Plastering is the most commonly used method to smooth walls for a finished look. Plastering needs a professional skill for a smooth application. Applying plaster to walls gives a strong and long-lasting finish. Plastering gives both new and old walls a perfect finish for painting and also helps make the walls soundproof. The type of plaster to be used will depend on the wall surfaces you want to cover.
But what if you don’t have the budget for plastering? The budget for plastering is high, as you have to buy the plaster material and allow for professional labour costs to skim and reapply the plaster. For a previously plastered house, it is easy to do DIY projects on small parts of the wall. But for large areas, it is recommended you get professional help. The professionals can skim existing plaster walls and replaster them for a smooth finish.
There are some scenarios when you can consider smoothening walls without plastering. You may have removed the outdated wallpapers and found the walls are unsightly. Or maybe, removing something hanging on the wall just to discover the wall requires smoothening and a coat of paint. Whatever your situation might be, the walls will need to be sand down and, in some instances, filled with a material to cover cracks and holes.
We will look at 13 ways to smoothen the walls without plastering. Before getting started with the wall smoothening, remove or cover areas that need protection against dust, such as furniture and carpets. You can use a dust sheet for that. Open windows in the room; it’s good to ensure there is enough air circulation. Wear masks to keep you from inhaling so much dust and goggles for protecting your eyes.
Prepare your wall
The first step of all should be to decide on the most suitable method for your walls. Gather the necessary materials, tools, and protective clothing you will need for the project. Prepare the walls that you will work on.
Scrap off any old wallpaper on the walls and any debris. Do repairs around the room and remove skirt boards or skim them for an excellent finish. Depending on your project, you may need a water source. If you have previously sanded the walls, consider washing the walls with soap and a sponge in small circular movements to get a better finish.
Sand Existing Plaster Walls
For bumpy and rough plaster walls, smoothen them out with sandpaper. Old brick house walls may need to be brushed down with a wire brush. The condition of your existing walls will dictate the method of preparing your walls.
If you have a large project, consider borrowing or renting an electric sander if you know how to use it or can get someone to help you with that. Select the sandpaper coarseness depending on the size of the bumps on the wall. For large bumps, select sandpaper with medium or high grit, and for smaller bumps and finishing use less coarse sandpaper.
When sanding plaster, be gentle. Plaster is soft and wears off easily, be careful not to over-sand and create a bigger problem.
Smoothening walls by sanding can be time-consuming and labour-intensive. You can spend days trying to get the finish you want.
Consider the type of earlier plastering that was done. In older homes, the plaster layer can be even thinner, and when you sand through the first layer, the underlying layer becomes bumpier. Not what you were after.
Remember to use respiratory protective gear; the dust raised by this method will be everywhere around the place you’re doing it.
Use Polyfilla to Cover Bumps and Cracks
Use Polyfilla or any other alternative brand, to fill bumps and cracks. This method will work for small spaces or few bumpy areas. It won’t smoothen large surfaces that have uneven walls.
To get started, skim the polyfill on the surface to smoothen, then use a trowel to even it out. If there are large gaps, shrinking may happen.
Shrinking is the drying of the polyfill material and shrinking into the wall. This is an expected occurrence, and nothing to worry about. Give it a few minutes to dry and then add a layer. There is no issue with having multiple layers. If you apply too much filler, sand down to the smoothness of your liking.
Plasterboard the existing wall
If the existing walls are irregular with hollows cavities and the rough wall takes a lot of space, this is another option to consider to plastering.
First, create a stud frame using wood for attaching the plasterboard. Not attaching the plasterboard directly to the wall makes for a polished finish on very rough walls.
Arrange the wood batons in such a manner that, the centre of the batons is where the plasterboard will meet. Having the batons well laid out gives you a sturdy framework on which to screw the plasterboard. There should be a beam behind every joint.
Attach the plasterboard to the wood beam framework. The sheets can either be a couple of sheets when you using full-size boards or lots of sheets. Then secure the plasterboard in place using plasterboard screws. Keep the plasterboard as still as you can as you are securing it in place. This is to prevent cracks from forming in joints.
Use plaster, filler, or specialist filling to fill the gaps between the sheets and the screw head tops. Then sand the filler for a smooth finish paying attention not to sand the plasterboard sheets. Sanding the plasterboard will result in a rough-looking finish. Finally, paint the plasterboard sheets with your choice of color. Spray a mist cover first as your undercoat and then paint the first coat on. You can go for a second coating if needed.
Polycell Skim Coating
Polycell creates a smooth surface for painting over rough and bumpy walls. The ready-to-use mix is easy to use, acts as plaster to give a foundation for a smooth finish. The polycell is self-levelling and can fill and cover ridges, and bumps for large wall areas. It gives a permanent smooth texture and a fill of 4mm on damaged walls.
