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I'm currently decorating a painted room which had a wallpaper border around it. The room has been repainted at least twice, and the border was never removed.

I have removed the border and this has left a good indent of a few layers of paint either side. Despite running a knife along the top and bottom of the border, some of the paint either side has chipped off, so I'm not left with a perfectly straight line around the room. To make things even more fun, some of the paint behind the border has flaked off too.

This has left me with a less than ideal surface to paint on. The question is, what is the best way to make everything nice and smooth for painting?

I have read this, which basically says to apply filler with a taping knife to fill the gap left by the border. Is this the best thing to do? Will the filler adhere to the paint properly, or do I need to treat it with something first?

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    'skim coat' is the term you'll want, and don't be wary about sanding those rough paint splotches to knock them down. You've got this and can do it.
    – J.Hirsch
    Apr 14 '20 at 19:52
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A good quality wall filler should have no problem sticking to the existing paint or plaster. You can feather fine fillers down to fractions of a millimetre without it coming loose.

Aim to fill the channel left by the border, thinly feathering the filler over the edges to blend it in and hide the joint. You might need two or three iterations of filling, drying and lightly sanding, but you can get a smooth invisible repair without having to skim the whole wall.

  • Feel the edge of the joint where the border was. If there is a raised lip then it will need to be sanded flat.
  • Lightly sanding the area to be filled with P180 or similar will help adhesion, especially if the existing paint has a sheen.
  • The paint/plaster under the filler needs to be clean, solid, with no remaining dust, chalkiness or adhesive.
  • For wide areas a taping knife is a good tool to apply and smooth the filler. Use a flexible filling knife for small or shallow areas.
  • You can use the straight edge on the tool to check for uneven work when it's dry.
  • Try not to overfill the repair or overwork the filler. It's better to fill flat and need to add some more when dry than have to do a lot of sanding.
  • When sanding try to use a larger sanding block, such as one with a handle. It is much easier to get a flat surface.
  • Try a small area to begin with and refine your technique.
  • If using a powder filler, do not add too much water as this can weaken the strength and adhesion.
  • Prime the repair with diluted matt paint or wall primer before painting the top coats.

Everyone has their own favourite products, but as someone in the UK, I would use a quality powder filler such as Toupret Classic. For very thin layers (<1 mm) onto existing paint then I would use a ready mixed fine surface filler. This will stick better but is a little harder to sand down.

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    Although most of the answers here are technically right,this is the one I went with and it has worked perfectly.
    – ben_re
    Apr 16 '20 at 19:19
  • Thanks for the update. Happy to hear that your wall turned out well.
    – James
    Apr 16 '20 at 20:25
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I had a similar issue and though it sounds like a lot of work and hard for a diy'er to do ( *I found a lot of sites that simply said call in a professional. ) However, for me that just wasn't an option due to finances. I too am told by many that I am too much of a perfectionist agree. I will say it has both advantages and disadvantages. Give yourself credit and confidence first.

There are a few ways to handle this in my personal experience, I will share first the one I think has the nicest outcome. Which is...brace yourself and have an open mind, YOU CAN DO THIS! ( "this" is re-skimming the wall. )

Ok make a list of the NEEDS to do then head on down to your local home improvement store to purchase needed supplies. These supplies will be in two categories, 1st is tools. Tools do make all the difference in the outcome of the task at hand. You don't have to trust me, but if you don't you will soon learn!

Needs:

A dry wall taping knife, at LEAST a 10," I used a 14" ( do to me being a 5' 100 lb 50+ girl in hind sight a 12" would have been easier for me I think ).

Drywall mud pan/tray, one that is the size of the knife you choose.

A pole sanding tool, ( looks close to a swifer floor duster ) That's optional, their are many ways and tools to sand the wall. I used the pole sander and also a 3' pc of 1x4 smooth board. I did try my electric palm sander for about 2 mins lol, it made sooooo much dust fly everywhere!! Again remember Im a diy'er and will NOT be doing this for anyone just in my own home. So with that it said I found it too costly to purchase anything more than this pole sanding tool.

Drywall sanding paper, (looks like a screen) to fit your pole. not real sure what grit it was tiny little squares a tad smaller than what graph paper look like. I also got a pack of regular sand paper idk 8x10 like a sheet of paper I got grit of 220. (hence perfectionist)

Drywall Mud, MANY OPTIONS HERE! I tried a few and what I found to work best for me was the premixed white bucket with a blue lid. All purpose drywall "compound" the blue lid is "Plus 3"

Drywall sealer/primer, Again many options I choose the zinsser bulls eye 1 2 3 all purpose primer, water clean up.

Paint, and the tools for painting, ( I won't go into this will save for another category lol )

That is all you need to skim wall. I did 10 walls in my parents house do to a dishwasher house flood that insurance did not cover. :( errr ) The walls came out GREAT they even impressed ME! After painting one wall I was fortunate my father went and bought a graco airless paint sprayer, Not the litte handheld thing , well first he did but had to refill cup way to much to make it worth while in my opinon returned that and got the jamb up one that has a hose to go into a 5 gallon bucket, yeah!! I will NEVER ROLLER and BRUSH AGAIN!! Ahhh I love good tools!

