While we might enjoy watching the various home improvement shows filling up cable programming, many of us can’t complete the most basic of home improvement projects. The How Do I Fix That? series will show you how to tackle a range of problems that have plagued homeowners for time immemorial. Each installment will provide a walkthrough for the problem at hand so you’ll know what to expect before you get started. Now, get into your old work jeans and roll up your sleeves – we’re going to get messy.
Finding a hole in your home’s drywall is always a distressing situation for many homeowners because repairing it seems so complicated. Actually, it’s easier thank you might think, since it’s just a matter of patching and hiding the repair work.
Holes in drywall come in three general repair sizes:
- Small ones can be fixed using mesh tape for 1-inch holes and cutting a piece of cardboard for backing a hole up to 3 inches in diameter.
- Larger holes from 3 to 14 inches in diameter can be patched with a custom-cut piece of drywall.
- For anything larger, it’s easier to cut out the damaged area from stud to stud and insert a new piece of drywall.
Let’s say a certain toddler (who will remain nameless) chose an inappropriate way to channel a dislike of boiled broccoli by swinging a favored push-toy into the wall. Since the wall was damaged between studs and measures roughly 4” x 6”, I will patch it with a piece of drywall held in place with drywall clips.
Most interior drywall is 1/2” thick. While it comes in 4’ x 8’ sheets, many home improvement centers do stock smaller pieces, either 4’ x 4’ or 2’ x 4’ in size. Some will even cut pieces to size for you for an additional fee.
The tools for this project include:
- Drywall tape (mesh or paper);
- Small bucket of pre-mixed drywall joint compound (known as mud);
- Packet of drywall clips;
- Drywall (or keyhole) saw;
- Dust mask;
- Box-cutter or utility knife with new blades;
- Joint compound trowel (sometimes called a knife); and
- Sanding pad with 80 grit drywall sandpaper.
Measuring and Cutting
While the damage seems only about 4” x 6” (at left), there’s actually more impact damage you can’t see because it’s inside the wall (at right). This kind of damage doubles the area you have to repair.
Drawing patches from squares or rectangles will make the measurement sketches and joint work simpler to create and easier to hide.
Once you’ve got your square drawn, use the drywall saw to cut out the damaged drywall. This can take a little while because there’s not a lot of room inside the wall to move the saw blade. Cut as straight as possible, but don’t panic (too much) if you wander outside the lines a little.
Drywall clips can make a repair like this one a bit simpler.
Time to Patch
After removing the damaged drywall, place four clips around the hole. Secure each on in place with a drywall screw, making sure to countersink the screw head. NOTE: Be extra careful here to NOT overdrive the screw).
Cut out the patch piece and insert it into the hole. You don’t want too tight a fit. The Xs on the patch mark where I’ll put in drywall screws to secure it to the clip.
Once that’s done, remove the exposed metal clip pieces. These are pre-stressed so that they’ll break away cleanly after bending a few times.
Tape over the seams with either mesh tape or paper tape. Many professional drywall installers prefer paper tape over mesh tape, and I will confess that while I’m not a professional, I prefer paper, too. However, while using paper tape requires some practice and little finessé well worth learning, it’s not always convenient.
So to help all you home improvement newbies with this repair, we will use the self-adhesive mesh tape. Cut it to the desired lengths and put it in place over the seams. It sticks by itself, hence the descriptor “self-adhesive.”
Next, apply the first coat of pre-mixed mud. Spread it out evenly over the patch making sure to work it into the screw holes and joints. The secret behind mudding is that you’re using it to cover over the joint and blend in the repaired area with the rest of the wall. So, you’re actually going to spread the mud out 4 to 6 inches from the edge of the repair, but feathered to blend with existing wall surface.
Sand, Reapply, Sand Again
Once this coast is has dried thoroughly (12-24 hours), sand off any ridges. Be sure to wear the dust mask. Vacuum or wipe off any remaining dust and apply the second coat. Let this coat dry, sand the area again, and then apply a third coat, if needed. Remember, the entire process can take a few days, so be patient.
Sand down the final coat. Be sure all joints, screws, and tape signs are well concealed. The surface will need to be primed before it is painted. But once it’s done, you should hardly be able to tell you worked on it at all.
Photos courtesy of Vernon Trollinger.