It's a messy job to smooth walls with crumbling surfacing compound.
Q: We recently purchased a house, and we need to know the best way to remove poorly applied surfacing compound. It's caked onto the walls and baseboards of our master bedroom. Someone recently asked you about making a wall with a sand texture smooth enough for wallpaper. The answer you gave was to cover the wall with a thin layer of drywall mud. Is that an option for us?
A: The walls may be plaster. Surfacing compound has glue mixed into it for better adhesion and is usually used for wall repair. To remove cracked and peeling compound, use a putty knife to scrape away the surface chipping. Then use a medium-grade sandpaper to sand the walls smooth. Sanding surfacing compound and plaster walls is a very messy job, so cover or remove all electronics in the room, and drape tarps or old sheets over the floors and furniture. Hang polyethylene sheets around doorways to keep the sanding mess from invading adjoining rooms. If you have lots of areas to sand, use a palm or small orbital sander.
Carefully scrape off any surfacing compound on the baseboards with a putty knife, and sand off any remaining bits by hand with a sheet of fine sandpaper. After sanding, vacuum the walls with a brush attachment and then wipe the walls clean.
You can use a thin layer of drywall mud to smooth the walls. Let it dry completely and sand lightly again with a sanding sponge. Clean the walls again before applying a coat of primer to seal the surface, and then apply a finish coat of paint. You'll also need to repaint the baseboards.
If you want to apply a whole new texture to the walls, check out the Homax line of texture products. Try a fun roll-on/spray-on texture to create an adobe or swirl pattern, or use a texture you add to your finish coat of paint and roll onto the walls. Go to www.homaxproducts.com to find a dealer near you.