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Damaged Drywall? Follow These Steps for an Easy DIY Fix

Jenna Jonaitis
Written by Jenna Jonaitis
Updated January 31, 2022
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Photo: FollowTheFlow / Adobe Stock

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Cracks, holes, dents, and tears in your drywall can take away from your home’s beauty. But with a few tips and the right materials, drywall repair is an easy DIY that can leave your walls looking like the day your home was built. Follow these steps to learn how to repair drywall damage with patches, joint compound, or new pieces of drywall. 

Difficulty: 1/5

Time: 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on size and complexity of the repair

Tools and Materials Needed for Small Drywall Repair (Half-Inch Diameter or Smaller): 

  • Putty knife

  • Self-primed spackle

  • 120-grit sandpaper

  • Dust mask

  • Eye goggles

  • 20-minute drywall compound or drywall mud

  • Drywall repair spray

  • Spray-on orange peel wall texture (for textured surfaces) 

  • Paintable caulk

  • Damp rag 

Extra Tools and Materials Needed for Medium to Large Drywall Repair:

  • Utility knife

  • Fiberglass mesh patch

  • Fiberglass mesh drywall tape

  • Drywall pan or plastic container

  • Shop-vac

  • Dropcloth or cardboard

  • Tape measure

  • Drywall saw or jab saw

  • Three-quarters-to-1-inch-thick piece of scrap lumber or plywood

  • Stud finder

  • Framing square

  • Piece of drywall

  • Drywall screws

  • Construction adhesive

If you decide not to tackle drywall repair yourself, get quotes from local drywall repair contractors. Drywall repair specialists cost between $60 and $90 per hour on average or from $50 to $75 per square foot

1. Assess the Damage

A hole in the drywall caused by a doorknob
Photo: 裕美 稲見 / Adobe Stock

Before making a trip to the hardware store, jot down information about your drywall damage. How large is the hole or area that needs patching? 

  • Small holes or dents that are one-half-inch in diameter or smaller need spackle. 

  • Medium-sized holes larger than one-half-inch wide need a fiberglass mesh patch and drywall compound. 

  • Large holes 8 inches or greater in diameter likely need a new piece of drywall. If that's the case, try to determine the thickness of your current drywall.

  • Cracks are best filled by drywall repair spray or paintable caulk if the crack is near a window. 

2. Ready the Area

Before repairing drywall, ensure you protect yourself and your belongings. When you sand the wall repair compound, it generates a very fine dust. It's critical you wear eye protection and a dust mask. 

If filling in anything larger than a small hole, you'll want to cover the surrounding area, floors, and items with plastic. Drywall dust has a tendency to infiltrate every surface and takes a ton of time to clean off your furniture and clothes.

3. Prepare the Wall

Get your wall ready for patching based on what needs repair.

Minor Repair: Half-Inch Diameter or Smaller

For tiny holes, sand it smooth. Ensure no uneven edges stick out from the rest of the wall.

Medium-Sized Repair: Three-Quarters to 8-Inch Diameter

With a utility knife, carefully remove any damaged drywall, especially any parts that stick out from the wall’s surface. Place a fiberglass mesh patch over the area. 

Large Repair: 8.5-Inch Diameter or Greater

Locate the wall studs on either side of the damage. Mark the center of the stud with a chalk line or pencil. You want to know where to cut the damaged drywall and where to screw in the new drywall; it’s also important to avoid hitting any electrical wires. 

With your drywall square, measure the size of the drywall piece needed to cover the hole by at least a half-inch extra on each side. Cut your drywall patch and place it over the damage. Trace the outline of the new piece with a pencil. With a drywall jab saw, cut the hole needed for your new piece of drywall. 

If the studs aren't located near where you're patching, secure pieces of wood (also known as furring strips) into the wall with construction adhesive or screws. This allows you to screw the drywall into the new wood instead of the wall stud.

4. Fill the Hole

A man repairing a drywall damage
Photo: prasongtakham / Adobe Stock

No matter the size of the hole you're filling, be sure to skim a bit of the wall around the repair spot to create a smooth transition with the rest of the wall. After you apply your final layer of compound, feather the edges of the compound with a damp rag to blend the patched spot in with the existing wall.

Minor Repair: Half-Inch Diameter or Smaller

With your putty knife, spread spackle or drywall compound into the hole. If it's a deep hole, wait until the first layer dries, then add another layer. If you're repairing drywall cracks, fill them in with drywall repair spray or paintable caulk. Fill in large cracks with spackle or compound. 

If there are a lot of holes or cracks near each other, skim the whole area as one, instead of as separate repairs.

Medium-Sized Repair: Three-Quarters to 8-Inch Diameter

With your fiberglass mesh patch in place, cover the entire patch with drywall compound. Press the outer edges of the patch to the wall with your putty knife and compound so it bonds.

Let the first coat dry completely, then spread a second layer of compound over the area. Do the same for a third layer. 

Large Repair: 8.5-Inch Diameter or Greater

Place your new piece of drywall into the hole and screw it into the studs or the wood furring strips you installed. Put mesh drywall tape along the edges to secure it. Apply three layers of joint compound, waiting until each layer dries before spreading the next. 

5. Sand the Repair Smooth 

Wait until your compound is fully dry before you sand it, otherwise you might create divots or bumps and need to repair the spot again. When sanding, aim to be as even as possible. Sand in a circle clockwise and then counterclockwise to mimic an orbital sander. Look at the wall from all angles to see if it’s smooth and run your hand along the area to check for evenness.

6. Clean Up the Dust

As soon as you’re done sanding, gently wipe the repair area with a damp rag to remove any remaining dust. Vacuum your baseboards and floor to sop up all the drywall dust. Not only can dust be harmful to your health, it impacts how well the paint sticks to your wall. Place your work clothes directly in the laundry. 

Congratulations—your drywall repair is done and you’re ready to paint like a pro

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