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How to Patch or Repair Drywall

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Drywall > How to Patch or Repair Drywall
How to Patch or Repair Drywall

On this page:

  1. Materials
  2. Repair Small Surface Blemishes
  3. Repair Large Holes and Deep Dents
  4. Repair Nail Pops
  5. Repair Drywall Cracks and Failed Joints
  6. Level of Difficulty
  7. Drywall Repair Services

Whether it has suffered minor dings from normal wear and tear or has large holes from more significant damage, banged-up drywall can really detract from the look of your home. Fortunately, most drywall repairs are superficial or cosmetic and are something a handy homeowner can take care of without the help of a pro. You may need a few specialized tools and supplies, but with a little care and patience you can restore the smooth surface of the walls or ceilings in your home.

 
Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• 6” Drywall knife Beginner to Intermediate 1 hour to 2 days
• 10” Drywall knife
• 2” Putty knife
• Drywall tray
• Spackling compound
• Paintable latex caulk
• Lightweight drywall joint compound or “mud”
• Self-adhesive fiberglass mesh tape
• Drywall sanding sponge or block
• Drywall screws
• Scrap 1”x3” or 2”x4” lumber
• Drywall sheet or scrap
• Utility knife
• Drywall saw
• Drill with Phillips head screw tip
• Caulking gun
• Tape measure
• Stud finder
• Carpenter’s square
• Hand saw or circular saw

Drywall Patch and Repair Techniques

Follow the steps below to repair a number of common types of drywall damage.

 

How to Fix Small Surface Blemishes in Drywall

Small dings, holes, fine scratches or cracks, and torn backing paper are all minor blemishes that are simple to smooth out. The process of repairing each of these issues is similar, and basically involves filling any voids to bring the surface of the damaged area even with the surrounding drywall.

 
  1. 1. Remove Protrusions or Loose Debris

    Use a drywall or putty knife and a sanding sponge to scrape or sand off raised areas around the trouble spot, and use a utility knife to cut away loose paper backing.

  2. 2. Tape Holes and Cracks

    For any cracks or holes more than ½” across, apply a piece of mesh tape over the area to stabilize the surface.

  3. 3. Fill Voids and Cover Tape

    Use a drywall or putty knife to apply spackle or joint compound (“mud”) directly to small blemishes or to apply mud over mesh tape. Apply several thin layers (with drying time allowed between layers) rather than a single, thick coat over deep voids and taped areas. Applying thick layers or subsequent coats too early can result in shrinking and cracking. For hairline scratches, caulk or spackle can be applied directly to the area with a putty knife, caulking gun, or even your finger.

  4. 4. Smooth the Area

    While the filler material is still wet and pliable, smooth it over the area by pulling a drywall knife held at an angle across the compound. This process will remove excess material, which you can scrape off your knife with the edge of a drywall tray or a second knife. Repeat the process, working outward, until the repair area is as smooth as possible. Be sure not to remove too much material or gouge your filled area. If the area isn’t smooth after your repair compound dries, knock down any ridges with a drywall knife and apply another coat of compound.

  5. 5. Finish the Area

    With all coats of repair compound applied and fully dry, use a sanding sponge to smooth the surface, giving attention to feathering the edges flush with the surrounding wall surface. Remove sanding dust and apply an appropriate primer before repainting the wall or ceiling.


How to Fix Large Holes and Deep Dents in Drywall

Repairing more substantial damage typically involves cutting out the problem area and installing a patch with new drywall material. For holes larger than 2” across or dents with broken gypsum behind the paper backing of the drywall, this method will give a more reliable repair than simply taping and “mudding” over the damage.

 
  1. 1. Measure for a Patch

    In order to create a stable patch, you will need to locate or create a suitable surface to which you can screw a new piece of drywall. Use a carpenter’s square and pencil to mark a rectangle area around the damage, making sure the opening will be large enough to allow for inserting a backer board later. For wide holes or those closer to a stud than the center of a wall cavity, it may be practical to use a stud for mounting one (or both) sides of the patch. Use a stud finder to locate the studs on each side of the hole or dent and mark their centers (standard studs are 1 ½ ” wide, so measure out ¾” from the inside edge of the stud to indicate the center).

  2. 2. Cut Out the Damaged Drywall

    Use a utility knife and drywall saw to cut along your marks through the drywall and remove it. If you measured to the center of the studs you should have revealed them, providing a surface to which you can secure your patch along the sides of the opening.

