Fixing Holes in Dry Wall - the Perfect Patch Method





Introduction: Fixing Holes in Dry Wall - the Perfect Patch Method

About: Man Up is my attempt to share some of my varied skills (what the kids call "adulting" these days). I try to add a touch of humor, and maybe a little salt. Don't worry, ladies. You can Man Up too. J...

I've put my fair share of holes in walls in my youth. When I bought a foreclosure for my first home, I learned about fixing them. It's actually pretty easy, but a professional might charge you a few hundred dollars anyway. I'm going to show you how to fix huge holes so that you never knew they were there.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

Don't waste money on those drywall repair kits. Here's what you need:

  • A drywall "project panel". These are usually less than $5 at your home improvement center, and they measure 24"x24". If you think you'll need to repair more than a few holes, than a 4'x8' sheet of drywall is about $12.
  • Polystyrene 1x2 moulding and...
  • A saw to cut it with.
  • Spackle or joint compound. You can't go wrong either way. Spackle makes sense for most people - joint compound is more for if you're going to be putting up a lot of drywall. I'm going to use the two terms interchangeably here, but know that there are subtle and important differences between them - mostly in the area of cost.
  • A can of paint that matches your walls color. If it wasn't the original paint, then just get close for now, and commit yourself to repainting the entire wall later on. The funny thing about paint is that even the same paint code doesn't look the same over time because manufacturers often change the chemistry of the base.
  • Painting tools, including a paint brush, paint roller and paint tray.
  • A timber framing square.
  • A carpet knife.
  • A putty knife.
  • A screwgun.
  • Drywall screws.
  • A sanding block with 100 grit paper attached (or a 100 grit sanding sponge).

Any project that involves guns and knives ought to be fun...

Step 2: Measure Your Hole

Using your timber framing square, measure an area around the hole for length and width. I like to add plenty of room because however big the hole is on the surface, it's often bigger on the outside. Give yourself 2" to 3" extra, or use a minimum panel size of 6" x 6".

Step 3: Transfer Measurements

Using your timber framing square, transfer your measurements onto your patch panel. You can also use your timber framing square as a straight edge to score the cuts with a carpet knife. After 2-3 firm passes with the carpet knife, you won't need the square anymore.

Don't try to cut through the drywall all at once. Just keep making repeated passes with the carpet knife. Yes, this will kill the blade almost immediately, but it gives you a nice clean edge. Blades are cheap, and you probably are due to replace it anyway.

You could use a drywall saw or other tool to saw this panel out. I find that they leave very rough edges that require additional cleanup. The carpet knife leaves a nice, clean, almost surgical edge. My OCD compels me to that result.

Step 4: Your Patch Is Your Guide

Lay your patch over your hole, and trace around it. The result is a hole that is only slightly larger than your patch panel. This is part of the secret to making the repair invisible. If you tried to cut a hole then cut a patch to match the hole, there would be huge gaps between the two. The joint compound in those gaps would eventually separate, leaving tiny cracks.

Step 5: Make Support Braces for the Patch

Cut the polystyrene 1x2 trim into two sections that are 2" - 3" longer than the hole is top to bottom. Place these inside the wall, the drive drywalls screws through the drywall and into the 1x2's to hold them firmly against the inside of the wall. This is what your patch will attach to.

I can't emphasize the importance of this step. Actually, I can: the choice of polystyrene over just wood is for two reasons. One, wood tends to split when you drive a screw into it. That doesn't make for a very secure connection. For another, wood swells with moisture, causing it to shift around. Polystyrene doesn't have that problem. If you had anchored this piece of drywall to an existing stud or used wooden 1x2's, a few years of changing indoor humidity would push and pull the patch around, causing it to separate from the surrounding drywall.

Real quick - with a piece of sandpaper on a sanding block, go head and knock off the edges both around the hole and the patch. This will prevent them from sitting proud and leaving a visible seam.

Step 6: Install the Patch

Now put the patch into the hole, and secure it in place with a few screws. A few things to watch for:

First, make sure all screws are slightly countersunk below the surface - about 1/8" of an inch is fine, but not much more than that. We'll want to press the joint compound into these holes in the next step to hide the screws.

Second, make sure you leave an even gap around the edges of the patch. If the patch is butted against the drywall, we won't be able to force any joint compound (or spackle) into this gap, and that will leave a noticeable seam.

Step 7: Spackle That!

But wait... pro-tip... if you try to apply spackle/joint compound to dry drywall, the paper covering on the drywall will suck the moisture out of it. So get yourself an old rag, make it damp - not dripping wet - and wipe down the surrounding wall and patch panel. This will also help the joint compound adhere to the paper.

