• In this video, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shows how to permanently patch a damaged ceiling.

    Steps:
    1. Climb into the attic and remove the insulation from between the ceiling joists directly above the damaged drywall.
    2. Drill a 3/16-inch-diameter hole down into the 1x3 strapping and through the drywall ceiling. Be sure to center the hole between two joists.
    3. Now go down into the room below and locate the hole in the ceiling.
    4. Make a screwing template by first cutting and screwing together two pieces of -inch plywood; make them slightly larger than the damaged area on the ceiling.
    5. Bore a series of 1-inch-diameter holes through the template, spacing the holes about 3 inches apart. Space the rows of holes 16 inches on center.
    6. Hold the screwing template against the ceiling, directly over the damage area. Use the 3/16-inch-diamter hole to align the rows of holes with the 1x3 strapping above.
    7. Set a small square of plywood on the floor, then wedge a 2x4 brace into place between the plywood square and screwing template.
    8. Use a drill/driver fitted with a drywall tip to drive 1¼-inch drywall screws through the holes in the template, through the drywall ceiling, and into the strapping above.
    9. Cut -inch-plywood backer boards to fit between the ceiling joists and the 1x3 strapping.
    10. Climb back into the attic and apply construction adhesive to the top surface of the drywall ceiling.
    11. Press the plywood backer boards down into the adhesive.
    12. Slide shims beneath the ceiling joists to force down the backer boards.
    13. Go back down into the room and run drywall screws up through the remaining holes in the template and into the plywood backer boards.
    14. If the ceiling crack extends beyond the template, drive in a few screws on each side of the crack.
    15. Tap out the temporary 2x4 brace and remove the screwing template.
    16. Use a hammer to lightly tap along the ceiling crack to break free any loose debris.
    17. Apply a strip of painter's tape to the very top of the wall to protect it from joint compound.
    18. Cover the ceiling crack with adhesive-backed fiberglass mesh tape.
    19. Use a flat trowel to spread a thin layer of joint compound over the entire repaired area, including the mesh tape and all the screw heads.
    20. To create a skip-textured finish apply more joint compound with very light pressure, allowing the trowel to skip over the surface.
    21. Let the compound dry overnight, then apply a coat of primer, followed by two paint topcoats.
    • Difficulty: Moderate
      Making an imperceptible patch requires patience and practice
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      Tools List

      • drill
        Drill/driver, fitted with 3/16-inch-diameter drill bit and 1-inch diameter spade bit
      • drywall tip
        Drywall tip, for driving drywall screws to precisely the right depth
      • hammer
        Hammer
      • caulk gun
        Caulk gun
      • utility knife
        Utility knife
      • flat finishing trowel
        Flat trowel
      • plaster hawk
        Plaster hawk

      Shopping List

      -inch plywood

      2x4

      Construction adhesive

      Wood shims

      2-inch-wide painter's tape

      Fiberglass mesh tape

      Joint compound

      1¼-inch drywall screws