How Much Does it Cost to Skim Coat Drywall?

Jenna Jonaitis
Written by Jenna Jonaitis
Reviewed by Robert Tschudi
Updated May 6, 2022
chair in the corner of living room
Photo: Gerald Carter / Creative Flame / Adobe Stock


  • Skim coating drywall ranges from $1.10–$1.30 per square foot.

  • Labor costs make up the bulk of the project price.

  • Drywall skimming takes precision, practice, and high-quality tools.

  • It’s a home improvement project best left to an experienced contractor.

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Skim coating drywall—also known as a level-five drywall finish—gives your walls a nearly perfectly smooth finish. It costs between $515 and $610 to skim coat a 468-square-foot space, equal to the average size of a main bedroom (12-by-14-foot room with 9-foot ceilings). Whether you’re installing new drywall or refreshing older walls, a skim coat can make all the difference in the final look. 

How Much Does It Cost to Skim Coat Drywall per Square Foot?

It costs $1.10 to $1.30 per square foot to skim coat drywall. This cost doesn’t include the price of drywall or drywall installation. More complex spaces, such as a ceiling or intricate hallway, tend to be on the higher end of the cost range. 

How Much Does It Cost to Skim Coat Drywall by Room Size?

In most cases, it makes sense to skim coat an entire room, so every wall has the same finish and appearance. The size of your room makes the biggest impact on the cost of skim coating. Here are standard room sizes and the average costs of each, assuming 9-foot ceilings. 

Cost to Skim Coat Drywall By Room Size
Standard Room SizeAverage Cost
9-by-11-foot room$396–$468
11-by-12-foot room$455–$538
12-by-14-foot room$515–$610
12-by-18-foot room$594–$702
16-by-20-foot room$713–$842
20-by-28-foot room$950–$1,123
22-by-28-foot room$990–$1,170

Skim Coating Drywall Cost Breakdown

The cost of skim coating is made up of materials, tools, and labor. A contractor usually includes supplies and tools in their estimate, but it’s best to double-check when obtaining a quote.

“For drywall work, such as installation and finishing, it’s absolutely essential that you look at the contractor’s previous work,” says Bob Tschudi, Expert Review Board Member and general contractor in Raleigh, NC. “Drywall work is unlicensed and unregulated just about everywhere, so you need to see the quality of previous work before you invest any money and time in a drywall finishing contractor.”


To skim coat walls, you’ll need drywall compound, which usually costs $15 to $20 for a four and a half-gallon bucket. According to HomeAdvisor, plan for 0.05 pounds per 1 square foot of drywall. You’ll also need 120-grit sandpaper which costs $7 to $12 for a package of five sheets. 


You'll also need specific tools for a drywall skimming job to achieve a smooth finish. If you’re hiring a contractor, they provide the tools, saving you the cost of buying them yourself.

Skimming blade$30–$80 
Skimming blade set$170–$210 (optional)
Drywall mud pan$7–$20
Drill with mixer attachment$50–$90
Paint roller extension pole and covers$25–$40
Sanding pole$20–$30
Respirator dust mask$15–$40
Safety glasses$10–$30
5-gallon bucket with lid$7–$10
Sanding sponges (2–5) for drywall$8–$20


It averages $50 to $100 per hour to hire drywall finishers, though they usually charge by the foot based on their estimate of how long the project will take. It can take about four to five hours to complete a 468 square foot project (the average size of a main bedroom) at the cost of approximately $200 to $500.

Cost to Skim Coat Drywall Yourself

man preparing to skim coat drywall
Photo: Lighthaunter / iStock / Getty Images

Skim coating drywall yourself is a tough skill to master. The goal of skim coating is to ensure your wall has no texture, bumps, or obvious imperfections. You’ll need to apply at least two to three layers of compound and smooth and sand it evenly. 

While you can do the project yourself, consider hiring the job out to a professional drywall finisher to achieve smooth walls. 

Cost to Do It Yourself vs. Hiring a Contractor 

Skim coating a room yourself costs you about $50 in materials and $430 in tools if you don’t have the tools already. Hiring a local drywall contractor is usually $50 to $100 per hour, and the average room takes four to six hours to complete—totaling a labor cost of about $200 to $600

In the end, hiring a contractor generally results in a much better finish, saving you time and avoiding the need to buy specialty tools. Tackling small drywall repairs is a great DIY project, but large-scale drywall work is best left to a pro.

“If you are hiring a drywall contractor, ask about ‘dustless’ applications,” says Tschudi. “These contractors are in high demand because they have special equipment that sands and–at the same time–collects the dust with a high-powered vacuum. They cost about 30% more, but we’ve found that the results are well worth the increased cost.” 

How to Save Money on Drywall Skimming

Here are a couple of ways you can save money on drywall skimming: 

  • If installing new drywall, reduce the number of gaps between your sheets. Measure the room and purchase the biggest drywall sheets for the space. The fewer the gaps, the less skim coating that’s needed. 

  • If you tackle the job yourself, borrow or rent tools instead of buying new ones.

Skim Coating Questions and Answers

Do I need to skim coat, or can I prime the drywall directly?

If you’re installing new drywall, skim coat the drywall first for a smooth finish and to allow the primer to adhere to the wall. Next, you’ll prime the drywall, then paint one or two coats. If you’re refreshing existing walls, you may want to skim coat if there are several imperfections across the wall. Or, you can repair your drywall and sand it for a smooth finish before painting. 

What is the difference between plastering and skimming?

Skimming is covering drywall with a layer of drywall compound after installation or to smooth old walls. Plastering is covering plaster walls with a mixture of gypsum or lime, cement or sand, and water. Plastering is more costly and labor-intensive than skim coating.

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