How to Patch Holes—Large and Small—in Drywall
Whether they're intentionally made or not, holes in walls happen. Fortunately for homeowners and renters alike, though, patching small and large holes in drywall is a relatively easy DIY project.
Small holes in drywall can be caused by screws, nails, pushpins, and other fasteners that are commonly used to hang wall art or secure decor, furniture, or wall mounts. While these objects are in place the holes are essentially invisible, but if you want to make a change to your decor, you will need to fill these holes with drywall compound or hang a similarly sized object to cover the holes in the wall.
Larger holes in drywall are typically the result of an accident. Someone fell into the drywall, an object hit the drywall, or a hole was cut in the wrong location and needs to be patched. These larger holes aren't as quick and easy to fill as simple nail holes, but it's still possible to patch and paint the drywall to help your wall look like new. So, whether you are filling nail holes, patching small holes, or repairing a larger hole, learning how to patch holes in drywall is an important skill for home renovations and ongoing home maintenance.
Gauging the Size of the Hole
The process for patching holes will depend on the size of the hole. Before starting your drywall repairs, you will need to gauge the extent of the damage to determine how best to handle the situation. Near-unnoticeable holes or damage from fasteners, dents, or dings—which can easily happen when moving furniture, when carrying items into the home, or from kids or pets playing indoors—are minor blemishes that can be patched quickly with drywall compound and a putty knife.
Small holes in drywall, about the size of a doorknob and larger, cannot be fixed with only drywall compound or spackle because the patching compound will collapse into the hole without adequate support. To repair these small holes in drywall, you'll need an adhesive patch kit that can cover the hole and provide enough support for the drywall compound while it dries.
If the damaged area is larger than about 1 square foot, you'll need more than a patch kit. Instead, you will need to install a new piece of drywall that is cut to the correct size and shape in order to complete the repair. This replacement piece of drywall is typically supported by small strips of wood installed inside the hole on either side of the replacement piece, preventing the patch from collapsing into the wall.
Touch-ups vs. Painting the Whole Wall
After repairing damage to the drywall, you will need to decide whether to touch-up the repair or repaint the whole wall. Minor blemishes like dents or nail holes may be covered up with a quick dab of touch-up paint that blends into the existing color of the wall, but as the size of the repair gets bigger, it becomes more difficult to adequately touch-up the patch without the new paint standing out. In these situations, you may need to repaint the whole wall.
How to Patch Very Small Holes and Dents in Drywall
Spackle repairs are the most basic drywall fix. You don't need to worry about cutting replacement pieces of drywall because the damage is so minimal that you can use spackle to patch dents, dings, and small nail or screw holes. This type of repair typically takes just a few minutes to complete, though you still need to wait for the spackle to dry if you want to paint over it.
What You'll Need
- Putty knife
- Paint brush
Step 1: Locate the Damage
It's easy to find a gaping hole in the wall, but when you are dealing with minor dents and dings, the damage isn't as easy to spot. Take the time to locate any and all minor damage within a room or area of your home, so you can fix many drywall dings at once.
Step 2: Fill the Hole, Dent, or Ding with Spackle
Use a putty knife to apply spackle to the damaged area. Completely fill the hole with spackle, then use the putty knife to scrape away any extra. You don't need to try for a perfect finish at this point, so it's OK if there is a little excess spackle leftover during the drying process.
Step 3: Wait for the Spackle to Dry
It's tempting to skip this step for such a minor repair, but if you try to sand or paint too soon, the spackle could sink into the wall or come off entirely. Check the manufacturer's directions to find out how long the spackle takes to dry and wait the recommended time before proceeding to the next step.
Step 4: Sand and Paint the Repair
Use a sanding block or sandpaper to sand the hardened spackle and create a smooth surface. If necessary, use paint to touch up the repair for a like-it-never-happened finish. If you painted the room recently, use leftover paint from that project. If you don't have a matching color on hand, work with your local home improvement store to use a paint chip to mix a color-matched paint. It's well-worth the time and effort to be precise here: A shade that you thought would be close enough at the store likely won't match the exact color of the existing paint, making your repair job stand out.
How to Patch Small Holes in Drywall
Patch kits are designed to fix holes that are about the size of a doorknob. Kits come with a self-adhesive mesh patch that sticks to the drywall and covers the hole. These patches are quick and easy to use, but because the patch goes on top of the drywall on the edges of the hole, this area will be slightly raised after the repair is complete.
