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Drywall 101: Using Joint Compount for a Stucco Wall Finish

January 19, 2010 | 78 Comments | DIY How To
DIY diva

So here we are. Wallboard up and spackling knife in hand– ready to jump in and finish some walls. This is the part most people would rather take a whack on the head with a sledgehammer than have to complete (and the hours upon hours upon hours of sanding it requires if you go a little crazy with the mud), but put the hammers down people, I have a better, faster, more fun, less lame way of finishing your walls.

First, you need to have walls. If you’ve already got them and they’re ready to go, good for you. I’ve used joint compound to texture wood, brick, and standard drywall in dry areas without problems. If you don’t have walls already but you want some, you can check out my info on wall framing and some tips for hanging drywall by yourself.

Now, the nice thing about putting some texture on your walls is that it’s pretty forgiving for a less-than perfect tape job which means you don’t have to spend the rest of your life with sanding block, but I’ve also got some insider info on finishing joints from a pro that will help make this part less painful. And when all of that is finished, then you’re ready for some fun with mud. Let’s get a little dirty, shall we?


Basically this is what you need:

  • 5 gallon bucket of joint compound – I tend to use heavyweight even though you’ll strain your back hauling it into the house and it’s a little more gluey. You can also use lightweight without the universe imploding.
  • Spare white paint or primer (just a little bit)
  • Mixer (You can do this by hand in a pinch, but it’s so much easier with a drill. And also more fun.)
  • Drywall knife – depending on the look you want 6-10″
  • 5 gallon bucket with water and a brush for cleaning up your tools

Step 1 – Mixing the Mud

I always thought this was BS, but mixing the joint compound up (even without adding water) really loosens it up and makes it much easier to work with. Since I am almost always doing this at odd hours– after work, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, or an hour before I have to be somewhere else– I tend to mix up small batches by putting some mud in a bucket…


And adding a little bit of paint. (That was a trade secret from the pro… apparently it makes it easier to work with and gives it a better finish. Who am I to argue?)


A quick spin with the mixer and it’s ready to go.


Definitely don’t pull this thing out of the bucket while it’s spinning. You’d think that would be obvious, but making messes comes more naturally to some of us than others. What can I say? It’s a gift.


Step 2 – Test Panel

Even texturing is about having a rhythm. I feel pretty confident in my texturing skills and even I do a test panel before I start a new room to make sure I’m using the right knife and the right amount of mud for the look I want. Here are some examples:

10″ knife, thick application:


6″ knife, thin application:

10″ knife, thin application:

Every time someone sees a wall in this state they give me the you’ve-been-inhaling-too-much-drywall-dust look, and I’ll get into the techniques of application in a minute, but once everything is primed it looks a lot more cohesive.


Step 3: Techniques

The trick to texturing is that whether or not you’re doing a thin application, you actually don’t need that much mud, and you don’t have to cover every square inch of wall.

This is about enough… don’t go digging your knife into the bucket and hauling out your body weight in mud to slap on the wall.


Smear it on thinly, and the trick to good texture is to use uneven pressure.


So push hard then light then hard then light as you move through the swipe.

THIS is way to much mud on the wall.


Even 1/16″ gives you dimension. And this will only shrink and have massive cracks in it.

If you find that when you’re mudding the wall things are coming out a little too perfect…


Press your knife into the spot that needs more texture…


Then run it lightly over the top again.


The closer you overlap your swipes of mud, the busier the wall will look. You can see in this sample I use a thin application and wide swipes for a very subtle texture:


Also, change up the way you spread it on. Sometimes go from left to right, then top to bottom, then diagonal.

When finishing a room, it is best to plan to do the whole room at once. For me at least it’s hard to get in the exact same rhythm if I leave and come back. If it’s unavoidable however, I would say at least finishing a wall off is a must. Once a section of wall is dry it’s hard to go back in and overlap some texture without creating uneven spots.

Let’s recap:

  1. Not too much mud on your knife
  2. Spread it on thinly, using varying pressure
  3. Gouge it and then run your knife lightly over the top to create more texture

And there you have the deep, dark secrets of drywall texturing revealed. I know, right? Between this and the end of the Harry Potter series, what is there left to live for?

Now go forth and conquer those flat, boring walls.


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  • Alfred bell

    Question: Can you put Joint Compound directly over primed concrete blocks?
    I love the effect of your technique and it would greatly help me if I can use it on concrete block walls in my game room.
    Thank you in advance for your response.

    • Kit

      Yeah, that would work as long as there’s NO moisture coming through those walls. You may need to do a very smooth skim coat first and then a second to texture, depending on the texture of your existing walls. You don’t want to put it on too thick or it will crack.

  • Lin

    Can this procedure be done over top of wallpaper?

  • Mike

    Hi Lin – in response to your question, I would not recommend you doing it on wall paper. It will eventually start crumbling off and you will have lost all your precious time and investment. I hope that helps.

  • Karen

    What about using on woodpaneling, any special things you should consider?

  • Terry

    I am looking at a house that is made of poured concrete and the walls are currently unfinished. In a previous answer about concrete blocks, you stated that as long as no moisture seeped, mud on concrete should not be a problem. Would it help or hurt to prime the concrete walls first? In my case, it wouldn’t take much to spray a binding primer on the concrete, then do this technique. Any idea of material cost per square?

    Thank you

  • Michelle

    I have jumped into a project (resurfacing/faux finishing the ugly backsplash in my kitchen) without really thinking it through. On/over the natural stone ceramic tile that was here I applied a plaster-like coating of joint compound to get a brick/plaster wall look. But now I don’t know how to seal it without painting. We like the way it looks now so I’m considering a penetrating sealer that is wall rated and designed to be used over natural stone/ceramic/grout. Does think sound like a good idea? At Home depot the paint dept told me my only option is to prime & paint over it.

  • Linda

    Can you put a light coat on paper faux abitibi

  • Brian

    Can I use joint compound over OSB on and inside wall if I prime the sheeting first, I want a stucco look?

  • Denine

    Thanks for the paint tip. Going to try it on repairing a hole in my son’s textured ceiling.

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