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In this video, Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shows host Kevin O’Connor how to patch holes in drywall, covering holes of all shapes and sizes.

Whether it’s by accident or intent, sooner or later, a wall or ceiling gets gored and has to be patched. Many people don’t know where to start when they’re learning how to patch a large hole in drywall. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to make a solid, virtually invisible repair. You don’t even need to buy a repair kit.

What Do You Need to Patch Drywall?

There aren’t any special tools needed for drywall repair. A scrap of drywall, a self-adhesive wall repair patch, some spackling or joint compound, and a few common tools are all it takes if you use the hole-patching technique demonstrated 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 for Patching Small Holes

  1. Using a small putty knife with a bit of drywall compound or spackling compound on the blade, fill the hole.
  2. Allow the area to dry to assess how much the compound shrunk
  3. Repeat the process and add an additional coat (may require two more coats)
  4. Once dry, lightly sand the area to achieve a smooth finish

Steps for Patching Medium-Sized Holes

  1. Purchase a metal-reinforced ready-made patch with adhesive backing, a few inches larger than the hole
  2. Peel off the paper backing, center the patch over the hole, and press it against the drywall
  3. Use a spackle knife to cover the patch with joint compound or spackle, attempting to leave the coat as smooth as possible
  4. Allow the compound to dry completely before sanding smooth
  5. Apply one to two more coats following the same procedure

Steps for Patching Large Holes in Drywall

Step 1: Cut out the patch

May 2006, Tom Silva drywall hole patch, step 1 David Carmack
  • Using a piece of scrap drywall, cut a square or rectangle that is an inch or two larger than the hole.
  • Hold the square over the hole and mark its outline on the drywall with a pencil.

Step 2: Prep the hole

May 2006, drywall hole patch, step 2 David Carmack
  • Use a drywall saw to cut along the outline until you create a square hole in the wall.

Step 3: Snap back the drywall

May 2006, drywall hole patch, step 3 David Carmack
  • Snap back the drywall pieces inside the outline, then cut each one free with the knife.

Step 4: Add strapping

May 2006, drywall hole patch, step 4 David Carmack
  • Take a scrap of wood a few inches longer than the hole and slide it behind the drywall. Secure it in place by driving screws through the drywall and into the wood.
  • Place the scrap drywall in the hole and screw it to the wood.

Step 5: Attach the patch

May 2006, drywall hole patch, step 5 David Carmack
  • Align the arrow on the patch with the X on the wall
  • Press the patch firmly against the adhesive.
  • Drive two screws, staggered, through the patch and into the strapping.

Step 6: Cover the seams with joint compound

May 2006, drywall hole patch, step 6 David Carmack
  • Use drywall tape, a spackle knife, and several thin coats of joint compound to blend the patch into the wall.

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