Load your joint compound on your putty knife, and just smash it into the gaps. We want to fill those gaps, and also the holes left over the drywall screws. Push it in, then knife it smooth. Technique helps here. Hold the knife at a 45-ish degree angle as you pull the joint compound around. Use a medium pressure and a medium speed. Once you've filled in all the gaps and holes, go ahead and spread light film over the patch and out to a 1" margin around the patch panel. If it helps you feel better about this part of the job, then do your best Bob Ross impression. Mix a little titanium white with some thalo blue...

Step 8: Sand It Smooth

Give the joint compound plenty of time to dry. We're talking 3 hours here. Much of it will dry within an hour, but the screwheads and seam will take longer.

With your 100 grit sanding block (I prefer the block, but you can use a sponge), slowly sand over the entire patch using a circular motion. Don't stay in one spot too long, or you'll leave a dip.

It's hard to visually tell when you're done sanding - the bright white of the joint compound tends to hide defects that magically pop out when you start to paint. But your hand never lies - gently rub your hand over the patch panel, and feel with your finger tips. High spots will need to be sanded a little more. Dips will need to have more joint compound knifed on. (Really thin layers only need about an hour to dry.)

This step creates a lot of dust. For a small patch panel like this, you can just try to avoid the dust like I did in the video, but I highly recommend that you use a face mask or respirator, as well as goggles. This is particularly true if you're going to do a lot of drywall work - the dust is listed as an occupational hazard, and tradesman typically wear googles and respirators, if not body suits. (It makes cleanup easier, too.)

Step 9: Paint Like a Boss

Now it's time to paint, and this is a two step process.

Note: User giedrius.dyra pointed out that I didn't put down anything to protect the carpet. I actually plan to put in laminate flooring - and yes, there will be an Instructable for that - so I wasn't worried about it. You, on the other hand, should definitely get some thick plastic sheeting and tape it to the base board. When you roll, little bits of paint will get flicked around, so cover the floor about 4 get in all directions.

First, the freshly sanded joint compound will soak up moisture like a sponge, and that will show up as a difference in color and texture in the finished product. To start, I recommend loading up the end of a brush with a generous level fo paint, and tabbing it around the seams and over the screw heads. After a few seconds of excess paint sitting on those areas, brush it out in long feathering strokes. Again, feel free to channel Bob Ross here.

After that first brushing of paint has dried, come back with a roller. Chances are, your wall was originally painted with a roller, and that resulted in that specific "egg shell" texture. Using a roller will achieve that same texture and blend in the patch area. You'll want to roll the paint over a much wider area than the patch itself, and let the roller run dry - that is, don't reload the roller, but just let the paint kind of roll off into the dry areas. This will help the patch area blend better. As the paint dries, the difference in colors will disappear. The end result: a perfect patch.



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    Great video. Can anyone tell me where to buy "EPS trim board" used in this project? I can't seem to find anything like that, at least not here in Canada.

    I've done quite a few of these over the years, mainly for pulling cables though studwork. This seems over complicated.

    Step 1 - cut a hole around the break large enough to get any hidden cracks etc. - use a drywall saw.

    Step 2 - liberally apply PVA to all the edges to seal and consolidate.

    Step 3 - cut some strips of 6-mm ply or similar about 20-mm wide and long enough to span the hole. Glue the strips to the back of the plasterboard with a solvent-free grab adhesive so that the strips are visable - these provide the backing. Allow 24-hrs to dry out. Use the screw method for large repairs bigger than 12" x 12".

    Step 4 - cut a piece of plasterboard (6-ft by 3-ft are dirt cheap or builders merchants have broken sheets to give away) to fit the hole with a gap of at least 6-mm all round and chamfer all the edges (feather edge).

    Step 5 - mix up a creamy bowl of plasterboard joint compound - don't use Polyfilla etc. - put some "dollops" of compound onto the ply. Press the repair plasterboard in flush. Load a 6" filling knife with compound and really squeeze it into the gaps and feather it out to inches beyond the hole - you won't fill this in one go.

    Step 6 - Sand down with 120-grit mesh. Shine a strong light across the area to see the high and low spots. Give it a coat of emulsion to consolidate. Fill or sand as required. Repeat until it meets your standards.

    Glass fibre joint tape can help. Taking whole sections of board out is overkill.

    Don't rub down to the point where you are exposing the paper "fluff" - if you do, seal with PVA/stain sealer/top coat paint or it will bubble every time you paint over with emulsion.

    For cable pulling where there are noggins about halfway up, use a large (70-mm plus) to cut an access hole. Drill through the noggin. Pull the cable. Use the method above to replace the cutout disk.

    The strong light test is a killer for bad plasterboarding - do it night and you will see just how bad the professionals are - if you get it smooth under these conditions, it will look right under normal conditions.