  3. 3. Add Support to the Opening

    Cut two pieces of lumber to exceed the height or width of your new opening by about 4”. Center them vertically on each side of the opening, or along the top and bottom leaving half their width exposed. If using studs for screwing surfaces, just install a single board in the center or along the opposite side of the opening. Position the board(s) behind the surrounding drywall in the cavity between studs. Use your drill to drive drywall screws through the drywall and the wood brace at the ends or along the opening.

  4. 4. Install a Patch

    Use a utility knife to cut a piece of new drywall to the dimensions of the opening. Fit it in position and secure it by driving drywall screws through the patch and into the studs or braces you added. Install screws at each corner, or at the top and bottom of a center brace, and at 6” to 8” intervals.

     

    Note: Typically, homes are sheetrocked with ½” drywall, but ⅝ ” materials is used in some applications. If you are not sure how thick the material is that you need to repair, use ½” material and build it up with mud later if necessary.

  5. 5. Tape the Seams

    Cut pieces of mesh tape to length and apply to each side of the patch, making sure the tape is centered over the seams.

  6. 6. Apply Joint Compound

    Use a drywall knife to apply joint compound to the taped seams and over the screws. Allow the first coat to dry, remove ridges with the knife. Apply a second and third coat in the same manner, widening the seam with the 10” knife to create a gradual blending into the wall surface.

  7. 7. Finish the Area

    When the final coat of joint compound is dry, sand ­the surface smooth and feather the edges of the patch into the surrounding wall surface. Remove sanding dust and apply primer before repainting the area.


How to Fix Nail Pops

Nails, and even screws, can loosen and pop out as framing lumber shrinks and swells with changes in humidity. Replacing the loosened fasteners can prevent the problem recurring.

 
  1. 1. Remove the Nail

    If necessary, scrape hardened joint compound from around the loosened nail with a utility knife or scraper. Use a claw hammer or prybar to remove the nail. If the popped fastener is actually a screw, use a drill or screwdriver to drive it back in place. If the screw will not bite into the wood securely, back it out of the stud and drywall.

  2. 2. Replace the Fastener

    Use your drill to install a drywall screw in place of the nail you have removed, or within 1” above or below a screw you removed.

  3. 3. Fill and Smooth the Repair

    Use a drywall knife and joint compound to fill and smooth any remaining hole and cover the new screw using the methods above.


How to Fix Drywall Cracks and Failed Joints

Some of the most common drywall blemishes are cracked and failed seams. The method for repairing these is similar to that for other damage, but requires the added step of reinforcing the separated material or the seam between sheets of drywall.

 
  1. 1. Clean the Area

    Use a scraper or drywall knife to remove loose joint compound. Pull off loose drywall joint tape and cut it off with a utility knife.

  2. 2. Apply Joint Tape

    Cut a piece of fiberglass mesh tape to length and apply it to the crack or seam.

  3. 3. Apply Joint Compound

    Use a 6” drywall knife to smooth joint compound over the tape. Allow the first coat to dry and use the knife to remove lumps and ridges. Apply a second coat in the same manner but using the 10” knife along the center of the joint to widen the seam. Follow when dry with a third coat applied with the wide knife to each side (overlapping the center) to feather out the seam.

  4. 4. Smooth and Finish

    When dry, sand the seam smooth with a sanding sponge, taking care to blend the edges for a smooth transition between the wall surface and the new joint compound. Remove sanding dust, apply an appropriate primer, and repaint the area.


Level of Difficulty

Making minor repairs to patch small nail holes, dents, and scratches are beginner-level projects that most homeowners can handle with few (if any) tools and basic supplies that are available in small quantities. More skill and a few specialized tools are required to create a smooth finish over a larger patch or seam repair, but it’s still a reasonable job for most DIYers. Before tackling your wall or ceiling repair, practice your mudding techniques on a scrap of drywall or even plywood so you can get the hang of handling a drywall knife and applying and smoothing joint compound.


Drywall Repair Services

Even though fixing up tired walls and patching problem spots is something you can probably handle on your own, it takes some time, practice, and skill to get a flawless finish. If you would rather leave the job to an expert, get in touch with a licensed and insured Drywall Repair Professional who can get the job done right!

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