Ok. now you have all you need. Now just do IT! Gitt'er done! Time frame for me was I did one coat a day x 3 days !

Opps forgot one item sorry! I got a big mixing thing that went onto my drill to mix this the drywall mud up. I don't think I got the RIGHT type mine looked like a mixer beater, the caged in type it worked though. I gave it a little whip not a lot just a bit, so it was like a creamy smooth peanut butter or a thick heavy cake frosting. Now with mud in pan, knife in hand skim a light layer on the wall I did top to bottom, bottom to top. Scooted over to next path of which I over lapped a bit on each. Do this and wait for the next day and repeat ( no need to sand but you many want to run a putty knife to knock down any lines you created before you Repeat! Oh yeah on the repeat I went side to side meaning not up and down vertical, but horizontal )

Day 3. Now on this coat I went vertical but I thinned down the "mud/compound" not too much just a little, made it creamier, I will say like tub type cool whip! This is the final coat so before I put it on I ran my knife and really looked to see areas where I may need to pay more attention to. I am a touchy/feely person and with my eyes closed I ran my hand all over the wall. I could feel waves & dips and the like so I knew where and what I needed to do to get the smoothness I wanted. ok I put it on!

Now day 4, sanding time! Put the screen on your pole and hit! NOT ALOT don't use to much pressure, let the tool do the work for you or you may just have to give this ANOTHER coat, ( NOOOOOO hahah ! ) just run it up and down and then side to side. Now the wall is MOST LIKELY READY TO seal\prime . Well you have to get a damp cloth and I do mean EVER SO SLIGHTLY DAMP, like really not even but damp. This is to clean all the dust off the wall so that the primer/sealer will stick! Vacuum too, get all the dust outta there!

But before the dusting, I have to be me, so I took the board I previously mentioned and I wrapped it in the 220 regular sand paper, held it on tight with a few staples on the back where I held it. I took this as a sanding straight edge and ran it up and down my corners and ceiling edge then I slid it all around the wall in every direction in circles too like an orbiting tool. Then I was pretty satisfied.

I sealed and painted and WOW the walls look amazing..... They look better than ever, this even took out the slight hump that the original builders left at the seams! You too can do this I am positive. Just don't over work the mud, do it in layers. Each layer makes it better. No the walls, to ME, did not FEEL perfect when I sealed them either! I was gonna give them another layer of compound mud, but my father insisted enough! I was like well IF YOU SAY SO BUT....... Hind sight it is true here.... FATHER KNOWS BEST!

The walls simply look GREAT and REALLY this is NOT HARD work JUST time and self confidence, leave negative thoughts somewhere far from you! You I am sure will gain another notch in self accomplishments.

Other options: re drywall, cover with any other kind of material, just try to fill in the strip with mud, get the texture in a can..... Im not for any of those really that's my personal opinion. You can create a whole new kind of texture with the mud/compound too many cool ideas out there, google it.

My dads boy is a girl! hahaha cuz that's me! ... I want the world to know I sure love my daddyO! Hope this helps at least one. Peace my friends :)

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  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer, but would you mind pruning it down a bit? Otherwise nobody will read it. And, props for [taking our tour] before posting; few newbies do. Apr 14 '20 at 18:30
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    I edited it to make it more digestible while trying to save the personality of writer. :) There is nothing wrong with giving a thorough answer if it concise and informative and it is not a chore to read because of punctuation and formatting.
    – Alaska Man
    Apr 14 '20 at 18:48
  • Thank you for this wonderfully detailed answer. It does seem like skimming is the correct thing to do, but it does seem like a massive job. In all honestly I think I'll try it as a last resort. I'm tempted to try and fill the strip in first and see where that gets me. I can always skim if I don't get the finish I'm looking for. One question, did you do anything to the walls before applying the drywall mud?
    – ben_re
    Apr 14 '20 at 20:39
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First I don't suggest removing wallpaper borders that have been painted over. Unless they are in really really bad condition.

You should have just did a nice layer of joint compound on the seam, maybe two applications, sand it down and call it a day. To get that area right now you are basically in the same boat.

You need to apply a thin coat of joint compound. If there is a ridge of paint on the seam you need to be more generous there and fade up. You might have to apply two coats to get it right.

If you don't want to do that you are not going to have a "perfect" wall. You will have marks, divots, ridges, bulges everywhere.

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I always rub down painted surfaces with glasspaper to provide a key for the new paint.

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  • Do you think that rubbing/sanding the paint will be enough to make the filler adhere?
    – ben_re
    Apr 14 '20 at 13:33
  • read the instructions on the filler. for the powder fillers you can add a little white glue with the water to get it to stick better. but the pre-mixed ones already have this.
    – Jasen
    Apr 15 '20 at 6:05

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