    3 replies

    Hi PhilS43 I agree with you iam a plasterer and gyprock is one of the poorest products ever invented apparently it was suppose to be a quick fix thing after the second world war that never went away. As for the sanding part iam sure your work never saw a sander as one of the comments mentioned i don't even sand it i just get a pail of water a terry towel wet it not soaking and wipe it over the work. In Aust we are not allowed to wet sand, i don't no how you are meant to get a flat surface with a rag and your hand he also stated it left a nice textured finish just what you don't want. Now to the nailing thank you screw guns gyprock is fragile enough with out being belted with a hammer nothing better than a apprentice trying to hit in a nail getting frustrated smashing it breaking the face of paper with his hammer head nail now useless and more damage to try and hide. You seem to have a idea about what you are talking about as you mention not scuffing the face of the paper when sanding my only gripe was with the lights it doesn't matter how good a job you do a 4ft florescent light on the ceiling will show up everything in England they top coat the whole sheet so the paint has the same suction over the entire surface. Just one more thing, when doing a join, please use paper tape fiberglass tape is rubbish in Aust the code will not let you use it on ceilings, villa board aka fiber cement sheets. When using it on wall joins they must be back blocked first more work than just using paper tape. Anyhow happy building what eva it is and there is always more than one way to approach a job i am happy to learn new ways to do things. Have a good day. TimothyK34.

    You my friend are a plasterers night mare by telling people to use a strong light test to see how bad even professional plasterers work is is just wrong. For one gyprock iam australian dry wall as americans call it is a faulty product to start with you have a paper surface and where your joins are you have a plaster surface. Now the problem being is when you paint it both surfaces have total different suction characteristics so when you shine a light across them of course you are going to see them if you want to enjoy your gyprock joins put four foot fluorescent lights on your ceilings and you will see every join and screw hole up there. Believe me you will never get a job perfect shining artificial light on it by the way ive been plastering for 30 odd years if you would like to understand more go to your nearest gyprock supplier and ask for a critical lighting spec sheet that will explain it all. By the way if you want the joins in your ceilings to disappear install down lights and they will magically be gone.

    Hello TimothyK

    My own house was built 30-years ago and most of the ceiling and wall surfaces are standard 1/2" board on wooden studwork. Over the years, I have discovered just how poor the original drywalling was.

    Artex covers the worst of the ceiling defects, but even a ceiling lamp with shade shows up what looks like the surface of the Moon - I doubt that the joints ever saw a sander.

    The walls are as bad. Fixed to 38-mm studs (nominal 3" or 4" x 2" CLS), joints don't stand a chance - no feather edging, nails of all lengths so close to the edge that it is either smashed or the nails aren't holding. Joints paper taped over, no mesh. Many nailheads have popped and are easily pulled out - anyone fixing shelves etc. to the board and not the studwork are asking for trouble. I now routinely remove all nails and rescrew the board. Now, with good adhesives around, there is no need for to bash nails in. I hate nails. Maybe your standards are better, but you shouldn't be afraid to have your work tested - making defects disappear by magic downlights is a bit like burying your head in the sand.
    I don't do this for a living, but I have done a fair number of walls and ceilings over the years. I still have an original copy of the British Gypsum "White Book" which goes through all the points you raise about lighting.
    Drywall board starts life as a pristine product, but as each trade gets their hands on it, it gets wrecked. Given the choice, I would rather have studs and board for a wall surface than solid block and plaster anytime for all the reasons of better insulation etc.
    By the way, in the UK, gypsum based wallboard is a dirty word now with very strict disposal regulations. This mainly because calcium suphate mixed with household waste gives off hydrogen sulphide, a toxic gas. Given that calcium sulphate (gypsum) is mined naturally from the ground, it seems odd that returning it to the ground is now so bad. I wonder if all the broken bones plaster casts have to go the same way.
    But don't worry mate, I won't be torching your walls in the near future, I've got enough work here.

    I don't want to put you down but what you just showed us is missing a very important step. I plaster for a living and by not taping the joints all you will end up with is a nice neat square crack. Try banging the wall around your repair and watch a nice neat square crack appear. Whether you us paper tape or fiber glass tape (aka easy tape) After 30 years of plastering i would not recommend letting anyone plaster anything for me if i saw them using fiberglass tape. The ible was quite good other than the missing step here is a link to watch all the best.Tim.

    2 replies

    You certainly have to tape and mud the 1/8" expansion joints between panels when hanging drywall sheet. That's to deal with expansion and shear. This is a tiny little patch in the middle of a panel with polystyrene backing slats providing support and stability and very tiny joints. I have patches done like this which are 10 years old that have no sign of cracking, even taking a few hits from wayward door knobs.

