My Way Of Repairing A Hole In Sheetrock

Note:  A reader wants me to mention that small holes, such as nail/screw holes (up to the size of a dime) and cracks in sheetrock/plaster can be patched using lightweight 'Spackling Compound'.  Press a small glob of this stuff onto the hole, then smooth off the area by scraping over it with the flat edge of a putty knife, spatula, paint mixing stick, etc.

>How does one go about repairing a hole in the wall? It's about the size of a fist... :)

I warn you in advance many people will not agree with this simple approach but, in my opinion, these folks make the repair harder than it has to be.

A sheetrock saw [also called a sheetrock knife for some reason] makes this job easier. They look like keyhole saws but have a sharp point that lets you punch into the sheetrock to get the cut started. A sabre saw (jigsaw) with a wood cutting blade also works well. Some people use a utility (box) knife but, I find them difficult to use for this.

Get a piece of sheetrock [also called drywall or wallboard] a few inches bigger than the hole (scraps from construction site, maybe?).  The edges of sheetrock are thinner than the main area of the sheet so, stay a few inches away from the edge. Draw a circle just larger than the hole and, cut it out. It doesn't have to be a perfect circle.  Lay this patch piece over the hole and trace the outline on the wall--that is, draw around it.  Cut along this outline making a hole in the wall roughly the same size and shape as the patch.

Find/cut/make a piece of wood that's narrow enough to go in the hole and about 3-4" longer than the diameter of the hole.  Thickness doesn't matter much so long as you can get it in the hole but, thinner is usually easier to work with. A piece of 1/4" plywood is perfect but, a wide range of things will work, including a couple of thicknesses of corrugated cardboard glued together.  (If the hole is in the ceiling the backer needs to be stiffer than for a wall so don't use the cardboard trick.)  I'll call this the backer piece.

Insert the backer into the hole such that it extends on each side of the hole and attach it to the inside/backside of the wall.

To hold the backer while you're attaching it to the wall, drill a small hole it's center. Tie a string to a nail, stick or something and thread the other end through the hole. Now, after you put the backer in place, you can pull on the string to hold it in place against the inside of the wall while the glue sets or while running down the screws. Then cut the string and let the nail fall inside the wall. Another way to do this is to put a long screw where the string hole is and use the screw as a handle to hold the backer in place with your fingers or pliers.  Remove the screw, of course, when your done.

Some common ways to attach the backer are:

  • glue it in place with:
    • a hot glue gun
    • caulk
    • construction adhesive
    • glue
  • screw it in place by running screws through the wall

Cold glues require you wait up to a day before finishing. The most common method is screws. If you use screws use flathead screws and tighten them so they just dimple into the sheetrock but, don't tighten them until they cut the paper around the screw head.  If you use an electric drill/driver set the screwdriver clutch to the lowest setting and work up to the right torque. (If that last sentence was Greek ignore it. :-)

After the backer is in place, attach the patch to it using one of the same methods -- thereby filling the hole except for the seam/edges.  Now, using a putty knife (I use a 4"-6" knife but, make do with whatever size you have.) press a glob of joint mud or spackling against the wall, forcing it into the seam (and the screw dimples if you used screws) then, trowel/scrape off the excess making a smooth surface.  Allow this to dry--about a day if mud -- and hour or so if spackling.  Mud will shrink as it dries so, you will probably have to repeat this at least once.  When flush and dry, use a sanding block or a damp sponge to make smooth.  Joint mud takes longer than spackling, but it's more forgiving -- you can use a damp sponge to remove it and do it over-and-over if you have to.

If you have some PVA (polyvinyl acetate) primer handy use it, otherwise just paint.

If the wall is stippled (textured) matching the stippling is another chapter

A note of caution.  This method works well for a repair that's in the central area of a sheet of sheetrock, such that the patch is attached to the surrounding sheetrock and not attached to studding.  When the patch is attached to studding, it and the sheet it abuts can move independently, so you're safer to tape and float the seam to resist cracking.

Those who disagree with my method will do the repair much the same way but, will make a square patch, then tape and float the seams. 

A hint for using a sheetrock saw:  Start the cut by pressing the tip of the saw against the sheetrock at your starting point, then work (drill) the tip into the rock by rotating your hand back and forth (clockwise/counterclockwise) while pressing.  

Dan T writes:

What I did to patch a hole in drywall: (inner wall-no insulation) wadded up newspaper & stuck it in the hole to surround the hole filled the opening with expandable foam cut the foam off even with the wall with a long knife spread drywall compound and sanded it's been so long ago, I forgot where the hole was & I can't find it  

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