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How to Wallpaper Textured Walls

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If you’ve been wanting to add wallpaper or a wall mural to your home but you have textured walls, then you definitely want to read this post. We’ll cover how to wallpaper textured walls to achieve a smooth finish for a professional look.

Today’s tutorial will involve adding a skim coat to your textured wall, BUT I have found the best way to do this that results in smooth walls with little to no sanding.

Floral wallpaper in a bedroom suite

I know my main source of apprehension about this DIY project (and why I put off wallpapering over textured walls for years) is that I didn’t want to introduce a ton of dust to my home for the sake of flat walls.

Do I Need to Skim Coat Before I Wallpaper or Add a Mural Over Textured Walls?

Yes. And this may not be what you want to hear, but I hope to convince you.

It’s a good idea to skim coat before you wallpaper over textured walls because you want the finished product to look good and you’re likely investing a good amount of money just to buy the wallpaper or the mural.

Why waste money on traditional wallpaper knowing that the texture of the wall could cause issues with adherence and it may not look good?

Install mural or wallpaper textured walls

You do not need to be a pro with a mud pan to achieve good results. Seriously, even if your skim coat is barely “good enough”, it is still better than skipping the step all together.

Additionally, the actual process of doing a skim coat isn’t as time consuming or costly as you’d think, but we’ll get to that later.

Bottom line, if you’re installing wallpaper murals as an accent wall or in your entire living room, doing a skim coat is a must so you end up with a smooth surface and the wallpaper sticks as intended.

Could I Use This Tutorial to Wallpaper Over Textured Walls in an Entire Room?

Absolutely! You’ll see in my photos at the bottom of this post that I installed a wall mural in my foyer as a massive feature wall to break up the tall white walls that encompass the space. To me, this mural was the perfect addition to accent my home decor.

The square footage of my feature wall is roughly 150 square feet of surface area. Completing the wallpaper installation and prep for this tutorial took me a roughly three hours of work everyday for three days.

wallpaper in an entire office

If you use this tutorial to skim coat an entire room, it will definitely be a bigger investment of time and supplies, but the method would be the same, just to entire walls. I like to listen to podcasts or music to help the time go by faster.

Please note the tutorial below will focus on installing an accent wall or large mural rather than wallpapering a whole room, but it’s still a useful starting point.

What Type of Wall Texture Will This Work On?

There are lots of different wall textures, and I live in Texas where orange peel texture reigns supreme. Why do builders in the South love to go nuts with popcorn texture, knockdown wall texture and orange peel walls? The horror!

It blew my mind when I found out this was not the norm up north. I can only dream of a world where I have perfectly smooth walls to paint and wallpaper.

If your walls look like an orange peel or something similar to that, this tutorial will work well for you. If you have plastered walls or your walls have very deep texture, this method may not work well for you and you should consider getting a consult from the pros. Or, try a small area in a closet and see how smooth you can get it with my method and decide from there.

What Kind of Wallpaper or Mural Should I Buy?

how to install mural wallpaper on textured walls

This project tutorial focuses on using paste the wall type of “real wallpaper”. I have a post about installing peel and stick wallpaper (sometimes called removable wallpaper or self-adhesive backing wallpaper), but the methods today are best used on regular traditional “paste the wall” wallpaper.

There’s also prepasted wallpaper that you activate with water, and this method will work on that, too. I will say that in my opinion, pre-pasted wallpaper gets heavy to work, makes a mess with water and is not my fave. I definitely would NOT recommend prepasted wallpaper if this is your first time doing this kind of project.

Where Can I Buy Wallpaper or Murals?

My mural is from Photowall, and I find their prices a BARGAIN compared to other similar wallpaper companies. You can use my code MONICA15 to save 15% on your order and get free shipping.

wallpaper over textured walls- finished mural

The other good thing about Photowall is that their wallpaper and murals come with powdered glue adhesive– all you do is add water and you have wallpaper paste. But the best part that they have an amazing and affordable wallpaper installation kit that includes almost everything you need for the best results ever.

Additional companies that I feel offer unique options are Milton and King and Graham and Brown. There are even sites online like Spoonflower where you can upload your own design.

A Note About Buying Murals or Wallpaper

No matter where you buy from, make sure to factor in the pattern match or repeat and order extra for any mistakes along the way.

I know how it is to want to be frugal, but I would make sure to order as much as I needed for the entire surface (including overage) in one order so that they all come from the same dye lot. If you order afterwards, the new wallpaper may not match up color wise, and you’d be a sad panda.

How to Decide on a Mural Size

wallpaper textured walls- deciding a mural size

For my mural, I measured the entire width of the wall, divided it by the width of a panel (17.7″) and rounded down to the nearest whole number.