    (And I completely agree on the fiberglass tape. Paper tape, pre-wetted in a slurry of watered down joint compound, is the only way to go.)


    This was an excellent description of the classic method - great job. Some of the commenters also described oerfectly workable alternatives. But for small holes up to about 3 inches or so, there is MUCH easier way thsn any of these. For a less than 5 bucks you can buy a pack of 2-4 pre-made patches at any home supply store, or even at Walmart. The are fiberglass mesh (larger ones use fine metal wire) covered on the outside with dried patch compound, except for a bare strip all around the edges. The underside is covered wit adhesive. Sand the hole so the surface is smooth. Peel the paper backing off the patch and stick it over the hole. Let the adhesive set for a few minutes, then cover the hole patch with a thin layer of joint compound, just enough to cover the thin mesh. Let dry an hour or two, then lightly sand, dust and paint. You're done, with no measuring, cutting, screwing, gaps or cracks to worry about. It works great, and if you smooth the spackle carefully, you'll never see the patch.

    The california patch is much better. No cracks.

    I would strongly suggest to cover that carpet :) Thats total mess, man and risk of ruining it if paint spills. BTW you will get some sprinkles from roller, so imagine if its dark carpet. Also I would never roll like you did - every direction. Just go up and down...

    But overall I liked your ible. This is what I do also :) Sometimes don't even bother much and screw same plasterboard from back side and patch on top of it. Have some holes made few years ago and no sign of cracks what so ever...

    3 replies

    You can fix hole with out all the tools and time. Take your hole and cut out the damage area, make it a sqaure or retriangle. Take a piece of drywall. Cut the patch about a 1 1/2" bigger all they way a round then the hole. Turn drywall over and score the paper the size of your hole. Then break the drywall at the score marks, pulling the drywall off the paper. When you are done you will have a piece of drywall the size of the hole with flaps around all sides. Then apply drywall compound around the hole covering the area the size of your flaps. Put the patch in hole, dont push to far in. Take a putty knife and press the flaps down. Then take a little compound and apply around tbe flap, feather your compound around. Dry and sand. Paint. I can fix 4" × 5" hole In about 5 minutes. Not including painting and sanding.

    This is the best method in my opinion to fix larger holes. Have used this many times.

    I'm replacing the carpet in a future episode. but you're right - I should mention that for people who want to keep their carpet ?

    As for the all-directions rolling, that's too blend the paint with its surrounding's. One should never do that on a new paint job.

    Watch for the update...

    You are, 'The Man'

    Thanks for taking the time too explain how to carry out this repair. An excellent Instructable.

    I don't even mess with the bracing & all of that.
    When I worked in property services (aka handyman), I just carried a couple of 16" squares of drywall, and went from stud to stud. You can throw the panel in and tape & mud the seams faster than messing with little braces and all that.

    Thank you for the drywall repair lesson. As a single woman I have learned to do most minor home repairs myself, so this lesson will help make my repairs a little more professional looking. I'd LOVE to see an instructable on how to do the various finishes done on drywall. Most of my house has what I believe is called "knock-down" where it looks like you put too much spackle on the wall then just draw your blade over the top to smooth down the high spots. It's the same technique used on my ceilings. Also, how to repair "dimples" in the drywall - not a hole completely through but just enough to tear the paper and smash some of the interior so it's no longer flat. Do I simply fill in with spackle?? Thanks again!

    1 reply

    Yes - spackle is ideal for dimples, gouges and the like. And the dry time is faster since there's not that much depth to filling material.

    I don't have much experience with other types of finishes. I like things flat and smooth most of the time, though I'm growing to appreciate the cob and lime-plaster surfaces seen in earthbag (superadobe), hay bale, and wattle-and-daub houses that are cropping up in the modern homesteading movement.

    And kudo's to you, single woman, for tackling minor projects yourself. I hope it gives you the confidence to tackle more complex stuff. I was raised by a single mom, and now I have a daughter, so I'm all about #girlpower.

    Thank you so much for a very clear, step-by-step video!!

    I have patched and installed walls many times, but I do not sand any of it at all. Here is what I do, with excellent results and no dust:

    - Apply the joint compound as usual and let it dry, at least overnight

    - Fill a bucket half full of water

    - Dip an old terrycloth wash cloth or part of a towel in the water and ring it out a some

    - Wipe back and forth across the joint, occasionally rinsing the cloth. Do this until the joint looks good. The cloth material will intentionally give the joint a little texture

    - Let it dry and get ready to be amazed (and dust-free)

    Awesome Instructible!

    I am hopelessly inept at figuring out home repair stuff.

    Having raised 6 kids, this tutorial will prove priceless!