How to Patch Drywall like a Pro!

Do you have holes, cracks and other repairs that need to be made in the drywall of your home or other property? It’s not as hard as it looks. The materials you will need, of course, depend on the type of repairs you want to do. This article deals mostly with general hole repairs under eighteen inches. Let’s start off with what you’ll need to make the repairs yourself.

1- A bucket of drywall mud. Do not buy spackling and other such so-called wall repair materials. Pros like me use joint compound and it comes in small buckets or large five gallon contractor style buckets or boxes. Buy the bucket if you have a lot of repairs or think you will. It’s pre-mixed and easy to use.

2- Drywall. Be sure to verify whether the wall or ceiling board you are repairing is 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch and white board or green board which is usually found in bathrooms or other areas near water.

3- A hammer. Any hammer will do but most of us use a lathe hatchet with a hammer on one head that has a specialized face on it that makes for better mud adhesion when you dimple a nail, screw or other imperfection on the wall or ceiling.

4- Screw gun and drywall screws. This is optional if you don’t want to run your screws by hand if you even need any.

5- Drywall Tape. It’s best for non-pros to purchase the self adhesive kind common at big box stores. You can literally peel it off and stick it to your repairs.

6- Drywall mud pan. Size of the pan is personal preference. Pros use the larger stainless steel eighteen inch pans. They are much easier to clean and easily accommodate larger knives and last much longer. Plastic ones are cheaper.

7- Drywall knives. Probably the most important tools you will buy. I suggest you purchase a pro-style six, ten and twelve inch knife. Stay away from the cheap plastic handled knives. (The single most common mistake amateurs make when attempting drywall repair is using the wrong sized knife. More on this later.)

8- Water and Large Sponge. A five gallon bucket of water with a large sponge will make your job much easier. It works wonders for controlling the texture of your mud and serving as a ready clean-up station.

9- Hand held sanding pad with 100 grit drywall sanding paper.

10 – Keyhole saw and utility knife. these are for cutting and scoring drywall.

11- Measuring tape.

If you have a hole in the wall or ceiling that is nowhere near a stud don’t panic. Simply cut a piece of drywall that is slightly smaller than the hole you wish to repair. In other words the patch fits into the hole. Assuming there is nothing to attach it to there are several ways to make this work. Tear off a couple of pieces of drywall tape and stick them to the rear of the patch you cut. Make sure the each tape is long enough to protrude three to four inches out from the edge of the patch. The easiest way to cut the tape is to simply place it against the wall, apply the edge of your six inch knife to the tape where you wish to cut and just tear. To insure the tape stays there apply a light dab of mud to each tape section on the back of the patch. Apply the patch to the area until it is level with the wall and allow the tape ends to extend out toward you. (Attaching a drywall screw halfway into the center of any small patch will allow for easy handling of the patch while applying.) Bend the tape ends to the existing wall and apply a light smooth coating of mud to each with the six inch knife. Allow it to dry thoroughly and the patch will now be affixed to the wall with no metal fasteners. Apply tape to the seams of your patch, adhesive side down. Using your six inch knife apply a generous amount of mud to the patch completely covering the tape and affected area. Use your ten inch knife to flatten and smooth the area using firm, smooth strokes and wiping the knife frequently on the pan edge. Do not dab! The more dabbing you do the messier it gets. Apply, smooth and wipe and act like you are trying to cover a cake with a generous coat of frosting. Try to use as few strokes as possible while holding the knife at a forty five degree angle from the wall.

Allow the coat of mud to dry. Use your twelve inch knife to run a skim coat in a similar manner to finish off most imperfections, scratches and grooves in your work. You can cut skim coat mud with a little water to make this easier but the first two coats must be straight mud. When skim coat is dry sand with your sander.

For larger patches and holes of this sort that are not large enough to attach to a stud follow the steps as outlined and allow the tape sections you attach to the back of the patch to dry first before attaching the patch to the wall.
For ordinary patches of nail and screw holes and other minor imperfections in drywall simply use your lathe hatchet or hammer to tap in the imperfection. Do NOT hammer at it. Tap it until the imperfection is sitting in a depression or small crater below the surface of the surrounding drywall. Use your six inch knife to apply mud to the affected area, wipe the knife and then firmly smooth it out as described above. Apply a second coat when that one is dry. Such repairs usually only require two applications.

For larger repairs you will find it necessary at times to cut to the nearest studs and fasten a new patch of drywall to the wall or ceiling. Make sure you know where the studs are and that there are no utilities you are going to cut through on your way there. Cut the existing drywall so that you expose half the stud you wish to attach to and screw the applicable drywall patch to them. Apply the tape as described above to all seams and cracks. Apply the mud to the tape and all imperfections using your six inch knife and going up both sides of the tape, six inches on each side. Wipe with your ten inch knife. On second coat after drying use your ten and twelve to repeat. On skim use your twelve inch knife with cut mud. Sand it when it’s dry.

One last way to effect drywall repairs on small holes you can actually stick your hand into would be to tear off pieces of tape long enough to easily stretch across the hole with room to spare on each end. Apply generous amounts of straight mud to the tape and using your hand apply it to the back of the drywall around the hole covering the back of the hole as completely as you can smoothing it out with your hand against the back of the board. Allow these to dry thoroughly and you now have a backing to which you can apply mud and tape as described above or a small piece of drywall.

All cracks, seams and disruptions in the surface paper of the drywall other than nail/screw holes must be taped to prevent them from busting open again.

Any cracks in angles may be repaired by simply folding the tape in half and following the procedures with a four or six inch knife.

(The writer holds no responsibility or liability whatsoever for the advice in this article. Contact a professional if you don’t know what you are doing or are unsure of what you are doing!)