How to Apply Knockdown Texture to Drywall Like a Total Pro

knockdown texture

You gotta love knockdown texture.

This flattened finish has commonly been used to help hide minor surface imperfections, but in recent years it has grown in popularity thanks to its rustic, natural look. Its texture is reminiscent of stucco, but it is smoother and more spread out.

Builders have been widely applying knockdown texture to drywall since the early 1990s. It’s known for providing a casual elegance to interior walls and lends itself to a wide variety of décor types.

Check out my other articles on drywalling:

Hanging Drywall

Taping Drywall

Drywall Sanding Techniques

Drywall Finishing

There are basically three different knockdown texture techniques: splatter, stomp, and mud trowel (also known as skip trowel).  We’ll discuss the tools and materials you’ll need, the steps you should take to prepare yourself and the walls, and how to execute each type of knockdown finish.

What You’ll Need

Like any fine recipe, you need to make sure you have all the right ingredients and tools before you begin. Here’s a list of tools and materials you’ll need to gather before starting the job.

  • Joint compound. Regular drywall joint compound, or mud, is generally used to create the knockdown texture. You can use the premixed variety or mix your own. Either way, you must be able to spray the mixture with the hopper gun, so it should be about the consistency of pancake batter or thick paint.
  • 6-inch drywall knife. Specifically designed for use in applying knockdown textures, a drywall knife has a soft edge that floats over the texture and creates a smooth, professional finish without lines. The contoured shape reduces hand fatigue for a more consistent finish.
  • Fine-grit sandpaper (150-grit or higher). Because modern lightweight joint compound is so soft, you don’t need heavy-grit paper to sand it. Coarse-grit paper or sanding screens will leave undesirable sanding marks. We recommend a 300-grit paper or higher for the best results (definitely nothing lower than 150-grit).
  • Drywall hopper gun kit. A drywall hopper gun kit is key to facilitating the knockdown textured finishes for drywall. The gun uses an air compressor to push mud through the nozzle of the gun and spray it on the wall or ceiling.
  • Air compressor. An air compressor forces the drywall compound from the hopper into a tube, eliminating hand pumping. When the trigger on the tool is pressed, the air pressure sends the compound through the head of the tool evenly. We recommend using one with a minimum capacity of 30 to 40 psi.
  • 1.5-gallon joint compound powder (not rapid dry). Joint compound in the dry form is a powder that usually comes in large paper bags. This product is usually not labeled as being dry. It will be called joint compound with the qualifiers ready-mixed or pre-mixed omitted.
  • Power drill with paddle attachment. Works great on mixing drywall compound, paints, cements, grouts, mortars, driveway sealer, etc. These items are typically sold separately.
  • 18-inch knockdown knife. The 18-inch knockdown knife has a blade that is used to flatten wall and ceiling texture patterns for that “knocked down” look. It erases trowel lines without creating chatter marks like other knives. The blade is both flexible and durable.

Additional items you’ll need: shop cloths or rags, two or three 2- or 5-gallon buckets, water, a scrap of drywall (for testing), and a tarp or drop cloth.

Preparing the Space (and Yourself)

Protecting yourself is always a top concern, as is protecting the space where you’re applying the drywall. As with any home improvement project, there are always risks of injury (and of creating a mess)!

Here are some pre-project tips to keeping things clean, tidy, and safe:

  • Wear old clothes that you won’t mind messing up and avoid wearing any fine jewelry. For large areas or major renovations, invest in a hooded coverall with a respirator. Disposable Protective Coverall
  • Wear safety goggles, especially as you prepare the wall and joint compound. Dust and other small particles can easily break away and may cause irritation if they get into your eyes.
  • Decide whether you want to wear gloves. They are helpful but not necessary to complete the job. You should be able to wash off joint compound that gets on your skin, but gloves can help minimize the potential mess.
  • Use sheets or tarps to cover up any furniture or floors that you do not want to get dusty or damaged.

Before you start mixing powder, make sure that you prep the area or room where you are applying the drywall. You should wipe away dust and dirt using a damp rag. Make sure you allow any moisture to dry before moving forward.

Keep in mind that:

  1. If you don’t remove the dust and dirt from your walls, the joint compound may not adhere properly when you attempt to apply it.
  2. You can use an air compressor to blow the dust off of your walls but using a damp rag is usually easier and more thorough.

Preparing the Compound

Before creating any knockdown texture, you’ll want to make sure you tape off the area to be finished and have sanded down the walls.

Here’s how to prepare the compound:

  1. Add Water to the Bucket. You definitely want to put water in the bucket first and not the compound; that way you don’t get clumps or hard spots when you add the powder to the water.
  1. Add Mud or Compound. Pour the proper amount of water in a second bucket. Standard, all-purpose joint compound will work best for this project. You can use either dry compound or ready-mix compound. Avoid compounds that contain sand or grit (unless you want a unique look). Plain mud works best for this type of texture. You should also avoid lightweight compounds. These formulas scratch more easily and may not accept the texturing as well as all-purpose compounds do.
  1. Mix to the Consistency You Want. For knockdown texture, never use mix that contains aggregate. Continue to add water and powder until you have a bit more mix than you think you’ll need. Better to waste some mud than to run out before you’re done. Set the mixture aside for about 15 minutes to allow for complete water absorption. You don’t want the mix thickening in the hopper. You must be able to spray the mixture with the hopper gun, so it should be about the consistency of pancake batter or thick paint.

