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Super Home Center Article

How To Prepare That Rough Plaster for Wallpaper

By Edwin Brown

You've decided to wallpaper those walls, but what to do about that rough texture?

In my experience, you have two basic choices. You can put a liner on the wall first (provided the texture is not TOO rough). This mutes the texture and provides a smooth (relatively) surface to glue paper to.

If you are using the services of a professional paperhanger, you will be paying for the liner and the hanger's time to put it on. On top of the price to hang the paper itself. And a paper with a delicate pattern may still show some of the irregularity.

If you want to save money and prepare the walls yourself, you can smooth them out by skimcoating the surfaces with all-purpose drywall joint compound.

This is do-able, if you have time and patience.

The first thing to do if you choose this option is to prep the surface. Remove any scaling paint, powder, dirt, etc. If you have any water stains, I would seal them by brushing on a stainkiller, preferably oil based.

If you wash down the walls, clean rinse after to remove any soap or cleanser residues.

I usually go over the surface with a study flat tool to knock off the worst of the rough points, if possible. This may help to reduce the number of coats of mud required.

Now you are ready to go. Know that you will have to apply a minimum of two successive coats of all-purpose compound, or more if the texture is pretty rough.

Tools: a ten or twelve inch broadknife and a mud pan. Or, a plasterer's hawk trowel.

There is a proper order to skimcoating, to ease your job as much as possible.
The key here is to make your strokes all go in the same direction as you do each coat. For the first coat, I like to go all horizontally, starting at the top of the wall and working from corner to corner. Then move down and continue until you have reached the bottom.

After that coat dries, start at the top again and this time make your strokes vertical, going from top to bottom. What you are doing now is filling in the ripples that result in the first coat. Let dry.

Third coat if necessary, repeat what you did when you went vertically.

At this point, you may get by with a good sanding to smooth out tool marks. If not, do another coat, varying your stroke directions according to your judgement of what works best. The final step is sanding. Medium grit sanding sponges work well here.

There is another way to do this that may be easier. Lay down your mud in parallel strips. When they dry, fill in the gaps. You could choose to do each coat that way. It will take more days to complete the job this way.

Now that you finally have a smooth surface you can live with, be sure to put a couple of good coats of drywall primer/sealer (PVA) to render the porous surface fit for wallpaper.

You did it! Now that wasn't too bad, was it?

Author: Edwin Brown

For 35 years, Edwin Brown has worked as a licensed and bonded specialist in the plaster repair and renovation field, on the west coast of the US. For more complete information on plaster repair issues, browse his website at

You can also opt-in to his free monthly newsletter, BEAUTIFUL PLASTER TODAY.

Edwin Brown, 2016 – All Rights Reserved

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