146.5 / 17.7= 8.27, so 8 panels.

8 x 17.7= 141.6 which when subtracted from 146.5 leaves me with roughly 2.5″ of space per side, so I opted to use 7 panels instead.

7 x 17.7= 124

146.5-124= 22.5 inches / 2 = 11.25 inches of space on each side of my mural. This measurement is very important for later.

My foyer has SUPER tall ceilings, so the height of my ceiling didn’t impact my plan at all. I ended picking 96″ tall as the finished size (I actually used about 106″ of length and trimmed it after the moldings went up) because that’s how long my moldings were.

I didn’t want to have obvious scarf joints from joining two pieces together (although I did have to scarf my joints for the top and bottom parts).

Wallpaper Textured Walls: Is It Expensive?

Wallpaper and murals can get pricey, which is why I recommend using it in small spaces if you’re on a budget. I think doing a massive accent wall or focusing on a little space such as a powder room, laundry room or closet may be a good idea and a perfect opportunity to gain the confidence to do a larger space.

Truly, there are high end wallpaper and mural companies out there and then there are the off the rack double roll wallpapers sold at Lowes for about $30.

The supplies for doing the skim coating are pretty affordable in the grand scheme of things. I think I spent about $75 on a straight edge taping knife, joint compound, primer, etc.

If you don’t have common DIY items such as a laser level, paint rollers, ladder, then the costs can be a bit more. You can always reach out to a neighbor, friend or family to see if they have those things they can lend you.

Helpful Skim Coating Technique Video

Before diving in to my tutorial below, I highly suggest you click this link right here and watch the technique used. This video was so helpful in learning the 10-degrees method to put on the compound and the 35-degree method to take off compound, which leaves a beautiful skim coat.

Can I Do This Project By Myself?

I did this entire project solo, and this laser level that can be temporarily attached to the wall was so helpful. I set it horizontally on one corner, make sure it’s level, then I can easily mark my center and other corner. You’ll see why this is important in the tutorial below.

Supplies to Wallpaper Textured Walls

Creating an Outline of Where to Skim Coat

The first step is to clear the wall and work area of all decor and furniture, use a cloth to clean up any dust or grime on the wall and patch up any nail holes using joint compound.

Now, you need to lightly outline your mural size on the wall with a pencil so you know exactly where to skim coat.

Place your laser level right above your baseboard pointing up (while ensuring it stays level) on the left side of the mural. I put my laser level 11.5″ away from my door casing since I was aiming to have 11.5″ of wall space on each side of the mural.

wallpaper textured walls- preparing to skim coat orange peel

Lightly draw a line over the laser line using a yardstick and a pencil. I went 106″ high to account for the 4″ of space above my baseboard (height of mural + space under it + space above it). I ended up trimming about 2-3″ on the top and bottom with a knife after I got my moldings attached. I prefer to trim the excess rather than try to be spot on and end up short.

Repeat this process on the right side. You now have the left and right sides done.

It’s time to do the top. Place your laser level on either the top left or top right corner, make sure it’s level to the other corner, and lightly mark the top line.

During this step, you’ll also want to mark the dead center point of your mural on the top in a crosshairs fashion (vertically and horizontally)- this is IMPORTANT because this will be your starting point for the first panel.

Repeat for the bottom. You now have a rough outline or frame of where you need to skim coat.

How to Skim Coat a Wall

skim coat over textured walls for wallpaper DIY

Using the putty knife that came with the joint compound, apply a good amount of compound to your taping knife all along the edge. To spread on a layer of joint compound, put your knife at about a 10 to 15 degree angle on the wall and spread it on the wall.

To skim and remove the excess compound (and leave only a thin layer that fills in the textured wall areas- this is what we want!) put your knife on the wall and skim over the area you just did at a 35-degree angle.

You’ll see excess compound on your knife and you’ll see a smooth wall area and little to no rough surfaces as you keep working. As you get the hang of the two angles needed to put on and remove the excess compound, this process becomes a lot faster.

skim coat wallpaper prep for mural DIY tutorial

Now, repeat this process on the entire textured surface that your mural will go onto. This process took me about two hours for my mural space.

Let it dry overnight. If you can still see or feel light texture in some areas, feel free to give it another VERY light skim coat.

Keep in mind though, that you don’t have to be perfect. We’re aiming for good enough! Wallpaper and murals tend to be thick, so having the wall 95% perfect is FAB.

skim coat walls for wallpaper tutorial DIY

Once it is dry, run your hands along the skim coat and feel for any sharp ridges or points that could appear through the wallpaper. Lightly sand those areas with a fine grit sanding block and then wipe with a slightly damp towel to catch any dust. Do not sand the entire wall.

