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How to Repair Holes in Drywall

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How to Repair Holes in Drywall

Drywall repair can be easy, depending on the type and size of the hole.
There are three types of holes that can be found in drywall small, medium, and large. The equipment needed is minimal and the job is easy and rewarding, so hesitate no more!


Small Hole Repair (less than 2")
Inspect the damaged area and remove any loose damaged drywall.Lightly wet the repair area with a spray bottle of water to prepare the area for repair. This will help the joint compound to stick if using regular joint compound typically called mud. This step may be skipped if using a non-water based joint compound containing acrylics, polymer fibers or other similar non-water based ingredient. Trisodium Phosphate or TSP for short is a good product to clean greasy repair areas commonly found in kitchens and can be found at all paint centers.

Once cleaned and damp, apply a liberal amount of non-shrink joint compound available at all home centers and use a 4-6" putty knife to smooth the compound by pulling the blade towards you at approx a 30 degree angle in one steady smooth motion. Hint: wider putty knife blades will produce smoother looking results! If your finish doesn't look smooth, simply wipe and wet the putty knife blade in water and smooth it again always pulling the blade towards you. This principle is similar to painting as it is always easier to paint around a window for example by pulling instead of pushing a paint brush. Don't get caught up in creating the perfect finish as you will have ample opportunity to sand the finish once the compound has dried. Hint: Several thin coats of joint compound are better if trying to repair a deep hole. This will prevent bubbling and cracking but patience is required since added drying time in between coats is required. NEVER apply joint compound of any kind over joint compound that has not thoroughly dried or you will have problems. If time is of the essence, purchase a product called "Hot Mud" that can be mixed in small workable quantities that will dry in under 30 minutes. I recommend using non-shrink lighweight joint compound that is stronger than regular "mud" due to added chemical ingredients and fibers that give the compound extra adherence qualities.

If the hole is larger than 1-2 inches you have an alternative to using a larger glob of joint compound that may take several coats and many days to dry beacause of the excessive number of coats required to adequately fill the hole. You may either cut out the damaged area making a larger repair or choose a ready made patch available at the big box home centers that uses a peel-and-stick metal backed patch for added strength. If dry time is important, simply cut or shape the patch to fit the specific repair area and smooth the taped edges with your putty knife making sure to remove all air bubbles. It is a good idea to clean the affected area with a cleaner called TSP (available in the paint dept) or soapy water to ensure grease is removed to allow maximum adhesion. One drawback is that the patch overlay will cause a slight mounded look in your finished work since the repair is added to the top of existing drywall. A trick to lessen this unsightly problem is to use a wide blade drywall putty knife to flare a thin topcoat of joint compound over a larger area that will lessen the visual effect of a small mound of joint compound. Example: If repairing a 2-3" hole with patch you will want to use a 10" putty knife to apply a skim coat of joint compound as a final topcoat to achieve professional results. Remember to screed the mud in one smooth final stroke and wipe the excess compound off in between swipes if necessary. I guarantee shoddy results if you screed the joint compound off using multiple strokes without cleaning the blade each time in water.

Let the patched area dry thoroughly before applying additional coats or sanding.

Once dry, LIGHTLY sand the area smooth using drywall sandpaper attached to a drywall sander. Drywall hand sanders have thin foam cushions between the sander body and the sand paper that tend to produce better results that the block of wood method.

Minor imperfections can be corrected with an ultra thin topcoat of joint compound over pin hole of hairline cracks. apply this topcoat as if you were trying to scrape it off without leaving any behind. This step can often be accomplished without additional sanding.

Texture before priming & painting if necessary. I recommend using spray texture available in small aerosol cans at your paint center. Hint: soak the can in warm water for several minutes then shake well before application. Test on a scap piece of drywall to develop your techniquie as this can be tricky to get it right. My mistake was holding the can too close to the repair area. I found that holding the can 24-30" away produced better results. Lightly dragging a wide blade putty knife over the textured area after it has dried for 15-20 minutes will produce the knockdown effect verses the orange peel affect if left alone. Some manufacturers include an adjustable nozzle to help you match the desired look and thickness.

Apply 2 coats of primer to the repaired area as joint compound will soak up paint leaving a rough non-painted look to your repair. Apply both primer and paint with a roller if at all possible since paint brushes leave brush marks. Home centers have small foam rollers for such repair work that are cheaper and easier to clean than larger rollers.

Paint once the primer has adequately dried usually after a few hours but preferably overnight.

Medium Hole Repair (3-4 inches)

Outline the damaged area with a framing or carpenter's square. Then use a drywall knife, jab saw, or utility knife to cut away the damaged section of drywall making a rectangular/square shape.
Cut the patch from a new piece of drywall that measures about three inches larger than your hole on all sides.
On the backside of the drywall outline your hole on the center of your piece. Very carefully remove all the rock material from the back around the area you just outlined leaving the paper on the front.

The solid piece of drywall should fit in your hole with a few inches of overlapping paper. Cover the patch with spackling compound or drywall compound, and then smooth the entire area using a wide blade drywall knife. Let the patched area dry. Lightly sand the area smooth using high grit sandpaper. The area can be wiped with a damp sponge to eliminate the dust normally caused by dry sanding. Apply additional coats of compound if necessary, lightly sanding after each coat.

Larger Hole Repair

Outline the damaged area with a framing or carpenter's square. Then use a drywall knife, jab saw, or utility knife to cut away the damaged section of drywall making a rectangular/square shape. Cut drywall backer strips from 3/4-inch plywood or a 1x2 board. Make them about four inches longer than the vertical length of the area you want to patch. Place the boards vertically in the hole and center them so you have four inches of the board behind your existing drywall on top and bottom.

Securely hold your board in place and screw it in vertically through your existing drywall with a screw gun or drill and 1 ¼-drywall screws on top and bottom to firmly keep your strips in position. Larger holes will require more backer strips. Also, be sure the heads of the screws will are sufficiently countersunk. Measure the repair area, and cut a piece of drywall to size. Be sure the repair piece of drywall is no thicker than your existing drywall. Affix it by screwing it to the backer strips. Apply adhesive-backed fiberglass drywall tape to the area around your patch, then apply a thin coat of drywall compound to the joints and exposed screw heads. Finish by sanding the area and applying additional coats of compound, if necessary, until you have a smooth finish.


Drywall is also known as gypsum board, plasterboard, and sheetrock or gib board in different countries.
Screws are much easier to use than nails.
Thin coats of drywall joint compound are all that is needed; this will eliminate a lot of sanding and mess.
It's much easier to shave off blobs or strips with the knife than to sand them.
It's also easier to shave down small high spots than to sand around a large shallow spot.
There are many products that allow you to easily retexture walls after your repair


There are a many wires and pipes that can be behind your wall. Always check before drilling screws into the drywall for any obstructions.

Things You'll Need
All you need are a few simple tools:
Drywall compound
A Piece of new drywall large enough to fill your hole
A straight edge (a 24 inch (60 cm) level or framing square works best)
A drywall or keyhole saw
A razor knife
Joint tape or similiar mesh tape
A 4 inch (15 cm) drywall or putty knife
1x2 drywall backing strips
A drywall screw gun or drill