Drywall is softer than concrete or wooden walls and therefore more susceptible to damage. Fortunately, most small holes and cracks are easy to repair with a little DIY effort and a few simple tools.
Work in a well-lit area. Leaving to run to the hardware store slows your progress and leads to uneven patching.
1. Remove Damaged Drywall
Drywall is a standard feature in many homes, but it’s not immune to damage. From the little ones practicing indoor baseball to plumbing and electrical mishaps, drywall is susceptible to dents, holes and other issues that can leave homeowners with unsightly walls.
When repairing drywall, it’s important to take the proper steps to ensure a professional-quality finish once the paint is applied. Smearing on spackle and calling it good will only lead to scuff marks, bumps and other blemishes that will require more work in the future.
Begin by removing the damaged drywall, and cleaning the area. This can be a messy job, so be sure to work in a well-lit space. It’s also a good idea to put on a pair of protective gloves so you don’t get dust or other debris stuck to your hands.
Next, use a drywall saw to cut off any sections of the drywall that are beyond repair or that are protruding from the wall. If you aren’t comfortable using a drywall saw, you can use a utility knife to score along the edge of the drywall, and then pull it off with your fingers.
Once you’ve removed the damaged section, sand it smooth and apply a primer. This will help the drywall patch adhere to the surface. Once the primer is dry, you can apply three coats of joint compound, waiting for each one to dry before applying the next.
2. Clean the Area
When sanding drywall, fine dust is sent into the air and settles on surfaces from furniture to windows. To prevent this, cover anything you can’t move and block doorways with plastic drop cloths. This will keep your furniture and floors safe while minimizing the cleanup time after your project is complete.
Drywall mud is sticky and can leave marks on your tools, so have a paper towel or cloth rag handy to clean them up as needed. It is especially important to wipe up spills quickly before they dry, as a wet drywall compound can have a negative impact on your tools’ longevity and effectiveness.
When working with drywall, it is also helpful to wear eye protection to avoid any possible debris entering your eyes while you work. This will help you avoid a potential eye injury and save you from having to buy new eyeglasses or contact lenses down the road.
Before you do any more sanding, take a few moments to apply a light coat of mold-killing primer to your wall. This will ensure that any spores trapped within the drywall are killed and won’t reform when you begin to re-sand the area. After the primer dries, let the drywall cure for 24 hours. Then, you can repaint the repaired area. Two light coats of paint feathered over the surface should cover the patch and blend it into your existing wall color.
3. Apply Joint Compound
A good drywall repair job starts with a base layer of joint compound. This will give the tape something to stick to and fill in any holes or ridges in the area. You can use a pre-mixed container of compound or make your own. Mix it thick so that it will adhere to the drywall and not sag when you apply it. Before you apply the compound, clean the surface with a damp sponge to remove any loose particles. Also, be sure to remove any drywall dust from the surface.
For larger holes, cut a piece of drywall patch large enough to cover the hole. If the drywall is damaged in more than one spot, you may need to put up an entire new section of drywall.
Using a drywall knife, scoop a thin layer of compound onto the wall, covering the hole and extending a few inches past either side of the hole. Be sure to cover the corner bead.
Inside corners are a bit more tricky. If you have paper tape that is pre-creased, use the crease to help guide it into the corner.
If your tape doesn’t have a crease, crease it before you use it. Otherwise, you may end up with a bubble in the corner that will show up later when the mud dries. Wetting the tape before embedding it will help prevent this problem, as well.
4. Apply Drywall Tape
Drywall tape is used to cover the seams between sheets of drywall. It helps to prevent gaps and cracks from forming, and it adds strength to the overall structure of your wall. Drywall experts know how to apply the tape properly to avoid problems like bubbling and peeling.
For smaller holes and damage, a simple spackling paste can be applied with a drywall knife to fill them in and make the area look clean and seamless. For larger holes, you will need to have a piece of drywall that matches the hole cut and use it as a patch. You can then sand the patch and make it blend in seamlessly with the rest of the drywall.
There are several different types of drywall tape, including paper, fiberglass mesh, and self-adhesive. Paper tape is the hardest to apply, but it can create clean and sharp seams and corners. It has built-in adhesive, so it doesn’t require bedding in wet mud. It can be used on inside or outside corners when folded, and it is also great for butt joints.
When applying drywall tape, you want to start in the middle of each side and work toward one end. This will help you to avoid accidentally pulling it off the wall or tearing it as you smooth it out. After you have placed the tape, apply a layer of drywall joint compound over it with your drywall knife. Applying the joint compound over the tape will ensure that it is embedded in the mud and will not come loose or peep through the paint later on.
5. Apply a Second Coat of Joint Compound
If the drywall is very rough, or you are trying to level out a wall that has a sagging section, you can apply a skim-coat of mud. Skim coats are applied with a special squeegee knife, rather than a hawk or trowel. This tool is simple to use, and it produces excellent results.
Whether you’re mudding a hairline crack or repairing an existing drywall wall, be sure to apply a second coat of joint compound after the first one dries. This coat is important because it will help you get a smooth surface for the tape to adhere to. If you see any noticeable ridges or chunks of compound on the surface, knock them off with the edge of your taping knife.
When applying a second coat of mud, be sure to embed the tape. This will prevent the tape from bubbling, and it will make it easier to sand and finish. Wetting the tape will also help eliminate problems like divots and air bubbles that show up after the mud dries.
Use a small amount of setting-type compound when applying the second coat. Make sure it’s thick enough to fill in holes and level uneven sections of the wall or ceiling.
6. Drywall Sanding
Drywall sanding is time-consuming and tiring, but it’s also essential to getting smooth patchwork. Using a light touch and applying moderate pressure helps prevent scuffing or damage to the drywall paper and joint tape, which would show through the paint job.
A coarse grit can scratch the compound and expose the bare drywall face, so opt for a finer sandpaper (200-grit or higher). If you sand too much, it will create small scratches that will show through the primer and paint, and you may need to reapply a second coat of joint compound and sand again.
To reduce the amount of dust created during sanding, consider a drywall sander with vacuum attachment, which sucks up the drywall debris as it’s produced. This type of sander is usually more expensive, but it can speed up the process significantly and eliminate most of the cleanup work.
Lastly, it’s essential to work in a well-lit space so you can see what you’re doing. A dim environment can lead to mistakes that won’t be noticeable until the paint goes up. It’s also a good idea to round up all the tools you need before you start so you don’t have to stop to grab a tool every few minutes. Circulating between different rooms can also help you avoid losing focus and getting frustrated by one particularly challenging spot.