Ugly,Ugly Walls In Your House

What’s An Ugly Wall?

I bought a house with ugly walls. One bedroom has screws showing in the ceiling and drywall joint tape peeling off the walls. It has no drywall in the closet and studs showing. For the time being, it has been turned into the bird room where my wife keeps her 2 Conjures (Parrot-like birds).

The house originally had the pathetic looking laundry room right next to the master bedroom. The texture finish on the walls was awful and the ceiling was just as bad. The same can be said for the dining room and kitchen. I don’t know what the previous owners were thinking, but they really screwed up the finish.

Add to all that, the back porch had drywall missing and holes in the walls that were covered. The whole house needed some creative thinking as a cure for a bad case of the U-G-L-I-E-S! A few areas that had leaks in the roof above were missing some large chunks of drywall in the ceiling. Not good.

Creative Thinking To The Rescue

The laundry room had to go. Since it was right next to the master bedroom, I knew right away that it could be used as a second walk-in closet. But it would need a lot of work to make the transition.

First of all, I moved all the plumbing and electric for a new laundry location to the back porch room. Since the back wall in the new area needed electric and plumbing, I was fortunate that it was already missing the drywall covering. It did not need any demolition. I completed the necessary tasks to make said new laundry room usable. Then I moved the washing machine/dryer out of the original laundry room into that new utility area. That procedure left me with an empty room ready for the planned closet conversion.

First I closed off the doorway into the closet-to-be by framing it in and covering the inside opening with drywall. Since the outside hallway walls were covered with 1 x 12’s, I did the same finish over the closed in door. Phase I complete.

Next I created a new doorway into that room from the master bedroom. This required some very tricky framing as the nearby bedroom entry door was coming in at an angle. Since the master bedroom walls had been stripped bare (1/4″ plywood panels were the original wall covering -Yuuch!), the task was somewhat easier as a result. Phase II complete.

After that, I had my son-in-law, Shaun, continue the Pergo Flooring from the bedroom through the new doorway into this now re-purposed room. Phase III complete.

The Ugly Wall Confrontation

After several months I finally decided it was time to go after the ugly walls. I first capped off the old plumbing outlets and covered the holes with new pieces of drywall. There were multiple electrical outlets so I left them in place except for the 220 volt box needed for the dryer. I disconnected and removed it. I also covered the dryer vent hole with a drywall patch.

An easy way to cover a wall or ceiling hole is to locate the next wall studs or ceiling joists just past the hole. Use a nail, small drill bit or stud finder. Find the center by locating the clear area on either side. Measure from center to center and mark. Cut a piece of drywall to fit. Then place the drywall against the wall or ceiling between your center marks. Scribe around your new piece with a pencil. Cut out scribed area with a utility knife, reciprocating saw, or electric oscillating tool. Screw in new drywall piece after cleaning area.

Now it was time to do something with the poorly textured walls. I wanted smoothly finished walls and ceiling. I knew that I would have to plaster over everything.

When I faced a similar problem with the last home that I owned, I hired a professional to plaster over the textured walls to create a smooth finish. That is an art in itself as you only get one chance to do it right. When plaster drys, it is a hard finish. I don’t know how to do that nor do I want to learn.

So my choice was to use joint compound over the rough finish. Since I had never done this before, it was new territory for me. Finishing raw drywall is one thing, but covering a bumpy finish is another.

The paint on the walls was flat so I chose not to use a primer to help secure the joint compound to said walls. I would use the coating material right out of the bucket. I wanted it to be thick so that it would not slop all over me and the paper-covered floor.

Gettin’ Her Done

I purchased a new stainless steel 12″ drywall “knife” to compliment my 6″ one. I also purchased a new stainless steel compound holding tray. My old plastic one was falling apart.

So I started. After loading the tray with undiluted joint compound, I started to swipe it onto the rough walls. I decided ahead of time that I would need 2 full coats before sanding the walls. Perfection was not what I strived for on the first coat. I just tried to get the finish as smooth as possible with minor imperfections.

So far my plan was working. After finishing the first coat, I had to wait a couple of days to let the material dry. Then I installed the second coat. This time it had to be close to perfect. All swipe-marks had to be virtually non-existent. I accomplished this by slightly lifting the edge of the drywall knife that rode against the wet compound already on the wall. Any voids in the finish were filled with a small glob of compound and then the area was swiped again.

Corners were a problem. I have a corner finishing knife, but using it on a bumpy finish creates ripples in the corner. You then have to bring your flat knife in afterwards close to the corner to smooth out said imperfections. When this was completed, Phase IV was complete.

The Dreaded Sanding Phase

When all the wall and ceiling coatings were complete and thoroughly dry, it was time to sand the walls. Since I hate hand sanding, I used an electric orbital sander with 80 grit paper. It creates a lot of dust but works very well for me.

I set up my large commercial vacuum cleaner to run while I was sanding. I wore a painters filtering mask with twin filter discs. A large clear face shield will protect your eyes without fogging up like goggles do.

After much sanding, I did some minor touch up where I saw flaws in the finish. To get the corners sanded, I purchased a small corner sanding block that I found in the painter’s tools section of Lowe’s. Phase V complete.

Do You Want Your Closet To Look Nice

It was now time to paint. I like to use a stain killer for the primer because it covers well and hides any potential discolorations or bleed-throughs later on. Kilz in the latex version is my favored choice .

Since I planned to have the ceiling white and the walls a color, I painted the ceiling first with 2 coats of the primer. Since it was only a closet, this procedure was enough for me.

Next I got a good quality name brand color paint for the walls. It was a combination primer and finish coat all-in-one product. If used carefully and rolled on slowly, you can get away with one coat. When it dries, you can easily come back and touch up areas that were missed.

Before starting the wall painting, I used green frog tape to seal off the ceiling. I placed the tape roll tight against the wall as I unrolled it pressing the tape onto the ceiling. This gives you a straight line finish where the wall color meets the white ceiling.

Next, I used a quality paint brush to first install paint in the corners and around electrical outlets. Then I used a moderately thick nap roller to paint the walls. Any remaining imperfections will show up when the paint drys. Touch up with diluted joint compound and sand lightly when dry. Finish touch up with paint that is feathered out towards the edges. Phase VI complete.

Final Notes

This sounds like a lot of work and it is. I did not rush the job and did a little each day that I actually felt like working. It is a frustrating process when you push yourself to get the job done,

But this is a job just about anyone can do. You don’t have to be an expert or hire a professional contractor if you have handyman skills. It just takes willingness to start and the perseverance to finish.

The end result can be spectacular. Smooth walls are a luxury in most homes these days. Textured walls and ceilings are easier for a contractor to get a decent finish onto the drywall and therefore that solution is installed more often than not. Why not make your home look like it is worth more than it really is?

PS: If you have a ceiling with a popcorn or acoustic finish, and want to remove it, do this: Spray water on the finish and let it soak in. The material can then be removed with a large spatula or drywall knife with minimal effort.


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