Patching up drywall

Any DIY home owner should be able to take on patching drywall, right? If you’re not sure you’re ready you just need to learn a few basic concepts, then apply the appropriate techniques.




You obviously know when a wall or ceiling is in need of a patch. In a sense, you’re half way there! The second half is assessing what you need to create your ideal patch.

Drywall Patch Completed drywall patch area
Photo by elliot, via Picasa

Like covering a hole in your jeans, patching drywall aims to cover a problem area and reinforce the original structure and appearance.

In drywall, the patching game is two-fold: 1) Repair, then 2) Conceal. Both parts have their challenges, and both have tried and true techniques that make the patch strong and virtually disappear.

The secret is using the right approach and materials for your patch repair. Making these decisions depends on a few simple things.

For example: What is the size of the repair area? Can you patch over the blemish, or do you need to cut it out and start from scratch? Is the structure behind the wallboard intact and useful for holding the patch in place? Read below for some basic answers to these questions. Then see how to go about using the solutions provided.

Patching drywall options

Simple patch (small hole)

When you have a small hole or gouge, say bigger than a quarter, but smaller than a playing card, your patching job is relatively easy. For this illustration, we’ll assume we’re patching a hole that goes completely through a piece of sheetrock and is 1″-3″ in size.

What you need:

  • Spackling or all-purpose joint compound
  • Mesh tape or repair-patch
  • Drywall knife
  • Fine-grit sand paper (for smoothing)

How a patch works:

Since a smaller hole of this size doesn’t cover a lot of surface area, you can create a surface patch comprised of joint compound. Unlike a basic wall puncture (smaller than a penny diameter) though, you can’t just press and smooth in spackling. If you did, the material will most likely fall through the hole. As such, you need some kind of backing for the spackling to stick to so it can set up and create a strong hold. Mesh tape or a drywall patch (specifically made for drywall patching), made for small holes works well for these size repairs. Mesh tape and repair patches (like this one) work great because they are self-adhesive so don’t require any pre-mudding to stick. Their mesh material provide great sticking power for joint compound and works great for drywall patching cracks as well.

Medium patch (hand-sized hole)

For “medium” holes, such as the size of a playing card or two (3″-8″), placing a surface patch can be a little more tricky. Mesh tape is not recommended since it’s too flimsy for this size hole. You basically have two options larger drywall patching:

Option 1: They do make more rigid drywall patches for holes up to 6″ or so. Larger fiberglass + aluminum patches come in sizes up to 8-inches. Use on holes that are no bigger than about 6-inches, so you have some edge space for the self-adhesive backing to grab onto. These work well on walls, but not on ceilings. Hanging upside-down doesn’t allow the patch to stick, and if it does, it tends to sag.

Option 2:If you have some scrap drywall, you can take a replacement approach to patching drywall. Cut a symmetrical hole around the edges of your hole. You’ll match the size of this hole to your scrap piece.

Homemade drywall patch

Here’s the key: Use a utility knife or small saw and cut an angles on the sides. The angle will create a beveled opening. Bevel (taper) the edges of your scrap piece to the same size. Coating the edges with spackling will create a good enough bond between the two pieces.

What you need:

  • Spackling or all-purpose joint compound
  • Drywall repair patch (e.g. 4×4 or 8×8)
  • Drywall knife or saw
  • Fine-grit sand paper (for smoothing)

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