How to Smooth Drywall After Wallpaper Removal

Removing old wallpaper can be a chore, especially if the person who hung the wallpaper did not apply sizing before putting the paper up. Steam, scraping and peeling will eventually remove the wallpaper, but it may also leave gouge marks in the process. If you're planning to paint the wall, you will have to smooth out the gouges with a process known as skimming.

Smooth a skimmed wall with a drywall sander.

Roll a coat of thinned drywall compound on the wall with a large nap roller. You can purchase thinned compound at lumberyards and do-it-yourself-type centers. Start in one corner and roll on a single thin coating.

Smooth out the wet compound. Bryan Tradem, author of "Working with Drywall," recommends using a 14-inch trowel to smooth out the wall.

Position the trowel at the top of the wall and pull downward evenly, smoothing the wet compound with each stroke.

Apply enough pressure to leave a thin layer of wet compound on the wall. It's okay if you can see through it in places.

Overlap the first stroke about one inch with the trowel on the next stroke to remove compound that forms a ridge on the edge. Continue rolling on compound and troweling until the wall is complete.

Sand away all rough areas the compound leaves behind by with a drywall sander once the wall is completely dry. As the compound dries, it turns white and hard, like chalk. Sanding will create clouds of fine dust. Wear a respirator mask and protective goggles that seal around your eyes during sanding.

Things You Will Need

  • Small nap paint roller
  • Paint pan
  • Extension pole
  • 14-inch drywall trowel
  • Premixed drywall compound (for rolling)
  • Drywall sander
  • Respirator mask
  • Protective goggles


  • The job will go quicker if you recruit an assistant. One person can roll the drywall compound while the other follows behind, smoothing out the compound with the trowel.
  • Wipe down the finished wall with tack cloth to remove the drywall compound dust that collects on the wall that can mar a painted finish.
  • Apply a coat of latex primer to the skimmed wall before painting.


  • Do not use quick-setting drywall compound that can dry prematurely before you can smooth it out.

About the Author

Glenda Taylor is a contractor and a full-time writer specializing in construction writing. She also enjoys writing business and finance, food and drink and pet-related articles. Her education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.

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