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How to Patch Holes in Drywall

TOH general contractor Tom Silva shows how to patch-up drywall, in under 10 steps

A doorknob swings into the wall one too many times. An electrician moves an outlet box or fishes wire to a new fixture. An energetic teenager Jackie-Chans the Sheetrock. Whether it's by accident or intent, sooner or later, a wall or ceiling gets gored and has to be patched.

Fortunately, it's fairly easy to make a solid, virtually invisible repair. You don't even need to buy a repair kit. A scrap of drywall, a leftover piece of window screening, some joint compound, and a few common tools are all it takes, if you use the hole-patching technique demonstrated on the following Step-By-Step by This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

Tom's patching method—cut the hole to fit the patch, not the other way around—is virtually foolproof. Working the joint compound is more of an art. "Apply thin coats," he says. "And don't fuss with it. After two or three strokes, leave it alone until it's dry."


Steps // How to Patch Holes in Drywall
1 ×

Cut out the patch

 
Step One // How to Patch Holes in Drywall

Cut out the patch

drywall patch cutout
Photo by David Carmack

Find a scrap of drywall that's the same thickness as the damaged drywall, and cut out a square-cornered patch big enough to cover the hole. Place the patch over the hole and pencil its outline on the damaged wall. Draw an X on the wall above the hole and an arrow on the patch that points at the X so you'll know how to orient the patch in Step 6.

 
2 ×

Prep the hole

 
Step Two // How to Patch Holes in Drywall

Prep the hole

cutting an X in the drywall hole
Photo by David Carmack

Use a drywall saw to cut from the edge of the hole to each corner of the outline. Score along the outline with a utility knife. Snap back the drywall pieces inside the outline, then cut each one free with the knife.

 
3 ×

Snap back the drywall

 
Step Three // How to Patch Holes in Drywall

Snap back the drywall

preparing the drywall hole
Photo by David Carmack

Snap back the drywall pieces inside the outline, then cut each one free with the knife.

 
4 ×

Add strapping

 
Step Four // How to Patch Holes in Drywall

Add strapping

Add a piece of strapping
Photo by David Carmack

Cut a piece of 1x3 wood strapping 6 inches longer than the height of the hole. Squeeze a bead of construction adhesive along one face of the strapping. Without touching the adhesive, carefully insert the strapping into the hole with the adhesive facing out. Pull the strapping firmly against the damaged drywall and drive two screws, in a staggered pattern, through the drywall and into both ends of the wood. Take care to stop the screwheads when they're just below the surface of the wall but not deep enough to tear through the paper.

 
5 ×

Attach the patch

 
Step Five // How to Patch Holes in Drywall

Attach the patch

attach the drywall patch
Photo by David Carmack

Align the arrow on the patch with the X on the wall, then press the patch firmly against the adhesive. Drive two screws, staggered, through the patch and into the strapping.

 
6 ×

Cover the seams

 
Step Six // How to Patch Holes in Drywall

Cover the seams

covering the drywall patch seams
Photo by David Carmack

Use a 6-inch taping knife to trowel a thin layer of joint compound over the patch, the seams, and the screwheads.
 

 
7 ×

Cover the seams

 
Step Seven // How to Patch Holes in Drywall

Cover the seams

covering seams of drywall patch with joint compound
Photo by David Carmack

Cut a piece of window screen a few inches longer and wider than the patch, then press it into the compound with the trowel. (The screen prevents cracks from forming between the patch and wall.)

 
8 ×

Cover the seams

 
Step Eight // How to Patch Holes in Drywall

Cover the seams

covering drywall patch seams with joint compound
Photo by David Carmack

Add more "mud," then trowel off the excess. Work from the center of the patch outward to avoid wrinkling the screen.

 
9 ×

Apply final coat

 
Step Nine // How to Patch Holes in Drywall

Apply final coat

applying a final coat of joint compound to cover drywall patch seams
Photo by David Carmack

The next day, when the compound is dry, put on another thin layer with a 12-inch taping knife. Smooth it at least 6 inches beyond the boundary of the previous coat. When this layer dries, sand with a fine silicon-carbide sandpaper, taking care not to expose the screen. When the sanding dust is wiped away, the wall will be ready to paint.

 
 
 

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