Good Questions: What’s That Rough Stuff on the Walls?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Hello AT,

I was walking through the apartment I’m about to buy (in NYC), and I noticed that some of the walls have a rough texture, feeling almost like cement. The walls all appear to be plaster/drywall, and this doesn’t seem to be an intentionally applied texture. But I have no idea what it is! I was hoping for some insight on what causes this texture, and will it be a mistake to sand it down?

Thank you! Tiffany [pic is one we found and not exactly what she means]

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Dear Tiffany,

We’re not too sure why it was done, but we think you’re talking about the mix of something like sand and paint that you find in many older NYC apartments. We think it amounted to a quick, cheap cover up job that hid many imperfections with its rough surface. We find it was used particularly on ceilings.

Does anyone know the true story?