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The following describes our process for skim coating a ceiling for a smooth flat finish.  If skimming for a knockdown, orange peel or other textured finish you will likely be able to skip the 2nd skim coat and sanding process.  Each project will vary but we’ve found this process provides amazing results.

We’ve created a material list, a step by step guide and a quiz to test your knowledge.

Tools Needed:

Many of these tools can be purchased from your local hardware store.  We’ve included links to our Amazon store, which helps support our how-to program.  Not all of these tools are needed.  Below we list options for skim coating which require different tools.


1.  Pre-Arrival

Please refer to service standards post for instructions on how to communicate with a client and organize for a job.

2. Room Preparation

If removing popcorn texture, please refer to our room preparation post on how to prepare a room for popcorn ceiling removal.

3.  Popcorn Removal

If applicable to this situation, please see our post on how to remove popcorn texture.

4.  Dust ceilings/Walls

  • Before skimming you’ll want to mop or vacuum off the ceilings so your skimming mud doesn’t get flecks of debris in it.

5.  Skim Coat Ceilings/Walls (1st coat)

  • If spraying or rolling mud, thin mud to the consistency of pancake batter.  If you plan on applying with a hawk and trowel you’ll want to thin very little if any.

OPTION 1  (Roll Method)

OPTION 2 (Hawk and Trowel)

  • Using a 14 inch flat bladed trowel, load up your hawk with all purpose joint compound. Lay your mud onto the surface and pull the mud tight so a light skim coat is applied.  If using hawk and trowel method you thin joint compound very little if at all.

OPTION 3 (Spray and skim)

6.  Skim Coat Ceilings/Walls (2nd coat)

NOTE – This typically only applies if the desired finish is smooth.  For textured ceilings you typically only need 1 skim coat and you can skip the sand but you will want to knock off any lines or debris with a 6 inch knife prior to applying new texture.

  • Knock off any raised bumps, lines or defects with a 6 inch knife
  • Apply a thin 2nd coat of general purpose drywall compound using one of your preferred methods above
  • Alternatively, you can spray a primer/surfacer such as Tuff Hide or Sherwin Williams Builders Surfacer.  They’re really thick and if spraying you’ll need a pump like the Mark V or Graco 1595.

7.  Light Sand

  • Use a pole sander with extension or mechanical sander such as the Porter Cable 7800 or Festool Planex attached to the CT 36 AC vacuum.  Attach 220 grit sand paper.  In the corners of the room you can use a sanding block or we sometimes use a Festool DTS 400 hooked up to our Festool Vacuum.  While sanding you’ll want to run a work light casting across the ceiling or wall to pick up any defects.  Defects may show as shadows that need further sanding to get a flatter ceiling or wall.

8.  Dust ceilings

  • Before continuing to next step you’ll want to mop or vacuum off the ceilings so paint doesn’t lock in any debris.

9.  Next Steps