Loading the Hopper Gun

After you load the hopper, spray a test pattern on the wall plastic. Since the walls are covered with plastic anyway, they’re perfect for spray practice. Move the drywall texture gun faster for less coverage, slower for more. Texture mud is pumped through a long hose to a gun operated by hand triggers. The texture gun mixes texture material with compressed air just before it is sprayed onto the drywall surface. The type of texture is determined by the type of material used, the size and type of nozzle on the texture gun, and the amount of compressed air introduced into the mud.

Spraying the Mixture

You can choose between 3 different sized tips for the hopper: small, medium and large. You can spray the mixture lightly to create a fine texture or heavily to create a more rugged look. Usually a medium texture works great with an air control valve so that you can turn your pressure up and down. When applying knockdown, we recommend using a setting of around 40 psi, because you don’t want it to spray too fast.

Keep a consistent speed when applying knockdown drywall. We recommend that you do not move the sprayer too fast or too slowly. You’ll have to practice in order to find the best speed to use when applying the spray-on mixture. Do not overload the spray surface and remember to use the right spray pressure. The speed of application must remain constant over the drywall being finished.

PRO TIP #1: If you don’t have a hopper gun or don’t want to use a sprayer, you can still achieve a nice knockdown finish without it. You can even achieve similar texture patterns with a paint roller. You may need to thicken or thin the mixture to achieve certain patterns, and you can give it more body by adding a small amount of sand or mica.

Knocking Down the Compound

Acrylic Knockdown KnifeWhen knocking down the compound, you’ll definitely want to use a flexible blade. Without flexibility, the chances of scoring the texture are greater. Make sure you don’t let the mixture set for too long on the wall. It’s a good idea to keep a damp cloth with you so you can wipe your blade clean after knocking down a section of raised mud. You’ll want to leave the knife a little wet, so it glides over the next textured area smoothly. Once the edges and peaks have been knocked down and the mud has had a chance to firm up (but not set), use a long handled curved drywall knife to lightly smooth out the tops of the ridges and create the low profile “knocked-down” look.

PRO TIP #2: It takes practice and experience to know exactly how long to wait before knocking down the texture. If you do it too soon, the texture will be runny and simply smear. If you wait too long, small dried out pieces of mud will drag across the surface creating unsightly lines.

Depending on the temperature and humidity levels in your house, it can take anywhere from five to ten minutes for the compound to set to the desired rigidity. This can cause problems because the longer it takes the material to dry, the more vulnerable it is to failure, mold growth, cracking, and more.

Knockdown Techniques

The Splatter Method

Of all the knockdown textures, splatter is the most popular. With its custom, splotchy pattern, splatter texture has the classic look of Spanish lace and is the most popular (and consequently most common) of the knockdown textures.

There are two steps to creating this finish.

  1. Spray the surface using a drywall hopper gun.
  2. Start flattening the peaks after about 10 or 15 minutes using a knockdown knife to achieve a low-profile raised texture.

Because a drywall hopper gun is required, this technique requires more initial setup time than the stomp and mud trowel methods, but once you’ve finished the setup, the application should be quick, uniform, and less exhausting than either of the other techniques. You can splatter smaller surface areas in as little as an hour; larger areas can take up to a day to finish. You can also vary the look of the finish by using water to thicken or thin the mud or by adjusting how much pressure you use to knock down the peaks that form.

The Stomp Method

The stomp method creates a much rougher surface than the splatter or mud trowel techniques, but with higher ridges and deeper valleys, stomp textures always turn out interesting and unique.

Here’s how to achieve the stomp texture: Single Crows Foot Texture Brush

  1. Use a paint roller instead of a sprayer to cover the drywall with compound (see ProTip #1 above).
  2. Using a stiff-bristled, crows-foot stomp brush, dab or stomp the brush into the mud. The bristles of a stomp brush are usually arranged in an oval or square pattern and allow you to create an irregular and distinctive texture.
  3. Allow the mud to stiffen, but not harden.
  4. Flatten with a standard knockdown knife, leaving a finger-like texture on 60 percent or more of the surface.

Because the stomp method requires a paint roller to apply the compound to the drywall surface and the additional step of stomping the mixture with a stomping brush before knocking it down, don’t be surprised if this takes longer than you thought. It can take up to twice as long to achieve this look than the splatter method, but the results are worth the extra time.

Read: 6 of The Best Knockdown Sponges

The Mud Trowel Method

The mud trowel texture provides the smoothest, most subtle finish of all three knockdown types, but it takes a while to make it happen.

Here’s how to achieve the mud trowel texture:

  1. Apply the prepared mud using an 18-inch or wider curved-blade drywall trowel.
  2. Skim the mudded area again with the cleaned trowel.
  3. The curved trowel causes the mud to literally skip across the wall, leaving a sparse texture of round, quarter-sized globules on 50 percent of the surface.

Be forewarned, hand troweling takes a lot of patience, making this technique more time-consuming than the splatter or stomp methods.

Well, there you have it! Our best tips for how to apply knockdown drywall. Good luck with your project and be sure to leave a comment to let us know how it went and what tips you found most helpful.

Have questions about what drywall contractors bring to the table? Check out our overview here.

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