Homes frequently need minor repairs, and fixing drywall holes is one of the most common. Whether the problem comes from an accident while hanging a picture, opening a door, or discovering minor water damage (learn how to prevent and mitigate water damage in our guide for homeowners), learning how to patch drywall on your own saves money.
Essential Materials for Drywall Repair
To effectively patch a hole in drywall, you need some inexpensive tools and materials. In some situations, you might need to use fewer tools, especially if you're just repairing a small hole. For the larger repairs, you will need:
- 100-grit sandpaper
- Drywall saw or utility knife
- Dust mask
- Flexible joint knife (6-inch or 10-inch)
- Nail set
- Screwdriver or gun
You will also need a few materials:
- Drywall screws (1.25-inch)
- Drywall rolled paper tape
- Joint compound
- Scrap piece of drywall
- Stud finder
Patching a Small Hole
For small jobs, like a lost screw or a hole from a nail, you will need joint compound, a taping knife, sandpaper, and paint. If the nail or screw is too deep to recover, you can use a nail set and hammer to tap it into the space behind your drywall. This will leave a small hole that you can patch with a thin layer of joint compound.
With enough joint compound on your taping knife, horizontally and vertically swipe the knife over the hole. When the hole is filled, the joint compound should look like a plus sign on the wall. Depending on the joint compound you buy, you might need to let it dry for 20 minutes or up to 60 minutes. Once dry, use your 100-grit sandpaper to sand it down to a smooth finish that resembles the drywall next to it.
Wipe off the sanded compound, then paint the spot, blending it into the wall around it. Let the paint dry, then apply a second coat if needed.
Patching a Large Hole Using Drywall
Some holes might require more extensive work. For instance, if you found a water leak, you might have a larger hole to repair. This type of work requires more materials and time than a small patch, but homeowners can do the job and save money.
Cut the Hole for New Drywall
Larger holes require new pieces of drywall. Before heading to the hardware store, use a utility knife or a drywall saw to cut out the damaged piece in a square shape. As you make your cuts, look for wires and pipes — especially if the hole is near an outlet or a faucet. Then, measure the thickness of your drywall, which will most likely be a half-inch thick. To anchor the drywall, you will need a stud, so, you might have to cut a larger piece than the damaged area. You can use a stud finder to help you locate the studs when cutting out the damaged piece.
Your hole will likely not be large enough to fit an entire piece of new drywall. Since drywall typically comes in 4-foot by 8-foot panels, visit your local hardware store and ask them for a scrap piece so you can save money and reduce waste.
Screw the Drywall Into Place
When you return home, cut your scrap drywall to fit the size of the hole. Your piece of drywall should fit as closely as possible unless it is next to an adjacent wall or the ceiling. If the repair is near an adjacent wall or the ceiling, leave some space between the new drywall and the other wall. That way, you won’t need to put joint compound and new paint on the adjacent wall or ceiling.
Finally, screw the drywall piece into the studs, spacing the screws 6 inches apart from each other.
Applying Tape and Joint Compound
To make the new drywall blend in with the rest of the wall, apply a thin coat of joint compound to the space between the patch and the original wall. Then, cover the joint compound with drywall tape while the compound is still wet. Use rolled drywall paper tape and your 6-inch flexible knife to smooth the tape as you apply it from the roll. Some of the joint compound will ooze out from under the tape, so smooth and taper it as you lay down the tape.
After applying the tape, cover it with a second and third coat of drywall compound. Smooth it as you apply it, and keep your coats thin so you have better control over the final appearance. Apply the next coats of compound about 6 inches beyond the first coat so you can taper them to match the existing wall.
To cover the screw heads, apply joint compound and smooth it to blend into the piece of drywall. Apply a second coat if needed.
Finishing the New Wall
After applying the joint compound, use a straight edge to check for holes, bumps, or dips in the compound and smooth it out before you let it set. The goal is to make the compound invisible after you’ve painted the wall.
When your joint compound has dried, use 100-grit sandpaper to smooth out bumps and ridges. Don't forget to sand the joint compound covering the screw heads. Then use paint primer to cover the new drywall and joint compound. After the primer has dried, paint the wall to match, and you're all set!
Now you know how to repair drywall with minimal tools and effort. Next time you have a hole to fix, there's no need to call in a pro. Check out even more ways to patch abnormal holes with the Lowe's How to Repair Drywall video below.