Priming the Wall

Grab your paint roller and tray because it’s time to apply a coat of primer to seal all this new joint compound in. I was tempted to skip this step, but truly it doesn’t take much time at all. Maybe half an hour? Definitely do not skip this part.

One coat of primer is plenty and I allowed the primer to dry and cure overnight.

Installing a Wall Mural or Wallpaper

We are onto day 3 now and it is time to install your wall mural. Attach your laser level back on the wall to create a level line at the TOP of your mural (you likely skim coated over the original pencil line).

Get all of your panels ready to go (the ones from Photowall come labeled on a continuous roll and you cut them) and get your wallpaper paste ready. I used an old bucket to make and store my wallpaper paste.

Apply wallpaper paste directly to the wall using a brush. You’ll want to add paste to an area slightly wider than the panel and about halfway down. You can add more paste as you work your way to the bottom.

The wallpaper paste doesn’t dry super fast, so you have plenty of time to get each panel up and level. Each panel took me about 15-20 minutes.

  • If you have an odd number of panels: take your center panel and lightly fold it in half width wise and pinch it at the very top inch or so to make a crease so you know the centerpoint of your center panel. Align it to the center marks you made on the wall, as well as with the level, and use a couple of push pins to hold it in place at the top (you SHOULD be trimming off excess at top and bottom so don’t fret about the push pin holes).
  • If you have an even number of panels: take the panel that will go to the left of the center mark (ex: if you have 8 panels, grab panel 4 and do this) and align the right edge of that panel right along the vertical centerline you created earlier. Use two push pins to hold it in place at the top (you SHOULD be trimming off excess at top and bottom so don’t fret about the holes).

Once your first panel is on the wall, now it’s time to use a REGULAR torpedo level to ensure it is level vertically as you work your way down the panel (you should be able to tell if it is level horizontally since you have your laser level up).

I recommend not trying to stretch the panel to get it properly in place– you can lift the panel away from the wall and smooth it back down. Once its level in both directions, apply some paste to the bottom part of the wall and finish adhering the panel.

While installing each panel, I found it helpful to have the bottom half resting on the tray of my ladder rather than just having it hang down the entire length. That would make this more challenging.

If you’re working solo, try to roll up the bottom half and don’t let it hang until you’re ready to adhere that bottom part of the panel to the wall.

Use your smoothing tool to get all of the air bubbles out from the center and working towards the edges while ensuring it is flat and smooth on the wall. If any paste ends up on the surface of the wallpaper, you can use a damp cloth to wipe off the excess. Step back and admire.

It’s time for the next panel to go up. When placing panels next to each other, you’ll want to make sure the seams butt up to one another, but they should NOT overlap at all.

DIY tutorial install mural textured walls
You can see my laser at the top helping me keep the panels level horizontally.

A reminder to not stretch the wallpaper panels if you need to adjust/move them- always pull the panel away from the wall and smooth it back down. You don’t want to get to this point and overstretch your wallpaper and have it shrink once it is dry.

Once you have two panels up, you’ll want to use a seam roller to get the edges as flat and together as possible. Wipe away excess paste that may come up, and continue using your smoothing tool to ensure the panel adheres to the wall and to remove air bubbles.

Repeat these steps until all your panels are up.

Framing Your Wall Mural

Now you can cut your molding pieces to create a giant framed wall mural. You’ll need a miter box or miter saw for this part, plus a measuring tape. You’re doing simple 45-degree angles to create a giant picture frame.

 installing a framed mural on textured walls

Once your moldings are nailed to the wall, you can use them as a straight edge and run your knife along the outer edges to remove any excess. Caulk all the molding edges and you’re done!

Wallpaper Over Textured Walls Results

See? That isn’t too bad. For my wall mural, I spent about 9 hours over the span of 3 days to get this done. It was well worth the time investment because the quote I had gotten to skim coat my wall for $4 per square foot PLUS they stated they’d have to sand the entire wall and to be prepared for much dust.

Installing a mural over textured walls- DIY tutorial

Hard pass. My “good enough” method results in the best surface possible and makes for an overall easy installation of a wall mural. My foyer has a whole new life now as a gorgeous statement right when you walk in to our home.

Once you get one mural up, you’re going to want to go nuts with wall coverings in all the rooms. since you’ll know exactly what to expect the next time.

wallpaper over textured drywall

Truly, this is an easy, but semi-tedious project that ANYONE can do. I promise- you have the skills and capacity to do this.

The paint sprayer I use for all my DIY furniture painting projects is around $100!