Drywall is an inexpensive, easy-to-install surface. It is easy to hang, drill into, finish, and paint. One of the drawbacks of drywall construction for walls and ceilings in residential homes is that it can be damaged fairly easily, with cracks, dents, and holes appearing with only moderate impact. Fortunately, holes in drywall are easy to repair, and the fix takes little time at all.
The most common cause of holes in drywall is when a door swings open and the doorknob dents or punches a hole in the wall. Houses with children often have walls with small holes from a variety of kid activities. Accidentally hitting a wall with a chair can cause holes as well.
Drywall is by nature a fairly brittle, fragile material. Drywall is meant to be that way so it can be cut and fitted quickly during installation. Most wall and ceiling surfaces are only 1/2-inch thick; drywall is not meant to be impervious. Additionally, drywall is faced with paper—equally as fragile as the underlying gypsum.
How to Repair Drywall
The fact that drywall panels are so easy to join also makes them easy to repair. Simple paper joint tape and a small amount of drywall compound—known in the building trades as mud—is all it takes to repair most small holes in drywall surfaces.
Paper joint tape is not self-adhesive, but it does easily adhere with a light application of joint compound with a drywall knife. Paper tape is preferred over fiberglass mesh joint tape. Even though the mesh tape is stronger, it is thicker and more difficult to finish down smoothly.
The techniques described here are for small holes—no more than 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Larger holes require a different repair method that provides more support than merely bridging the hole with joint tape.
Equipment / Tools
- Utility knife
- 4-inch drywall knife
- Drywall sanding sponge
- Clean rag
- Latex or nitrile gloves
- Paper joint tape
- Pre-mixed drywall compound
- Interior paint
Clean up the Torn Paper
Using a utility knife, carve away any stray pieces of surface paper or gypsum that might be protruding out from the surface of the wall. You need the borders of the damaged area to be flat or recessed inward before you can repair the hole.
Protruding paper cannot be forced flat with the joint compound: it will usually stick up.
Apply the Paper Joint Tape
Cut off two sections of paper joint tape, so that each length of tape will extend at least 2 inches beyond each side of the hole.
Smooth down a thin layer of joint compound around the hole. Apply the joint tape over the hole in a cross-shaped pattern, one piece over the other. Press the tape down so that it fully adheres to the wall surface. Do not overwork the joint tape as it can tear or fray.
Cover the Paper With the Joint Compound
Using a drywall knife, carefully cover the whole area with joint compound, lightly pressing down. Extend some of the joint compound beyond the hole, then smooth it down with the drywall knife.
At this point, do not worry if the tape is visible. It will be covered with more joint compound later.
Let the Drywall Patch Cure
Allow this first layer of joint compound to dry. Drying time may take up to two or three hours. You can speed up the joint compound drying time by ventilating the area and by keeping the room warm. Once the joint compound is dry and solid, lightly sand down any high spots with a drywall sanding sponge.
You can easily tell when the joint compound is fully cured and dry. It will all be the same shade of white with no dark spots.
Repeat the Process
Repeat the process once or twice more. Sand between each dried coat until you have a smooth patch over the whole area.
Take care not to sand too deeply. By the time you have applied and sanded the final coat, the joint tape should not be visible. Too much sanding runs the risk of exposing the joint tape.
Clean and Paint
Wipe away all sanding dust with a clean rag, Paint over the patch area with matching paint. It generally takes two coats of paint to adequately cover the patch area, as the joint compound readily absorbs paint.
If you are patching many holes, you may want to first prime the patched area before painting. For just a small hole or two, it should not be necessary to prime first.