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How to Fix Drywall

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There are many different ways to repair drywall, depending on the size and location of the hole or crack. And the approach you take will be different if you have a small hole versus a large hole. A crack in the seam will require a different repair than a crack in the corner. Generally speaking, fixing drywall is easy and inexpensive, but it can sometimes be a little time-consuming. And once you have completed the repair, time will also be needed for the mud/spackling to dry prior to sanding and painting. Nevertheless, if your drywall is in need of repair, Fixer can help. If at any point these instructions don’t make sense, or your situation doesn’t exactly match, you can always book an immediate video consultation with one of our trained professionals and we’ll walk you through how to fix drywall yourself.


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Total time: 15-20 minutes for small holes and 1-2 hours for larger holes. Then up to 24 hours to allow joint compound/primer/paint to dry.

How to Repair Drywall

The Basics: How to Fix a Hole in Drywall

Regardless of the hole size, repairing drywall is relatively easy. And in order to do it properly, the right kind of filler and anchoring are necessary. While most small holes, scratches and dents can be filled in with lightweight spackling compound and a small putty knife, larger holes need more support and heavier mud.

  1. Cut a square replacement drywall piece, slightly larger than the hole to repair
  2. Hold the piece over the hole and trace around the outside with a pencil
  3. Cut the damaged drywall tracing using a jab saw and utility knife
  4. Put the patch in place to ensure it fits, then remove it
  5. Use a piece of wood scrap to screw into the back of the wall. This is known as backer-board, and provides an anchor for the new piece to screw into
  6. Insert the new piece and screw it into place
  7. Apply joint compound to the seams and lay out your tape
  8. Add another layer of mud, making sure there are no bubbles beneath the tape
  9. Feather the mud with a large putty knife and allow it to dry overnight
  10. Sand, then apply another layer of mud
  11. Sand once more, wipe free of dust, then paint

And you’re finished — great work! Once you can know how to repair a large hole in drywall, you can move on to how to fix a hole in drywall without a patch! But let’s cover just a few more techniques first.

How to Repair Small Holes in Drywall

Fixing small holes in drywall is really very simple and requires only lightweight spackling compound and touch-up paint. Spackle works great for holes that don’t penetrate completely through the drywall, as its primary purpose is as a filler.

  1. With a small putty knife, apply spackling compound to dent or scratch
  2. Scrape your knife lightly over the area until gap is filled and new spackle is smooth with the wall
  3. Once dry, lightly sand if necessary, and paint
  4. If another application is needed after sanding, just repeat these steps

For holes that are a little bigger – and have broken completely through the wall – a small pre-cut screen patch can be purchased online or at most hardware stores, and is usually  recommended for holes less than 4” wide. These patches look like screens and they stick to the wall over the hole. This type of repair requires drywall joint compound, wait time and sanding. This solution is ideal for door knob holes.

  1. Position the patch over the hole and press firmly
  2. Apply mud over the patch with a large putty knife
  3. Apply and feather mud 10” past the edges of the patch
  4. Allow the joint compound to dry for 24 hours
  5. Sand until the hardened compound blends in with the wall, ensuring you don’t sand down to the screen
  6. Prime and paint

How to Fix a Hole in Drywall Without a Patch

Sometimes there are shortcuts you can take to repair a hole in your wall, especially if you’re trying to avoid another trip to the hardware store. The basic concept is this: To spackle or mud over a hole, there must be something for the compound to adhere itself to inside the gap. So, if you have something to “plug” the hole with (Examples: A tightly wadded-up paper towel, a small scrap of wood to use as a “backer-board,” or a small scrap of drywall) that joint compound will hold securely in-place, you can make the repair, and no one will notice the difference. 

Another popular option for small to medium-sized holes is to use what’s known as a California Patch – or butterfly patch – which is simply a small, square piece of drywall, modified so the paper itself will hold the drywall plug in-place. This approach is easy,  especially if you’re good with a utility knife, but should only be used for holes that are less than 8” in diameter.

  1. Use a jab saw or utility knife to shape the existing hole into a square or rectangle shape
  2. Cut the scrap of drywall into a similar shape that is 3” larger than the hole, on all sides
  3. Turn the scrap over and estimate the size of the hole to be patched
  4. Now trace – in the middle of the scrap – a hole slightly smaller than the one to be plugged in the wall
  5. Cut around the tracing on the scrap and peel away the gypsum from the paper, leaving only the small patch of drywall in the middle and 2” of the paper around it
  6. Apply joint compound to the hole and the area around it to accommodate the patch/paper
  7. Fit the California patch into place, smoothing the plug and paper over the mud with your putty knife
  8. Add another generous layer of mud over the patch, feathering beyond the edges of the patch to blend in with the surrounding wall
  9. Allow mud to dry for 24 hours, then sand
  10. Apply another layer of mud and let dry overnight
  11. Sand once more, then prime/paint

Pro Tip: Another useful technique is to use a hole saw to cut out damaged area then match the exact size of the hole on the new piece. The trick is to cut the gypsum away from the sheetrock, leaving a couple of inches of paper around the perimeter to mud in place.

Now that you know how to fix a small hole in drywall, you’re ready to learn how to repair a large hole in drywall.

How to Fix a Large Hole in Drywall

We’ll be talking about how to repair a very large hole – or section – of drywall here. If you’ve had flooding or leaking occur in your home, you’re aware that some repairs to walls can be much bigger than others, and often just need to be replaced. We’ll be presupposing that you’re removing and replacing a section of sheet rock that spans two or more studs. By opting to replace a large section instead of patching a few smaller areas, you’ll be doing yourself a favor in terms of time required, and in how the final repair will look. 

