5 Wall Texture Techniques for Your Home

By: Laura Bullard DIY, How to
Hand using trowel on fresh concrete in construction site

Unlike incorporating a new pattern or paint color, adding texture to an existing wall can be a more neutral way to transform a room without completely starting from scratch.

Historically, the practice has been to apply joint compound (or drywall) with varying application techniques to create wall texture. In the 1970s and 1980s, homeowners began using skip trowel and knockdown textures to affordably emulate stucco finishes in a nod to Spanish Colonial (Mission Revival) architecture.

Although stunning in their own right, these design techniques have largely given way to a more modern, sleek, and minimalist aesthetic. We’ll give you a rundown of a few different joint-compound strategies if you’re interested in cultivating that Mission Revival feel in your home, but we’ve also added a few more current strategies that will fit perfectly into a contemporary aesthetic.

white grunge painted old wall texture, concrete cement background, full frame, photomerge

1. Basic stucco float finish

Basic stucco float finish is most commonly found in Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial, and Mediterranean style homes. If you want to recreate the look of stucco without having to actually put cement onto the interior walls of your home, you can create a faux stucco finish with joint compound (also known as drywall mud), a sponge, a compound knife, and a bit of paint.

Materials

  • Joint compound
  • Compound knife
  • Sponge
  • Interior paint

How to

  1. First, make sure your walls are clean and clear of debris and dust.
  2. Then, water down your joint compound a bit (until it’s the texture of a thick pancake batter).
  3. Apply a thin and uneven layer of compound to your wall with your compound knife and then dab it with your sponge to create a stucco texture.
  4. Once you’ve achieved the texture that you desire, let it dry and apply your paint.

The compound application process is extremely forgiving. If you mess up and apply too much, simply scrape off the compound before it dries and try again.

Wall covered with white stucco finishing

2. Skip trowel finish

This texture is also commonly found in Mission Revival, Spanish, and Mediterranean style homes because they mimic medium (or lace) stucco finishes. You’re going to need joint compound, a compound knife, a knockdown knife, and your paint. A knockdown knife is a handled tool with a long, curved blade. They are commonly found in hardware stores in the Southwest, but you can easily find one online for under $30.

Materials

  • Joint compound
  • Compound knife
  • Knockdown knife
  • Interior paint

How to

  1. Like the basic stucco float finish, you should water down your joint compound before you begin.
  2. First, use your compound knife to apply a very thin layer of compound.
  3. Then, pick up a bit more compound with your knockdown knife and gently run it across the base layer. The angle of the knife to the wall should cause the compound to “skip” across the surface, leaving a unique and varying texture.

The great thing about this finish is that it’s almost impossible to mess up—the whole point is to facilitate randomness. It’s supposed to look messy. After your compound dries, it’s time to apply your paint.

wallpaper grass cloth texture

3. Grasscloth wallpaper

Grasscloth wallpaper works well in homes that have a natural or bohemian aesthetic. It can be made from linen, hemp, arrowroot, or raffia. These natural wall hangings and wallpapers are an excellent choice for the homeowner that wants to add a bit of texture but doesn’t want to commit to hand-texturing an entire room (or wall). Grasscloth has a beautiful linear texture that’s most often applied horizontally.

The application process is very similar to applying basic wallpaper. You can order your grasscloth from a commercial distributor or from a specialty wallpaper store. It will not come pre-cut, so you’re going to want to cut it to the dimensions of your room or accent wall before you apply it.

Materials

  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Grasscloth
  • Wallpaper primer
  • Wallpaper adhesive

How to

  1. Measure your wall space and cut your grasscloth (scissors will suffice).
  2. First, apply a basic wallpaper primer.
  3. Apply a layer of heavy duty, non-staining, clear wallpaper adhesive.
  4. Apply your grasscloth.

Be careful to avoid getting any adhesive on the face of the grasscloth—it is much harder to clean than regular wallpaper.

Because grasscloth does not do well with moisture, it is usually used only on accent walls or in low traffic areas. To clean it, you’ll need to either dust it or vacuum it. Although they are somewhat temperamental, grasscloth walls are ultimately timeless, and well worth the effort.

Color image of a floor made from pallet wood.

4. Wood plank walls

Wood plank walls are not only super trendy, they are super cheap. They work well in homes with a natural, bohemian, or rustic style and are usually used as accent walls.

If you want to wood plank an entire room, be careful—it can start looking like a barn very quickly. That said, wood plank accent walls are a striking visual when used well.

Materials

  • Measuring tape
  • Nails or screws
  • Hand saw
  • Mitre box
  • Pallets or wood planks
  • Construction adhesive
  • Polycrylic sealant

How to

  1. Measure your wall space and, using the hand saw and mitre box, cut wood accordingly.
  2. Simply apply the adhesive to the back of the planks.
  3. Place your planks.
  4. Finish with a few nails on each end of each plank.
  5. Apply the sealant once the wall is complete.

If you choose not to use treated wood, you can skip the sealant step, and many homeowners choose to omit the adhesive step and use only nails. If you skip the adhesive and you move or simply change your mind, you only need to remove the planks and fill in the nail or drill holes. Paint or stain your planks uniformly or mix it up—whatever works with your interior decor.

Textured concrete

5. Board-formed concrete

Board-formed concrete is a somewhat time intensive but stunning addition to any modern home with an industrial aesthetic. It’s a method of patterning concrete in a way that leaves a wood grain texture on the finished wall.

The wood grain imprint works to visually soften and warm up the cool concrete. Try using this strategy on an accent wall rather than applying it to an entire room. It is bold and striking, but can make a room feel cold and uninviting if applied too liberally.

Board-formed concrete is the only wall texture on this list that we do not suggest that you attempt yourself. It’s time and labor intensive and requires the skill of a professional. If you don’t want to actually construct a new wall, you might want to look into board-formed concrete panels, which can be ordered online, and hire a contractor to help with the installation.

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