I received a call this week from my church’s office manager saying we needed to have some repairs made before a visit from the building inspectors next week. One of the repairs was a hole in the drywall where a door handle had punched through the wall. The doorstop had broken and next thing you know there’s a repair job for the Go-To Guy.
Knowing how to do a patch like this is handy even when you’re not repairing damage. The first time I did one was when I installed phone and cable television service into an older home that my parents had purchased. My brother and I cut holes at the top and bottom of the wall to fish through the new wire, and then I patched up the holes and repainted and you’d never know the wall had been repaired. The same goes for running a new electrical wire or anything else that requires getting inside the wall.
If you don’t already know, a typical wall is mostly air. It is either 2×4 wood studs or metal studs that are placed every 16 inches on-center (when building walls you measure from the center of each stud and not the edges.) The surface is covered with Kings Drywall (a gypsum board covered with a heavy layer of paper) which is screwed or nailed to the studs. It’s quick to build and looks great, but can be easily damaged – especially when the builder uses 1/4 inch thick drywall instead of 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch (these are the standard thicknesses.)
When you have a damaged wall you need to replace the broken area with new drywall and then patch the seams and paint.
The supplies you’ll need for this project are:
Drywall piece large enough to fill the hole
1×3 inch Lumber or pieces of Scrap Plywood for supports
Mesh Fiberglass Drywall Tape
6 inch or larger Spreader
Fine Grit Sand Paper or Drywall Sanding Screen
Drill with Drywall Bit
All of these supplies can be found at your local home center in the construction materials area near the drywall. If you have a small patch, they may give you a scrap of drywall so you won’t have to buy a full sheet. There are usually plenty of scraps laying around in various thicknesses.
Here’s the step-by-step process:
Cut a hole larger than the damaged area. Make the corners of the cut as square as possible to make it easier to cut the replacement patch. Use a drywall saw cut the hole
Cut several pieces of 1×3 inch wood or plywood scraps that are several inches taller than the hole. Place them in the wall near the edges of the hole and use drywall screws to secure the wood to the exisiting wall. (Tighten the screws until the heads are slightly below the surface but don’t completely tear through the paper. A drywall bit for your drill is designed to prevent overtightening. It’s not essetial, but recommended.) The point here is to create a good solid surface to attach the patch too. If you have a large opening you can put an additional support in the center.
Using a utility knife, cut a new patch piece that is slightly smaller than the hole. (To cut drywall, cut the paper on the finished side and then bend the board backward until the gypsum ‘snaps.’ You’ll want to support the back along the cut so it breaks evenly. Once it has snapped, use the utility knife to cut the paper on the back.)
Insert the patch into the opening and securely attach it to the supports you installed using drywall screws. One screw at the top and bottom of each support should be sufficient. (Don’t put the screws too close to the edges or the gypsum will crumble.)
Now that the hole is filled you need to cover the seams. Apply fiberglass mesh tape over the seams. (The joint compound used to fill the seams is not strong and will crack if not reinforced.)
The last step is applying joint compound to the seams with a wide spreading knife Spread the joint compound over the screw holes and tape creating the smoothest surface you can. Don’t get too fussy at this stage. Just get it close. Let this dry overnight and then put on one more light coat. After this coat dries, smooth out any surface bumps with a light sanding.
Your wall is repaired, good as new. Put a coat of wall primer over the patch to seal the surface and then paint it to match the rest of the wall. It’s important to put on the primer, because raw drywall and joint compound, when painted, will dull the finish of the paint and give away your patch job.