There is certainly a place in design for textured walls; however, not all textured walls are created equal, and not all designs thrive with a textured wall. If you have textured walls, specifically Venetian plaster textured walls, and you’re looking to smooth them out, there is a simple strategy for creating flat walls. Simple, but not necessarily easy. This will take some time and some effort (and lots and lots of cleanup), but it’s a great way to create the flat-wall look you’re after.
DIY Level: Intermediate
- 80- and 120-grit sandpaper
- Electric sander (optional but highly recommended)
- Painter’s tape
- Dust mask
- Broom and shop vac or similar
Textured walls come in a variety of texture levels. This example shows moderate textural sweeps done with venetian plaster and painted over with a gloss latex paint.
Before you can begin smoothing out your textured walls, you need to remove all accessories from your space.
In a bathroom, for example, this includes items on shelves, rugs, soap, shower curtain and rod.
Also remove any removable items attached to the walls, such as towel rods. This will allow for a thorough wall-smoothing while omitting the risk of damaging your hardware.
After all removable items have been removed from your space, cover all electrical outlets with painter’s tape. Also, cover all drains and vents with tape, plastic, or towels. The dust this project will create will permeate every nook and cranny, so be thorough in your cranny-coverage. Also, open a window to keep the space well-ventilated.
Put on your dust mask. Begin with a coarse sandpaper, such as 80-grit. Be prepared to use lots of sandpaper. Depending on the density and depth of your wall texture, each piece of sandpaper will last for 2-6 square feet. Even in a small bathroom, that’s a lot of sandpaper.
Start sanding your walls. This first pass isn’t going to get everything perfectly smooth, but you’ll want to create a relative flatness between the wall “base” and the peaks of your texture.
Here’s a demonstration of where the texture peaks were before the first sanding pass. The brown color is the top paint, the greenish color is the plaster itself, and the white color is where the sandpaper dug into the drywall. Try to avoid getting into the drywall as much as possible, although it will probably happen a little bit.
Note that pressing harder on your electric sander isn’t always the most effective strategy; it can inhibit the rotation of the sandpaper itself and actually take away from the sander’s effectiveness. Find a balance between providing enough pressure on your sander so there’s definite friction between the sandpaper and the texture, and easing off enough so the sandpaper rotates freely. The sanding will create dust everywhere.
Seriously, dust coats everything. This was after about 12 square feet of sanding the first pass.
It’s a good idea, when possible, to step back and view your flatter walls against a source of light; the various sheens and reflections will provide a clue as to what is done and what needs more sanding. A step-back perspective is something I recommend every time you switch out your sandpaper.
If you notice a few areas that could use touching up during your step-back review, touch them up with fresh sandpaper before moving on.
Also, although you will be able to see much of where you need to sand more, you can’t always trust your eyes. Use your non-sanding hand to feel areas of the wall for flatness. This particular area, where my finger is touching, looked like it needed more sanding, but when I felt it, it was perfectly smooth. Use your eyes and hands to guide your sanding progression.
It takes a lot of time, so be patient with yourself. Take breaks if you need to. Also, use your shop vac to vacuum up the coats of dust occasionally, so they don’t compound into everything deeper.
After you’ve gone over your walls with 80-grit sandpaper and are satisfied with the level of flatness, you’ll need to wipe off the coat of dust with damp paper towels or baby wipes.
Mount a medium grit (120-grit) sandpaper onto your sander, and repeat the process around your walls. You might be tempted to skip this step, what with your sore arms and your hand feeling the smoothness of your walls. DON’T SKIP IT. This finer-grade sandpaper will do wonders in smoothing your walls even more than you’d think possible.
Remember to swap out your 120-grit sandpaper every few square feet, just like you did with your 80-grit sandpaper, to maximize effectiveness and flatness. Sadly, this photo shows just a portion of the sandpaper discs used!
Stand back and check out the smoothness. Congratulations, you’re well on your way to a modern, texture-free wall!