Drywall, also known as sheetrock or gypsum board, is found in many homes. Homeowners and installed nail or screw drywall to the wood framing, known as the wall studs. Drywall hides plumbing pipes, electrical cables and wires, air conditioning and heating duct work and encloses insulation safely behind the wall. After hanging drywall, homeowners can paint, texture or hang wallpaper to decorate the room. Kids roughhousing, an accidental impact or a misplaced hammer can all lead to a hole in the drywall. Repairs to pipes or electrical cables or wires oftentimes require cutting a hole in the drywall. As a house settles, you may see cracking along the seams where the drywall panels abut to each other. All of these scenarios require a repair to return the room to an undamaged condition.
Preparing Drywall for Repairs
Carefully trim the ragged edges of the paper around it with a utility knife. Whether or not the hole is large from a hockey puck penetrating the drywall or a nail from hanging a picture, never rip the paper away from the edges of it. Peeling the paper covering will expose the gypsum core and weaken the drywall.
Wrap 220-grit sandpaper around a sanding block and sand the rough surface surrounding it until it is smooth. If you don’t have a sanding block, wrap the sandpaper around a piece of wood that fits in your hand. The use of a sanding block gives you a flat, even finished surface. If you sand by hand without a sanding block you are likely to create depressions in the wall because the pressure on the sandpaper will probably be unequal.
If you are preparing to repair cracked seams or bubble drywall tape, sand the seams until they are smooth, which may involve sanding away the tape.
Repairing a Small Hole
If you are making a small repair, use a pre-mixed drywall joint compound, also known by professionals as mud.
Scoop up the mud on a flexible plastic putty knife and press the mud into it or crack in the wall. Hold the putty knife at a low angle to the wall and drag it across the damaged area. Wipe the excess mud off the putty knife and pull the knife across it to remove excess joint compound. Let the mud dry for about an hour or two.
Examine the repair and run your fingertips across it to feel for a depression. Sometimes drywall joint compound will shrink as it dries, this is normal depending on the type of mud you used to fill it. You may even see the mud doesn’t fit tightly into the hole.
Wrap 220-grit sandpaper around a sanding block and lightly sand the area, knocking down high spots and sharp edges. Wipe the wall with a rag to remove the sanding dust.
Scoop up some more mud on the putty knife, hold the putty knife at a low angle to the wall and drag it across the hole to distribute joint compound over the hole a second time. Let the mud dry for one to two hours. You should not see any further shrinkage at this point.
Wrap 220-grit sandpaper around your sanding block and sand off all excess joint compound until the repaired area is smooth and even with the surrounding wall.
Wipe the sanding dust off the wall with a rag or vacuum the wall.
Repairing Large Holes
Large holes are those that are bigger than about 3 inches wide and 3 inches tall.
Use a drywall saw to cut the edges of the hole so you form a square or rectangle with smooth edges. This may cause you to enlarge the hole which is what you should do. Only make the hole bigger if it is absolutely necessary to square off the hole.
Measure the size of the hole after you have squared off the edges. Cut a new piece of drywall from a panel to the exact measurements as the size of the hole if the hole straddles a wall stud. If the hole does not expose a wall stud, cut thin slats of wood 2 inches wider than the hole in the wall.
Test fit the drywall patch, it should fit the hole snugly. If there is a gap greater than 1/8 inch between the existing wall and the patch, cut a new patch.
If your hole does not straddle a stud, apply a large dot of construction adhesive to each end of the wood slat. Put the end of the slat through the wall and maneuver the other end through the wall. With the adhesive side facing the back of the wall pull the slat toward yourself to affix it to the inside of the drywall. Hold the slat in place until the adhesive sets, which takes about three to five minutes. Keep adding slats until you can’t fit anymore slats.
If you hole straddles a stud, put you patch in place and sink drywall screws through the patch into the wall studs.
Pour powdered drywall joint compound mix into a large bucket and add water according to the manufacturer’s directions. Install a paddle mixer onto a power drill. Submerge the paddle mixer into the bucket, turn the power on and blend the ingredients until it forms a paste.
Scoop up drywall compound on a putty knife, hold the putty knife at a low angle to the wall and drag it across the repair to fill the gap between the patch and the existing wall. If you are filling in a hole from a slat repair, fill the hole ½ inch at a time and allowing the mud to dry for at least one hour in between layers of mud. Continue to fill the hole until the mud sits slightly higher than the existing wall.
After the joint compound it set and dry, wrap 220-grit sandpaper around the sanding block and sand the repair smooth and even. Wipe the wall with a rag to remove the sanding dust.
Run your fingers across the repair to feel for divots and depressions. Look at the repair to see if the mud shrunk. Add another layer of mud to the repair to fill in cracks, shrinkage or depressions. Let it dry for one to two hours. Sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block. Wipe the wall or vacuum it to remove the sanding dust.
Hiding the Repair
Apply a coat of interior-grade primer over the patch with a paint roller or paintbrush. Let the primer dry for two to four hours.
Apply a very light coat of the same color paint as the rest of your wall with a paintbrush or paint roller. If you don’t have the same color, you will have to repaint the entire wall or room. Let the paint dry for two to four hours. Paint a second light coat of paint over the first. Feather the edges of the second coat 2 to 3 inches past the edges of the repair to blend it into the wall cover.