One uneven wall can mar the look of your whole room, but there’s often a way to correct the problem that doesn’t involve any major construction work. Learn how to fix uneven walls with the right wall treatment or, when needed, a little basic repair work.
Cover it With Paint
If your freshly painted wall is slightly uneven, painting over the low areas might be all you need to smooth things out. Use a roller to apply the paint evenly. As long as you’re using the same paint you used recently, the touch ups will blend in. If the paint job is old, you might need to paint the entire wall, taking special care at the low spots, in order to get an even finish and color. You might still feel some unevenness with your hands, but the wall should look even visually.
A variegated paint pattern helps hide unevenness by breaking up visual lines. Sponge painting and rag painting are easy ways to create variation. First, paint the wall your preferred color. Then choose a lighter shade for a subtle variation or a highly contrasting color for a more dramatic look. Use a large sponge or a rag to dab the second color on in an irregular pattern. Alternatively, experiment with a textured paint roller, stippling brush, color wash technique, or color blends that imitate stone or concrete.
Sand Down the High Spots
On a wall with areas of paint or plaster less than a quarter of an inch higher than the lowest areas, sanding down the high areas will give you better results than painting. Aim to get a completely even surface you can then paint over. For slight unevenness, you’ll need a very fine grit sandpaper of around 320 to 400. To sand down lumps of paint, choose a coarser grit of around 80. With a block and paper or an electric sander, apply a gentle pressure to sand off the top layers of paint, leaving the paint underneath. If the wall is wood, sand with the grain to avoid damaging the wood.
Plaster Over the Low Spots
The thickness of plaster makes it an ideal material for smoothing out uneven areas of more than a quarter of an inch. If you have a few small, but prominent low areas, fill them in with plaster, then re-paint the whole wall. If you have larger low areas, you can even things out by plastering the whole wall and adding a little extra plaster to the low areas. Plaster with a textured finish does even more to disguise unevenness. Troweled finish plaster is trending, but wood grain, stone, sand, and Morocco tadelakt can look just as good. Plastering a wall isn’t difficult, but it takes some know how to get an attractive finish.
Stucco, which is thicker than plaster, is another simple, low-cost material for fixing very uneven walls. This wall treatment comes in a range of textures, from smooth to coarse. It’s usually sold as a white or off-white base material, but you can add powder or liquid colorants or paint the finished walls.
Apply Elastomeric Wall Coating
Elastomeric wall coating, or EWC, is applied similarly to paint, but because it can be up to 10 times thicker than traditional paint, it’s often used to get smooth coverage on masonry walls with rough surfaces. It can cover imperfections, but won’t hide major unevenness. Before applying, prepare the wall by removing the layer of damaged paint by sanding. Considering hiring a professional for this job. EWC works differently from traditional paint and is harder to apply. Applying it incorrectly can leave the coating lumpy and vulnerable to cracking.
Replace or Add Drywall
If your wall is uneven because the drywall is warped or bowed, but the studs behind it are even and in good condition, you can solve your problem by replacing the damaged drywall. Replacing just a few panels is a fairly simple and inexpensive job, but it takes some preparation and effort. You’ll need to cut out the damaged section, correctly measure the replacement, and attach the replacement to the studs or add wood strips between the studs and attach the replacement to those. To keep the wall straight, make sure the issue that caused the warping, such as moisture buildup, has been solved.
Drywall can also help you achieve a perfectly smooth surface on very rough brick, concrete, or wood paneling. This option is only practical when the wall is clean and in good condition, so repair any cracked or crumbling areas first. When you’re ready to apply the drywall, it’s often easier to use the dot and dab method, also known as dry-lining, rather than wet plastering. This involves applying dabs of adhesive to either the drywall or the wall, then attaching the drywall.
Adjust the Framing
Sometimes a wall is uneven not because of anything on the surface, but because of the framing behind it. This happens when one of the wall studs is out of alignment or warped. If you can get to the studs behind your wall, you can re-align a stud that sticks out slightly by hitting it with a hammer until it moves into place, then adding another nail to hold it there. Planing down the side of the stud that sticks out is another option.
If a stud in a non-load-bearing wall is warped or bowed, adding a shim can straighten it out again. To do this, make a narrow cut 1/4th of the way through the concave side of the stud, then drive a shim into the cut. To keep the stud straight, reinforce it by scabbing both sides with 4-foot lengths of 2x4s.
Most walls with superficial unevenness are easy to smooth out with paint, plaster, or a similar wall treatment. It takes a little more effort to fix uneven walls with deeper problems, such as damage or installation flaws, but it’s still something most DIY-ers can handle in one day.