What Are Textured Walls? And, How to Get Rid of Them: A Remodeling 101 Guide

Textured and even excavated interior walls – of the type with beautifully exposed plaster or peeled wallpaper – tend. (Read: Trend alert: the excavated look, 15 ways.) Not so much the other types of textured walls: “orange peel”, popcorn or faux stucco walls that could afflict your home or rental .

If you like your new place but don’t like textured walls, what’s the solution? For options, we spoke with Joan Barton, owner of Dirty Girl Construction in Los Angeles. (She has helped us answer other urgent questions in the past; see her take 5 things your contractor wants you to know (but is too polite to tell you).) Read on.

Walls with charming textures at Parisian designer Clarisse Demory & # 8
Above: beautifully textured walls in the apartment of Parisian designer Clarisse Demory in Sofia, Bulgaria. See more in A Parisian’s Pied-a-Terre in Sofia, Bulgaria.

What are textured walls?

Textured interior walls (think “orange peel,” popcorn, or swirl patterns) have a practical function, as the texture hides signs of drywall installation – that is, taped seams where drywall sheets meet – and other imperfections. “It’s economical,” says Barton. “Maybe people really liked it in the 70s, but the reason it’s done now is to save money. It’s cheap and fast.”

This is why you often see textured walls in rental or commercial buildings. It is also a more durable surface than a smooth wall and less affected by minor wear. And some people still think that texture adds character: bumps reflect light and create shadows, making ordinary walls less “boring”.

In the exhibition hall of Atelier St. George in Vancouver, the walls intentionally collapse. Find out more in Peasant Chic: Atelier St. George in Vancouver.
Above: In the showroom of Atelier St. George in Vancouver, the walls intentionally collapse. Find out more in Peasant Chic: Atelier St. George in Vancouver.

How are textured walls made?

Typically, the texture is sprayed; sometimes patterns are added, either with a soft brush, or with an instrument such as a comb, cloth or sponge. And the textures and patterns have names: for example, there is Santa Fe (for an adobe look), “orange peel”, “knockdown”, “swirl” and “cat’s paw”. It is also possible to apply a ready-to-use texture paint using a brush or a roller.

The type of texture you might want to get rid of: unsightly ridges, shown here on a ceiling (which the owners have covered with paneling). Discover their solution on Rehab Diaries: DIY Beadboard Ceilings, Before and After.
Above: The type of texture you might want to get rid of: unsightly ridges, shown here on the ceiling (which the owners have covered with paneling). Discover their solution on Rehab Diaries: DIY Beadboard Ceilings, Before and After.

Four ways to get rid of unwanted textured walls:

For many of us, the best wall is the smoothest wall possible. Here are four ways to turn a dotted surface into a smooth surface. These methods will also work with walls that are in distress in other ways (if you ever get tired of exposed plaster or old wallpaper).

Photograph of DIY Project: Limewashed Walls for Modern Times.
Above: Photograph taken from a DIY project: whitewashed walls for modern times.

1. Apply a skim coat.

When drywall is installed, the fasteners and sealed seams are covered with creaming – covered with a thin layer of joint compound, or “mud”, to level the surface for painting or paper. The same technique gets rid of textured walls. A thin layer of mud is applied to the entire surface of the wall, left to dry, then gently sanded. Particularly dented walls may require more than one coat.

The coating of an entire room is both messy and long. It may be best to outsource the work to a professional who has the experience (and strategies) to prevent sanding dust from entering any crevices in your home.

Once the repaired surface is smooth, it can be sealed with a primer and then painted or upholstered, as desired.

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