To use the polycell, stir the polycell into a creamy consistency and immerse the roller into the polycell. Roll the product gently on the wall in wiper arcs over one-meter square areas. Ensure you cover the entire wall. Let it dry and lightly sand down bumpy areas. Now the walls are ready for painting.
If your wall just doesn’t look that nice but without bumps and dents, you can line it up with lining paper. Prepare the wall, applying filler and sanding it down to remove bumps and dents. If the walls have bumps, they will show through the lining paper.
Choose the lining paper that you want to use, it can be flat, woodchip, or embossed. Apply and line the lining paper from one top corner of the wall and follow the wall for a perfect finish. Overlap the lining paper to count for shrinkage by 3mm. Line the wallpaper with wallpaper paste, and when it is dry cut the top and bottom of the lining paper.
Consider cleaning the walls with sugar soap for clean walls ready for painting. Sugar soap, despite what the name suggests, is not sugar, but an alkaline detergent that resembles sugar in powder form. Sugar soap is effective for cleaning all surfaces and removes grease, particles, and grime on the walls.
When thoroughly cleaned and rinsed out with warm water, it leaves no trace of any product that can react with the paint. It can also be used to brighten surfaces on painted walls.
Sugar soap does not remove existing paint but cleaning with sugar soap highlights imperfections that might show up after painting.
Cleaning off scuffs using soapy warm water
Cleaning walls with warm soapy water mixed with household detergents will remove scuffs, dirt, and particles on the wall. Use the solution to clean the walls, applying the necessary pressure where necessary. Allow walls to dry before you paint.
Scraping Loose Paint off
Use a scraper to scrape off any old paint leftovers, as these can create lines and bumps in the new paint coat applied. Sand off old paints, testing for lead content to avoid problems. The kit to test for lead content can be cheaply bought at any hardware. Use sandpaper to create a smooth wall surface to paint over.
Vacuum The Walls If It’s Only Fine Dust
Remember as you work on a room to vacuum over cracks and the between the floor and walls. This will ensure that when you come to paint, the paint will not mix with the dust.
After finishing the wall smoothening, hover over the walls to collect small dust particles trapped between the floorboards.
Fill With Fine Filler
For small imperfections and holes, use fine filler to fill. The fine filler is designed for the tiniest imperfections and fills the smallest lines. Leave the filler for a few hours to dry. Sand off the excess fine filler with 100 or more grit sandpaper to get smooth walls. You may need to apply another layer of the fine filler and sanding again if it does not meet your required smoothness.
Fill Larger Holes With A Stronger Filler
Damaged/cracked walls can be repaired by filling the large holes and cracks with filler. Choose the correct type of filler and take your time filling the holes. Once you’ve filled, let it dry and sand down the excess filer using 100 or 120 grit sandpaper to the texture matching the existing walls.
Skim Coat The Wall
Skim coat the damaged walls for a smooth wall without having to plaster. The skim coat application is the application of a thin coat of joint compound by hand, paint roller, or gun spraying. The skim coat is evened out using a drywall knife. Skimming coating the walls creates a flat and uniform surface for painting. This is an intense job and might require prior preparation for DIY. Skim coating can be used to repair walls that wallpapers have damaged, drywall repairs, old surfaces, ugly surfaces, and new installs.
Cover The Walls With Wallpapers
Wallpapers have lost their popularity in recent years. If they are appealing to you, you may choose to line up the walls with the wallpapers. Depending on the wallpaper thickness, the imperfections may show through. Use a wallpaper with a funky pattern or colour to hide the rough walls. Sand-off the areas to be covered with the wallpapers as smoothly as possible. Line up the wallpapers closely for a professional look.
Apply Light Texture Paint
A coat of paint always brightens up rooms. Applying lightly textured paint over the unsightly wall to hide scuffs and bumps on the surface. The paint cannot hide large imperfections and give you the finish you want. You may also choose to apply eggshell paint to better hide the imperfections. The eggshell paint won’t highlight imperfections as a paint with a glossy, smooth finish will. Choose light colours such as creams, whites, and light shades for an excellent finish.
There are many options to smoothen your walls without having to plaster. Before you pick one, take time to think it through if it is the best solution for your home. The damage to your wall will dictate if you will do away without plastering. Cracked and rough walls are fixable by sanding or skim coating walls. If the whole wall is damaged, the work involved in filling and sanding down the walls may be labour-intensive.
You may also choose to paint a thin layer of inexpensive paint on the walls that need to be smoothened. The paint will give the areas in the most need of sanding smooth, and where you need to fill more. The walls don’t have to extra smooth, and you may be too critical on the rough walls. After applying the thin layer, step back and concentrate on few areas that need to be smoothed.
Always prepare the walls, sanding scuffs, filling with a filler, or washing dirt and grease off walls for a smooth painted walls finish.
For best results, consider hiring professional help.