Is skim coating necessary?


    We just got bids back on from several contractors from our reno and one (of many) numbers that stuck out was the estimate for painting. The contractors said it’s because of the skim coating specified by our architect. Is skim coating something we should definitely do? If so, any idea what a reasonable range would be to skim coat and paint about 2300 sq. ft. of new walls? Thanks!

    14 Replies

    1. Thanks so much for all of the replies! It sounds like for new walls skim coating is not generally necessary unless we want to go to a much higher level of quality of finished product. We’re meeting again with the architect this week to discuss a gameplan for the construction and you can be sure skim coating will be discussed.

    2. I have been to many open houses looking at new condo developments and yes, in most I can see the slight indentations where the taping was done. This is really apparent when the sunlight washes the wall or ceiling from a sharp angle. So, Level 5 finishing does not seem to be the standard. When I go to look I often bring my friends who never notice the shadows. I think this maybe because everyone is just used to them and think walls are supposed to look this way. You know when you go to the MOMA you can even see the tape marks within the walls of the central gallery!

    3. You only skim coat existing walls… or where youre trying to match new walls with existing walls. There’s no reason to do it on new walls unless the carpentry job is total ass work. Maybe the contractor should hire more skilled labor to build the walls.

    4. I have some original plaster walls in my house that we had skimcoated (they had a very ugly texture before…) as well as a lot of new drywall that we taped.

      The difference between the plaster and the drywall was noticable before the rooms were full of furniture–I thought we’d made a huge mistake not budgeting for skim coating.

      But now that we are actually living here, I feel like I was being really silly. The walls all look like walls. I am really glad I didn’t pay for skim coating.

    5. Skim coating new drywall is what’s known as a lvl 5 finish (phase 5). you do a lvl 5 finish to ensure that butts, bands and screws will not be visible in any lighting conditions. Failure to do the lvl 5 creates what’s known as flashing. I hear people saying they can produce smooth wall without it. but in 20 years in the biz I’ve never seen it done. It may look good is some lighting conditions but not in others. The light changes throughout the day. So if you want it to look good all day and in the night too, Go with the phase 5.

    6. I had all the bumpy walls in my house skim coated except the living room because I thought the walls looked fine and to save $ – after the guys were done all of the beautiful skim coated walls made the living room walls look awful in comparison. I wound up ponying up the dough and redoing the living room but it was well worth it.
      I used these 2 really nice guys who do this work for a construction co. during the week and do residential side jobs after 4:00 and on the weekends. Their price was very reasonable and they were eager to please. Email me if you want their contact info:

    7. If you’re combining old walls with new walls in the same room, you’ll want to skim coat so that it’s uniform. Otherwise it’s painfully obvious that some walls are old and some are new.

      If it’s ALL new, you probably don’t need the skim coat.

    8. I don’t get it – you hire a good taper for new rock – there should be no reason to completely skim the whole surface. A taper is going to estimate the job by the number of boards used in the job pretty much.

    9. There is one thing I should add (wasn’t signed in when I gave answer above): I really don’t understand why the skim coating (assuming it’s on new drywall) would fall into the painting sub-contract; it’s part of the drywaller’s (carpenter’s) scope. We are talking new walls here, right? Because the only circumstance I could imagine this work being done by the painter would be if you’re talking about treatment to existing walls and under those circumstances the skim coating cost would not be the additive cost over taping and jointing but would be a straight cost of around $2.00/SF of finished wall area (plus the painting cost).

    10. 3:34 – You made a good point. My 2300 sq. ft. number was of floor area and not of wall space, which I don’t have calculated. Your estimates are very helpful, though, and it sounds like skim coating and painting should cost no more than $2/sf. Makes me think that I would have to have an awful lot of wall space to justify the numbers in the bids!

    11. skim coating is necessary to smooth and level out wall surfaces that are not plumb. if it’s new sheetrock, you shouldn’t have to skim coat as long as the installation of sheetrock, taping and spackling were done well.

    12. Skim coating on new drywall walls costs about $0.65 to $0.70/SF more that just taping and jointing. So, for your wall area (and I assume you’re talking about 2,300 SF of wall surface area – both sides measured – as opposed to floor area), the premium cost for providing a skim coat is about $1,600. The painting, whether on taped and jointed drywall or on skim coated drywall should run around $0.85 to $0.95/SF.

      Skim coating is perceived to provide a smoother surface that drywall, more akin to plaster, but I have to say that I very much doubt that anyone walking into a room is likely to notice the difference and exclaim, “Wow, smooth walls”.