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   Articles | How-Tos | Ask the Expert   
Walls - Patching Drywall

Patching drywall
Animation Enhanced


Introduction

It is almost inevitable that you will need to patch or repair drywall somewhere in your house. Your walls are subject to damage from moving furniture, children rough-housing or even boisterous party guests. Additional occurrences, such as your house settling, can cause cracks, nail heads to pop up and taped joints to loosen. Never fear. Drywall is easily repaired with virtually no evidence of any of the damage. If you have plaster walls, many of the techniques listed here can be used to repair plaster cracks and holes as well. If you have textured walls, you will first need to follow the procedures below to repair the wall. Then you can use texturing techniques to match the existing wall surface.

Drywall repair falls into 5 categories: 1) Small holes, 2) Large holes, 3) Cracks, 4) Loose tape joints and 5) Nail heads. The materials and tools that are needed will vary depending upon the repair you are tackling. Determine what you need to do and proceed accordingly.

 

  • Beginner - 3 to 4 hours
• Intermediate - 2 to 4 hours
• Advanced - 2 to 3 hours
Don't be in a hurry. Dry wall compound needs to dry overnight before you can sand it or smooth it out.
Drywall compound tends to shrink as it dries. If you apply it too thick, it will also crack. Use several thin layers, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly.
  Sanding drywall compound is a messy, dusty job. Close doors to prevent dust from messing up other parts of your house.
  Drywall compound can dry out and/or separate in its container during storage. You may need to mix it up a bit and possibly add a little water. You want a smooth and moist consistency, but not too wet.
  In between coats of drywall compound, it is not necessary to sand. You can use a wide putty knife to knock off ridges and high spots. Leave the messy sanding until the end.
  Don't over-apply drywall compound. It is more effective to apply several thinner coats. Also, thinner coats will dry faster.
 


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1.  Small hole repairs are for holes left behind by picture frame hangers and minor gouges and scrapes in the drywall surface. Generally these repairs are accomplished with 1 or 2 coats of drywall compound applied with a putty knife.
2.  Before applying the drywall compound, use a sharp utility knife to shave away any protruding paper edges from the drywall surface. You will want to create a slight indentation so that your drywall compound will dry flush with the wall surface. (Figure 1)
3.  Apply the first coat of drywall compound no more than 1/8 inch thick. (Figure 2) Allow it to dry completely. Once dried, scrape the surface smooth using a wide putty knife and apply a second coat. Repeat the process until you have built up the compound slightly higher than the wall surface. Lightly sand to smooth out the patch and blend it in with surrounding wall.
4.  Large hole repairs generally require some sort of backing or support before drywall compound is applied. A mesh repair patch adhered over the hole can repair holes up to 3 inches in diameter. (Figure 3)
5.  Larger holes can be repaired by cutting out the damaged area in the shape of a rectangle. First use a square to mark your cut lines. Then use a keyhole saw to remove the damaged area. (Figure 4) Be sure to be aware of any wiring or plumbing that might be inside the wall.
6.  Use wood strips (1" thick strips that are 2" to 4" wide work well, cut the length about 6" longer than your hole) to create a support backing. Using drywall screws secure the strips to existing drywall. Sink the head of the screw about 1/16 of an inch into the drywall. Try not to break the paper surface with the screw heads. (Figure 5)
7.  Cut a new piece of drywall to fit into the area you are patching. Make sure it is the same thickness as your existing wall. Screw the new piece in place with drywall screws (sinking the screw heads). Using mesh tape, cover the seams between the new piece and the existing wall. (Figure 6)
8.  Using several light coats of drywall compound, cover the mesh tape and fill in the screw holes. Build up a smooth, flush surface, allowing each coat to dry completely. (Figure 7)
9.  Cracks and loose tape joints are repaired similarly. In both cases you should use mesh tape to cover the crack or joint. This will reinforce the drywall compound and decrease the likelihood of the problem recurring.
10.  Before applying the mesh tape to a "loose tape joint", use a utility knife to carve out the loose material. (Figure 8) Create a slight indentation in the work area to allow the new mesh tape and drywall compound to finish flush with the existing wall.
11.  After you have applied mesh tape over the crack or joint, apply drywall compound, using several light coats of drywall compound to cover the mesh tape. Build up a smooth, flush surface, allowing each coat to dry completely. (Figure 9) Sand the final coat.  
12.  Nail head repairs are needed when nails work themselves loose or pop out of your drywall surface. Pounding them back into place usually does not prevent the problem from recurring. Using drywall screws and a screw gun insert new screws into the drywall a few inches above or below the loose nail head (slightly sink the screw head below the surface). (Figure 10) This will firmly refasten the sheet of drywall to the studs behind it. Then you can tap in the loose nail or remove it altogether.  
13.  Once the drywall is secured in place by the new screws, fill the screw head holes and nail holes with the "small hole" procedure described above.  
14.  Once all of your repairs are completed, you are ready to paint. Use a primer paint to seal the exposed drywall compound. After that, paint the repaired area with paint that matches the rest of the room.  
 


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Shopping List

Materials Needed  
• 
Fiberglass mesh
• 
Drywall compound
• 
Drywall boards
• 
Sand paper (150 grit)
• 
Drywall screws
• 
Wood strips
• 
Repair mesh
Tools Needed
• 
Screw gun
• 
Keyhole saw
• 
Drywall taping knife
• 
Putty knife
• 
Mud pan
• 
Utility knife
• 
Carpenter's square

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