How To Patch Drywall: Easier Than it Looks!

Once we're out of college, patching holes in drywall involves more than a little toothpaste. Large areas of repair might seem overwhelming and easily subbed out to a contractor or handyman, but it really is a relatively easy endeavor. In my case, I wanted to take out the dinky vintage medicine cabinet in the apartment above my garage.
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As you can see, the whole bathroom badly needed an overhaul, but I needed to start with something small.

What You Need

Materials
Drywall joint compound (aka "mud" in premixed or powder)
Mesh drywall tape
Piece of drywall as big as the hole (cut from scrap dry wall, if available)
2 pieces of wood (1x3 or 1x4, 6 inches longer than the opening)
Drywall screws
120 (medium grit) sandpaper
Primer
Paint to match wall
Paintbrushes or rollers

Tools
Drywall knife or utility knife
Drywall saw or keyhole saw
Metal mud knife
Drill
Philips head bit
Drill bit (sized for drywall screws)
Small bucket (for mixing if you bought powdered drywall compound)
Gloves (recommended)
Dust mask (recommended)
Safety goggles (recommended)
Rags

Instructions

1. If hole in wall is irregular, use drywall saw to create a uniformly square or rectangular hole

2. Measure the hole. Cut two pieces of wood 2 inches larger than the hole. One at a time, place them flush against the inside the existing drywall. Holding firmly onto the wood, drill pilot holes for the drywall screws. Two on top and two on bottom will do. Tighten screws until the wood is firmly seated in place. Repeat with second piece of wood.

3. From scrap piece of drywall, cut a piece the same dimensions as the hole in your wall. Hold it up to the hole, trim with drywall knife to make the fit as precise as possible. Once it fits well, press the piece of drywall firmly against the boards and drill pilot holes through dry wall piece and boards. Tighten screws until secure.

4. Mix drywall compound according to instructions. It will be thicker than pancake batter, but thinner than cookie batter. If you bought the quick set compound, only mix small amounts at a time to keep it from setting too quickly in your bucket while you're working. If you have mixed it too thick, you can add extra water, a little at a time, while further mixing it.

5. Use mud knife to apply a thin coat of mud into and over the seams in the repair area. Smooth it as well as you can. You may need to keep a rag handy to clean off the knife to get a smooth finish. Allow to set.

6. Apply drywall tape over the mud. With a clean knife, press at a 45 degree angle to make sure some of the mud is pressed into the weave of the tape, which will hold it securely in place. Smooth out the edges of mud that came from under the sides of the tape by feathering it outward with the knife. Allow to dry.

7. Apply another coat of mud over the drywall tape. Smooth and use the knife to feather any lumps or bumps away from the seam. Allow to dry.

8. Sand the area so that the seam is even with the wall (this would be an especially good time to wear your dust mask and goggles).

9. Prime (2 to 3 coats), paint and you're done!

Additional Notes:
• The powdered mud comes in various quick-dry versions, but you have to be comfortable with working quickly. Mixing small batches of compound is recommended. If you don't feel ready for that, use the all-purpose mud instead.

• Cutting the piece of drywall to match the hole as closely as possible will make everything else go much faster. Clearly, mine was not as clean as it should have been!

• As my dad still always tells me: Measure twice, cut once. It'll save you a lot of headaches and material.

Want to see more smart tutorials for getting things done around the home? See more How To posts

(Images: Michelle Chin)

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