What You'll Need
- Patch kit
- Spackle or joint compound
- Putty knife
- Paint brush
Step 1: Sand or Scrape the Edges of the Hole
Before applying the adhesive patch over the hole, you should check to make sure that the edges of the hole are smooth. Otherwise, the patch may not sit flush against the wall, resulting in an uneven finish. Use sandpaper or the putty knife to sand or scrape the edge around the hole so that the patch can stick to the smooth surface.
Step 2: Apply the Patch
The patch has an adhesive backing that will stick to the smooth drywall surrounding the hole. Place the patch over the hole and apply pressure evenly across the entire patch to ensure that it is securely attached.
Step 3: Spread the Spackle
Minor repairs are typically completed with spackle, while more major repairs are completed with joint compound. When you are using a patch kit, you can apply either spackle or a lightweight joint compound over the patch, completely covering it. Apply a second layer, if necessary, then smooth the spackle or joint compound with the putty knife, feathering the edges so it blends with the wall. Feather the edge by increasing the pressure and flattening the blade on the putty knife as you reach the edge of the patch to reduce the amount of spackle or joint compound applied to the drywall.
Step 4: Let the Spackle Dry
You won't be able to sand or paint until the spackle has dried, so check the manufacturer's directions to find out how long you should wait before proceeding. Typically, spackle takes two to three hours to dry, while joint compound takes about 24 hours.
Step 5: Sand and Paint
Sand down the dried spackle or joint compound with a sanding block or sandpaper. Smooth out the repair so that the patch blends as seamlessly as possible with the rest of the wall. Prime and paint the patch to match the rest of the wall, or consider repainting the entire wall if you are worried about the patch standing out.
How to Patch Large Holes in Drywall
Drywall patches are used for larger holes (around 1 square foot) in drywall. Due to the extent of the damage, a small patch kit cannot cover the entire hole, so you need to measure and cut a piece of drywall to fill the hole. This replacement piece of drywall is typically supported by small strips of wood, called furring strips, that are installed inside the wall on either side of the hole. After installing the new drywall, the patch will need to be taped, covered with drywall compound, and allowed to dry before it can be sanded and painted.
What You'll Need
- Measuring tape
- Utility knife
- Drywall saw
- Furring strips
- Drywall tape
- Joint compound
- Putty knife
- Paint brush
Step 1: Measure and Cut a Piece of Drywall
Due to the size of the hole, you will need to cut a new piece of drywall that can be used to patch the damage. Use a tape measure to measure the hole, then use a utility knife to cut a piece of drywall that is larger than the hole.
Step 2: Cut the Drywall Around the Hole
The drywall patch needs to be larger than the hole because most drywall holes are irregularly shaped, so the hole will need to be cut larger and into a regular shape before it can be patched. Hold the cut piece of drywall up to the wall so that it covers the hole entirely, then use a pencil to trace the border around the piece of drywall. Use a drywall saw to cut the hole to the size and shape of the patch by following the traced pencil line.
Step 3: Install Furring Strips
Measure and cut thin strips of wood to fit vertically inside the wall on either side of the hole, with half of each strip secured to the drywall using drywall screws and a drill. The other half of each strip should stick out into the hole to act as a support for the drywall patch.
Step 4: Attach the Patch to the Furring Strips
Position the cut drywall patch in the hole and secure the patch to the furring strips using drywall screws and a drill. As long as you traced and cut the hole to the same size and shape as the patch, it should fit snugly in the opening.
Step 5: Apply Joint Tape and Joint Compound
Use mesh joint tape on the borders of the patch to strengthen the repair, reduce shifting, and help prevent future cracks. Cover the entire patch and joint tape with joint compound using a putty knife. If necessary, apply a second layer, then use the putty knife to smooth the joint compound. Feather the edges to help the repair blend in with the rest of the wall.
Textured drywall repairs are a bit more difficult than a standard drywall repair because after doing the work to fix the drywall, you also need to create the same textured appearance. You can either invest in a wall texture spray as a quick alternative or learn how to create drywall textures, like comb, popcorn, or orange peel, to name a few.
Step 6: Let Dry, Then Sand and Paint
Check the manufacturer's directions to find out how long you need to wait until the joint compound dries. On average, it takes about 24 to 48 hours before the joint compound is ready for sanding.
Smooth the joint compound with sandpaper or a sanding block to blend the repair with the wall. When you achieve the desired look and feel, you can prime and paint the patch to match the surrounding walls, though you might want to repaint the entire wall if you are repairing a large hole on a highly visible wall, because an isolated patch of new paint will stand out. Consider priming, too: Repairs on larger holes should be primed before they are repainted to prevent the texture of the patch from sticking out, which is a common problem with high-gloss paints.