I like smooth walls but in the apartments I've looked at, even ones built post-2000, many have textured walls. I believe they are called "knock down" texture, but do they often contain asbestos? Because they remind me of popcorn ceilings. What are they made of? Just drywall compounded formed into the texture with brushes and then painted over?


  • My experience is it is more of a geographical difference. Chicago area , I only remember smooth walls; Houston area ,, I only recall textured walls . ( No doubt there are exceptions). Mar 17, 2022 at 1:23

4 Answers 4


Smooth walls are:

  • More expensive. It takes a skilled taper and one or more additional steps to achieve a paint-ready finish.
  • Impossible to get perfect. No wall is entirely flat, and when the light is right (from a low angle relative to the surface), waves and curves stand out prominently.
  • More difficult to paint. Overlapping strokes or roller paths leave minute ridges. Changes in direction can result in sheen variation. Touch-ups are more obvious.
  • Much more likely to show damage. Drywall is soft, and any little scratch, scuff, or ding is obvious.
  • More difficult to repair, for the reasons above. This is especially relevant in a rental situation, where either departing tenants or property owners are responsible for making a residence presentable to new tenants.

Texture is simply joint compound, slightly watered down. It hasn't contained asbestos for half a century.

  • When we did the drywall as rank amateurs, did most walls smooth. A few we textured and have to search for the studs, smooth walls find the studs easy. Do think we did a decent job on the smooth walls, but they could have been done better.
    – crip659
    Mar 16, 2022 at 20:22
  • 1
    Adding to this, even with a level 4 the recommended sheen is flat because of the imperfections. To use a more durable paint with a higher sheen you must go to level 5.
    – matt.
    Nov 15, 2023 at 13:08

Basically, a textured wall is more cost effective than smooth wall which is why they are so commonly used in rental properties. Texture can by applied and finished faster than smooth walls, usually requires less material and less skill to achieve a good result. Rental properties will almost certainly need some amount of maintenance or repair to the walls from time to time, and a textured wall is cheaper and easier to fix than a smooth wall. Small patches can be textured with an aerosol can with a nozzle that can be adjusted to match the existing finish and can be used by just about anyone successfully. And while textured walls do a pretty good job of hiding minor imperfections, smooth walls tend to show even the tiniest of blemishes, and typically require an experienced taper for any repairs. The texture that is used on walls does not contain any asbestos, and to the best of my knowledge the last construction materials containing asbestos were finally discontinued during the 90's. Texture is similar to joint compound which is a gypsum based product and is perfectly safe to use on walls in living spaces.


Asbestos was became a bad thing in the late 70s through the 80s and was outlawed by the 90s in most locations.

Why is texture so common? A tape and texture pro can come in and knock out a entire house in a day or 2 when texture is heavy.

To make smooth wall it takes multiple passes to fill and sand. The same house that was done in less than 2 days will take up to 2 weeks depending on the level specified. I have seen 1 wall take a week, so it comes down to cost to build. Second is texture can hide small dings and imperfections--if a rental was flat to start with texture can be added to cover things up.


Textured walls are common in rental apartments for their practical benefits. They effectively conceal imperfections, making them cost-effective for landlords who can avoid frequent repairs and repainting. The durability of textured walls withstands wear and tear, and certain textures are easier to clean. Additionally, textured walls contribute to noise reduction, enhancing the overall living experience in close quarters. Aesthetically, they add visual interest and appeal to landlords seeking a design choice that is both functional and attractive for tenants. Ultimately, the prevalence of textured walls in rental spaces strikes a balance between practicality, cost-effectiveness, and aesthetic considerations.

  • This doesn't add anything that the other answers don't.
    – JACK
    Dec 3, 2023 at 22:09

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