  1. Drywall is screwed into studs 16” apart, so once you know the location of one stud, you can usually predict the others 
  2. Remove any damaged sections of your wall using a utility knife and pry bar
  3. Pull any remaining screws so the replacement will fit unobstructed
  4. Mark the locations of each stud on the wall with a pencil so you will know where to drive screws into the new drywall 
  5. Measure the hole and cut a new piece of drywall to fit
  6. Before installing, make sure your seams will screw into a stud, otherwise cut a piece of scrap and screw in alongside the stud to support the new drywall
  7. Secure with drywall screws, recessing each just below the surface of the paper
  8. Apply a coat of mud to the seams and over the screw heads with a large drywall knife
  9. Install the tape to the seams and smooth over with another coat of mud
  10. Let dry for 24 hours and sand
  11. Apply a final coat of joint compound, let dry overnight, and prime/paint 

Pro Tip: Whenever possible, use factory edges to join two pieces. Not only do they fit together flush & flat, but there’s an intentional indentation where the tape lays, which helps to make sanding a breeze.

So now you know how to fix a small hole in drywall, how to fix a large hole in drywall, and you’re so good that you don’t even need a patch! Let’s push the limits and discuss how to repair drywall cracks.

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How to Fix Cracks in Drywall

Most cracks are caused by your house settling, or from changing temperatures, where walls, doors, and concrete naturally expand & contract. Regardless of the crack, this is an easy – and inexpensive – fix. While many find it easy to just fill in cracks with spackling or joint compound, that’s only a short-term solution, and cracks will likely come back. So we’ll apply mesh or paper tape and mud, so that any future cracking will occur beneath the tape, instead of visibly on your wall.

  1. Scrape away any loose debris or paint with a putty knife
  2. Measure the crack(s) and cut lengths of tape to cover, extending beyond the length of the crack itself
  3. Apply a ⅛” coat of joint compound directly over the cracks, then apply tape
  4. Apply another coat of compound over the tape and feather 3-4” past the edges of the tape, ensuring that there are no bubbles under the tape
  5. Allow 24 hours for joint compound to dry
  6. Sand, then apply another coat of mud, feathering another 3-4” past the edges of the existing dried compound
  7. Once completely dry, sand until smooth, wipe excess dust with a damp cloth and apply primer/paint

Pro Tip: In order to make drywall repairs look flawless, the way you apply joint compound, and how you sand, is extremely important. Don’t be afraid to feather the mud well beyond the repair, as the goal is to sand it down gradually from the middle of the repair to the surrounding wall so that it blends in and isn’t noticeable, even to a trained eye.

Since you can now show your friends how to repair drywall cracks, let’s talk about how to fix a crack in drywall that keeps coming back.

How to Fix a Crack in Drywall That Keeps Coming Back

You’ve noticed a crack in your drywall and it’s driving you crazy, so you’ve decided to take the challenge head-on. You have your putty knife, joint compound and tape in-hand, so let’s get started. 

  1. First, scrape away any loose debris and paint
  2. Measure the crack(s) and cut lengths of mesh or paper tape slightly longer to cover
  3. Apply a ⅛” coat of joint compound directly over the cracks, then apply tape
  4. Apply another coat of compound over the tape and feather beyond the edges of the tape
  5. Allow 24 hours for joint compound to fully dry
  6. Sand and apply another coat of mud
  7. Once completely dry, sand until smooth, wipe excess dust with a damp cloth and apply primer/paint

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How to Fix Bulging Drywall Seams

Bulging drywall seams usually occur because of poor joint compound application, drywall screws not properly driven into studs, or because a house has settled in the last few years and the seams are pressing against each other with excess force. As long as the drywall is still secured to the studs behind the seams, isn’t crushed or crumbling, and is fairly flat, you shouldn’t need to completely replace any sheetrock. 

  1. First, cut & clean away any cracking or chipping paint & old tape with a utility knife 
  2. You’re working to remove any uneven/bulging areas
  3. Now apply joint compound over and around the seams that previously bulged
  4. Lay out your tape over any exposed joints/seams and smooth mud, ensuring you have no air bubbles
  5. Allow to dry for 24 hours, then sand
  6. Feather another coat of mud 8-10” beyond the dried mud previously applied & sanded
  7. Allow to dry for another 24 hours, then sand again
  8. If you feel another coat is necessary, repeat these steps
  9. Apply primer-paint combo to finish

Another reason may be due to a leak penetrating the drywall, in which case the damaged drywall would need to be removed and replaced.

How to Repair Ceiling Drywall

To repair ceiling drywall you’ll use the same methods as you do on your walls, with the exception being that you’ll be working over your head or at an awkward angle. For this reason, ensure you have a sturdy ladder or step stool that allows you the most flexibility, and plenty of space to maneuver. If you’re trying to repair a hole in your ceiling where the patch is heavier than you can safely lift and hold in-place, you may want to call in a Fixer. 

  1. Cut replacement drywall piece slightly larger than the hole to repair
  2. Hold piece over hole and trace with a pencil
  3. Cleanly cut the damaged drywall trace using a jab saw and utility knife
  4. Put the patch in place to ensure it fits, then remove it
  5. Install backer-boards behind existing drywall and drive into place with drywall screws
  6. Insert the replacement piece and screw to backer boards
  7. Mud the seams & screws with joint compound
  8. Tape the seams and apply another layer of mud, making sure there are no bubbles beneath the tape
  9. Feather mud 10” past each seam
  10. 24 hours is the recommended time for the mud to dry
  11. Sand, wipe down with damp sponge, and prime
  12. Paint

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