Fixing Small Holes in Drywall

Broken Wall
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Drywall makes for an inexpensive, easy-to-install surface—at least when compared to plaster, the old standard wall surface. However, 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. The most common cause of holes in drywall is when fast-swinging doors cause the doorknob to dent or punch holes in the wall.

And as anyone with active kids knows, aggressive playtime can pretty easily ding up drywall surfaces. Drywall is by nature a fairly brittle, fragile material, and it's 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. 

But the fact that drywall panels are so easy to join also makes it easy to repair. Simple 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. In fact, painting the drywall after repairing it might be more difficult than the repair itself. 

The techniques described here are for small holes—no more than 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Larger holes require a different repair method. 

Tools you'll need include: 

  • Utility knife
  • Self-adhesive mesh joint tape
  • Four-inch drywall knife
  • Drywall compound (“mud")
  • Drywall sanding sponge
  • Clean rag
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush

For this kind of small repair, a small tub of premixed joint compound may be easier to use than mixing up a batch of compound from dry powder and water. 

How to Repair Small Holes in Drywall

  1. 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 repair the hole.
  1. Cut off two sections of mesh joint tape, so that each length of tape will extend at least 2 inches beyond each side of the hole.
  2. Apply the mesh 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. 
  3. Using a drywall knife, carefully cover the whole area with joint compound, lightly pressing to force the compound through the mesh of the tape.
  4. Extend some of the joint compound beyond the hole, then smooth it down with the drywall knife. At this point, don’t worry if the mesh tape is visible.
  5. Allow this first layer of joint compound to dry, then lightly sand down any high spots, using a drywall sanding sponge.
  6. Repeat the above process at least two more times, sanding between each dried coat until you have a smooth patch over the hole area. Take care not to oversand—by the time you have applied and sanded the final coat, the fiberglass mesh of the joint tape should not be visible. Too much sanding runs the risk of exposing the joint tape. 
  7. Wipe away all sanding dust with a clean rag, then 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 tends to absorb paint.