Skip to main content
Got holes and torn drywall? Here's an easy way to repair and patch drywall messes.

drywall repairHere's an easier way to achieve perfect patches in drywall. Photo: Carl Weese, Home & Garden

Patching drywall looks simple, but a truly seamless repair takes considerable skill and care. Any irregularities due to excess compound, fasteners, tears in the drywall covering, or uneven joints will show up after you paint, when it's too late.

Here's a foolproof method for drywall repair that's as close to perfect as possible.

Tools and Supplies:
- Drywall saw
- Pencil
- Carpenter's square
- Drywall saw
- Drywall tape
- Drywall compound
- Mud pan
- 120-grit sandpaper
- Sanding block
- Utility knife with a sharp blade
- Drill
- Drywall screws
- 1 x 4 pieces of scrap wood
- 6-in. taping knife
- 10-in. taping knife
- 12-in. or 16-in. taping knife
- Vacuum

drywall repair

1. Take a new piece of drywall and cut out a patch.
You can pick up a 2' x 2' piece of drywall at your local home center; it's large enough for most repairs but won't leave behind a lot of wasted pieces. Be sure it's the same thickness as the drywall you're patching. Most drywall is 1/2" thick, but some is 3/8" or 5/8". If you're not sure, remove a switch plate and measure.

drywall repairPlace the patch over the damage and trace the shape of the patch. Carl Weese, Home & Garden Editorial Services

Your patch should be at least a couple of inches bigger than the damage in all directions. Mark the cut lines with a pencil, then score along those lines with a utility knife guided by a straightedge, such as a carpenter's square. Rest the drywall on a worktable and snap along the scored line as pictured above. Cut the paper backing with the utility knife.

drywall repairAfter reaching inside the hole to check for electrical wires or other obstructions, cut away the damaged area along the lines you have traced using a drywall saw. Carl Weese, Home & Garden Editorial Services

2. To ensure a tight-fitting patch, use the patch itself as a template.
Cover the damaged area with the patch and trace the shape with a pencil. Try to avoid covering any area that's backed by a stud, or else cutting away the damaged area will be a bit more difficult. Use a drywall saw to cut around the damage.

drywall repairInstall nailers using drywall screws and a drill. Carl Weese, Home & Garden Editorial Services

3. Cut and attach wooden nailers to the opening.
Cut two nailers (pieces of wood) from 1 x 4 pine scrap. Using nailers eliminates the needs to find wall studs for attaching the patch, and makes cutting out the damaged area an easier task. The nailers should be a few inches longer than the opening on top and bottom. Mount the nailers to the inside of the wall as shown below. This provides a secure platform to mount the patch over the hole.

drywall repairInstall the patch by fastening it to the nailers with drywall screws. Carl Weese, Home & Garden Editorial Services

4. Mix and apply drywall compound.
Thoroughly mix the drywall compound to begin taping over the patch. Mix for at least five minutes. If you have self-adhering tape, as shown, run it over the patch joints as shown.

drywall repairSelf-adhering nylon mesh tape makes taping a bit easier than using paper tape. Use a sharp blade to prevent ragged tears when cutting to length. Photo: Carl Weese, Home & Garden Editorial Services

Next, apply a coat of compound over the mesh tape. Make it as smooth as possible and just thick enough to cover the ridges of the mesh. Once dry, use a clean taping knife to "knock down" any ridges or burrs in the first coat.

drywall repairApply a thin coat of drywall compound over the mesh tape. Carl Weese, Home & Garden Editorial Services

Apply a second, wider, coat using a 10" taping knife (inexpensive plastic taping knives will bring down the cost of this repair, but if you expect to do more taping in the future, invest in good knives). Feather the edges of the joints so they appear flat. Once dry, scrape the surface to remove burrs and high spots.

drywall repairAllow compound to completely dry between coats. The compound will turn bright white when dry, usually after 24 hours. Carl Weese, Home & Garden Editorial Services

Then, apply a third still wider coat with a 12" or 16" taping knife. If necessary, scrape and sand lightly with 150-grit abrasive paper until perfectly smooth. Lastly, paint the patched area with drywall primer first, paint finish coats and you're done!

drywall repairAvoid sanding the drywall's paper facing or fibers will tear and be more difficult to paint. Carl Weese, Home & Garden Editorial Services

Note: If you opt to use paper tape instead of self-adhering mesh tape, lay down a 1/4" thick bed of compound using a 6" taping knife. The bed of compound must be wider than the tape and not contain any voids. Then embed the tape by pushing it into the compound with your fingers. Make sure the tape is centered over the joints. Use the taping knife with light pressure to squeeze the compound from under the tape and to scrape away the excess. If you notice air bubbles under the tape, or folds or wrinkles, remove the tape and start over! Then allow the compound to dry before applying the second layer of compound.

  • mmox3399

    They make it look so easy! Http:// I've tried that and what a mess!

  • Cyril Johnson

    Cut the patch two inches larger than the hole on each side. After cutting the hole and preparing per the article, turn the patch piece over and score the back side to match the hole. Carefully crack the board and peel the gypsum away from the front paper. This gives you a flap that replaces the tape. Bed the flaps in joint compound and finish per above. Much easier than taping and gives you a smoother finished surface. You can go one step further and lightly score the wall 2 inches outside of the opening created. Then peel the paper away from the parent wall and install the patch, bedding the paper flap in joint compound. Good bit more work but you end up with an almost perfectly flat repair -- no taping humps on the wall which will show up if you paint with a semi-gloss paint.

  • Ken (Retired)

    YEA !!! Someone that knows how to make a good patch. Done it for years, and taught it to many. Hollywood 20 year olds with a Contractor License don't know squat. You did good!

  • Clint

    The trick to using joint compound is add it in thin layers until smooth, rather than thick and having lots to sand. It just takes a little patience to do. If you can paint you can do this too. You can also use a moistened grout sponge to remove excess compound to lessen the dust.
    Want fun reading? Go to the EPA's web site and look under lead precautions and see what they want contractors to do for a repair like this. Don't follow the rules and a fine is possible of $37,500 per day and no that's not a typo on the fine.

  • Dave

    I'm sure that after you go out and purchase all the items on the list and spend 3 or 4 hours doing the project you could have hired somebody and had a nice day off.

  • susie Q

    whoever did this spot is not a drywall specialist. you can read this stuff in any repair or a how to book....for the homeowner not experienced in working with drywall, call in a tradesman. your chances of success are none if you attempt the repair yourself, you will end up with a big bulge on your wall which will crack and separate within 6 months. What you spend alone on tools and materials should more than cover the cost of a reputable drywall professional.

  • 6 Comments / 1 Pages

Follow Us

  • No features currently available.

  • More Hot Topics The Daily Fix  •  DIY Warrior  •  Home Ec  •  Handmade
    DIY Disaster Doctor  •  In the Workshop  •  Product Picks

    Home Improvement Videos