our home and have run into some wall repair issues. Skim coating the drywall will bring it up to the perfect level! You are my FAVORITE person today!

  30. Three posts in ten days?! I can’t tell you have excited I get when a new post pops up. Love it!

  31. You seriously need to clone Edwin! He’s a gem. It’s so hard to find people to skim coat. I’ve found that most sheet rockers hate it and do a real half-assed job. It seems like so many of them are still expecting to get jobs spray texturing ceilings (with sparkles mixed in).

  32. Whaaaat? Another post?? Walls are looking amazing. I echo the admiration of the picture of the wall with the broom leaning against it, although it makes it look as though the wall was NBD when it has taken three posts and many man-hours to get there. When I lived in Germany my husband and I renovated a house, and when I say “renovated” I mean “paid a lovely gentleman named Mierko to renovate it.” When he did the walls, I was ever so glad that I didn’t have to. What ridiculously messy work. They use something called “Rauputz” in Germany, which is basically a kind of texturing compound. I just wanted smooth walls, but he was hesitant to do anything too smooth, so I had to settle for the least textured surface. Turned out great, but oh my god. That stuff was everywhere.

    • OHHH yeah, even before the sanding dust it’s everywhere! Edwin’s not nearly as messy as I am alone, but it’s still everywhere!

  33. “He likes to inform me multiple times a day that “in my country, they call me El Pollo.” Of course they do.”

    That sounds like something [name omitted by editor] would say that her hired worker says. I genuinely do not believe that Edwin tells this once a day, let alone multiple times a day.

    • OK, thought about it. With an accusation like this, I think it’s important to consider before jumping into defense mode, and I actually do think it’s important for bloggers (anyone, really) to be kept in check with things like this. So I commend you for stepping forward with your concerns.

      If you walked away from this post with something I said about Edwin really coming across that way (flippant, disrespectful, objectifying, vaguely racist—I assume this is what you’re getting at), then I apologize that the writing in this post clearly falls short of accurately conveying this relationship. Because this…is not that. Not remotely. Not only does Edwin live next door to me, but we have worked alongside each other near-constantly for three years. We’ve worked through all kinds of challenges together, personally and professionally. Both of us have seen the other on their best and worst days and have helped each other through. We built a house together. Often he’s the only person that I get to really share this renovation ~journey~ with, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. The man is my family. My brother.

      This is not me saying that “I have brown friends; I’m not a racist!” I’m well aware that isn’t enough. And if you were personally offended, I am sorry. However—please don’t mistake this for what it’s not. You’re entitled to believe what you’d like to believe, but if this post (and this site broadly…this is hardly the first time I’ve talked about Edwin) doesn’t demonstrate an appropriate level of respect, admiration, and genuine love for your taste, I’m not sure how to fix that. This isn’t some guy I brought in to do a job for me while I sat back and mined something funny he said for blog content. We work and joke together all day long—and yes, this really is something he says, and yes, he typically says it more than once over the course of a work day.

      For what it’s worth, Edwin read it and loved the post.

      • I don’t think you are a racist. Also, I think if you expose yourself to people from other cultures and ethnic backgrounds, you’re bound to make a mistake or have a misunderstanding. We aren’t omnipotent or clair-voyant, that’s why we are called humans. It’s the only way we can build bridges and I think today’s world is in dire need of these bridges. As long as things happen in good faith very little is insurmountable in my experience.

  34. Completely understand you Edwin love. I put myself through undergrad and grad school painting apartments. Skim coating is an art and the absolute hardest part of the whole painting process, much less time consuming. It was surreal trying to get that across to clients. So glad to see you covering it here since people need to know that when they hire painters.

    My $.02 on cracks: if you have them be sure to use screen them, otherwise they usually come back.

  35. I have been struggling with the terrifyingly damaged walls in my 1894 house, and this post inspired me to go 100% with restoring them, and using Master of Plaster. The company has been great to work with and I am excited/freaked to teach myself a whole new skill.

    I think things would go MUCH easier if I could just clone Edwin.

  36. I like all this progress/action :)
    I like seeing it happen. Very satisfying to see Edwin in action.
    I like that you have Edwin. Getting stuck on things one don’t like doing is horrible.
    And I love that you seem to be feeling better after the trump-funk.

  37. Ok. Somewhere down the line you lost me. I think it has to do with the unfamiliarity of the names of the products you mention (english is not really my first language). And also because I once took two courses in plastering (walls & ceilings) (and that has taught me to respect the people who do it for a living) but we never sanded the walls and basicly there were only two kinds of plastering, one with a pretty coarse material we did for leveling the wall (if neccesary) and a second one where you make it all smooth (this is with gypsum). In the smoothing fase -and this is what will make or brake the plastering- there is a moment where you have to wait for the plaster to dry slightly (but not too much) and then you have to work it with a special plasterknife until it is perfectly smooth. And then you can paint it basicly. No need for sanding. Or joint compound.
    Sometimes (with bare concrete) you need to first apply a layer (it’s like a transparent paint with sand mixed in) that will help the plaster stick. We have a big ceiling in the living room (35 sq. meters) that was done in that way in one day. Ofcourse you need some time to prepare the surface with tape and “stops” (personally I’m a fan of stopping with the plaster just above the skirting board so the skirting board has this little nook that it fits into).
    We have three walls that were plastered with (I think you guys call it lime?) by a guy from Morocco who made his plaster by mixing water, sand, clay, milkpowder (weird but true) and if neccesary pigments. That was a lot more work than the ceiling (it is thicker and heavier) also, to improve the texture and colour we had to rub it with our hands in the days after (with one wall being 5,5 meters high and 11 meters wide that was a lot of work).
    I’m very curious to see what you’ve made of the room.
    Have a wonderful day!

  38. I just love the bromance that is Edwin & Daniel. I hope you guys play “Best Friend” by Harry Nilsson on repeat when you work together.

  39. Hello! Just stumbled across your site and have now tumbled down the rabbit hole as I try and catch up on your incredible house! After reading this post, I would encourage you to watch Restoration Home: Australia – Woodcot Park (episode 2 I think). A married couple take on traditional plastering of a huge house by themselves using traditional techniques and tools – it’s dreamy and highly inspirational, much like what you are doing here.

  40. Sorry I’m late to the party, but I have to say, great job, looks great! And thanks for the walk-through how to skim-coat properly :) Me and my husband decided to do it ourselves without actually knowing how to and it took a lot of sweat and tears as it took waaay longer than anticipated, mainly because a. stupidly we thought, one coat would be enough, as there was already plaster on the wall, b. after the first room it became clear that my husband has no talent for this kind of work, and c. we/I diy-skim-coated the whole house aka 4 rooms, 1 kitchen and 1 stair case in under one month on the weekends while working full time … as other posters said and you also decided, outsourcing probably would have been better. Or doing only one room at a time. Next time…

  41. i have Enrique and his group of very talented friends! Enrique got rid of all the orange peel texture in my little 1960’s bungalow here in SoCal and left me with beautiful flat, slightly European-style texture throughout. i love it so much i haven’t hung pictures! thanks for the wonderful essay: Viva El Señor Edwin, El Pollo Magnifico!

  42. So, yesterday I got to hear Lauren from Master of Plaster speak at an event and the ONLY reason I had ANY idea what she was talking about was because I read your blog! Which of course I had to tell her. And of course she knows you :)

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