Indoor Maintenance

Patching up Drywall

It’s true that size doesn’t matter – unless there’s a hole in the wall.

The smaller holes –– from anchors, screws, nails or picture hangers –– are a snap to fix and will take just a few minutes of your time.

On the other hand, if you put something on a shelf, it couldn’t hold the weight and collapsed, taking a chunk of the wall with it, then the job still isn’t terribly difficult. That’s the advantage of drywall.

“Before painting, you’ll want to fill in the small holes,” says Mike Frentz. As mentioned in the previous columns, the easiest way Mike recommends to do this is with Fast'n'Final, a premixed spackle from Dap®.

“You can do it in one application, no sanding, and you can even paint it while it’s still wet because it’s such a small hole,” Mike says, adding that Fast'n'Final outsells its nearest competitor by 10-to-1 in their store.

In larger holes, that means it’s a little harder to work with because it’s heavy enough to roll right out of the hole you’re trying to patch.

But if that’s your preference, it’s fine for this kind of work, Mike says, but he notes you will have to wait until it’s dry to paint the patch, and you’ll have to sand it, too.

The main advantage of this traditional spackle is that it dries to a much harder finish, while the ONETIME, even when completely dry, can still be scratched with a fingernail.

If you have a hole resulting from a shelf that couldn’t support the weight, or more common, a door that was opened too far and the doorknob went through the wall behind it, then you’ll have to move up a step in the repair process.

“There’s nothing behind drywall to hold it,” Mike says, referring to spackle just spread over a larger hole. The solution is a pre-made patch, made by Custom®, that’s made of fiberglass mesh, a very thin sheet of aluminum, and is self-adhering.

“The aluminum gives the patch its strength,” Mike says. The patches come in three sizes, up to 8-by-8 inches. “You just put it right over the hole and then put joint compound over the top, feathering it out toward the edges of the hole,” he adds.

For a crack in the wall, or a slightly smaller hole, you can follow the same procedure but instead of a Custom® patch, you can use Promesh, “which is just an adhesive-backed mesh.” It looks like a roll of tape, and comes on a roll 36 feet long and 2 inches wide. Once applied, joint compound goes right over it.

When working with a hole the size of a doorknob or larger, it’s a good idea to create a chamfer, or bevel, on all edges of the hole. Basically that means sanding the edges of the hole to a 45-degree angle, so the mesh and compound have more surface to stick to and you get rid of the jagged edges, which makes for a more professional job.

(If none of this sounds appealing, cover plates are the solution for you. Frentz and Sons sells plates pre-made to cover holes of varying sizes. They’re self-adhering. You just select one slightly larger than the area you’re trying to fill, stick it on, sand it down and paint.)

The last solution for a wall with serious damage, something along the line of a bowling ball going through it, is to make the hole larger and then actually replace that section of the drywall.

This sounds like a great idea, but as Mike points out, it’s very difficult to find someone who sells small, 1-by-1 or 3-by-3-foot patches of drywall. You have to buy an entire sheet, so before choosing this option, make sure you know what you’re in for.

The idea is to cut the hole out of the wall. You’ll probably want to cut a rectangle, from the center of one wall stud to the center of the next, get a piece of drywall cut to that size, and splice it into the wall using seamless tape and joint compound.

(Mike says wall studs are measured from their centers, so if you find the center of one, the center of the next is exactly 16 inches to the right of left. You go for the center because it’s the strongest part of the stud to use as an anchor for the drywall patch.)