Basic Tips for Repairing Drywall

Basic Tips for Repairing Drywall

Making simple drywall repairs is one of the most basic skills required when owning a home. However, just because it's a basic skill doesn't make drywall repair easy—sometimes it takes more than just a can of spackling and a small putty knife. Also, for a novice, there's a dizzying array of drywall tools out there to choose from.

Here are a few tips and tricks about drywall repair, including some mistakes to avoid.

Best Drywall Repair Tools for Beginners

Depending on how complicated your project is, you'll need a few basic tools for repairing drywall, including:

  • Drywall saw
  • Drywall hammer
  • Drywall screw gun
  • Utility knife
  • Tape measure
  • T-square
  • Framing square
  • Chalkline and pencil


Of couse you should check out our Level 5's drywall kits and specialized tools like automatic tapers and corner tools to make your job easier and more professional.

While successfully creating neat seams has more to do with a light touch than it does with the tools you use, beginners are better off using thin, lightweight knives. The drywall trowels that professional trades prefer can be stiff and heavy.

5 Quick Tips for Repairing Drywall

Repairing drywall is often more art than science. To help you get up to speed, here are 5 tips we think will help you get better at this art more quickly.

1. Use Self-Priming Filler

Patches made with traditional patching materials need to be primed with a sealing primer before painting, or the patched areas will likely show through the finished paint job. However, if you patch with a self-priming patching material, you can avoid this extra step.

2. Make a Dent for the Patching Compound

When you remove a nail, drywall anchor or picture hanger, there is usually a little ridge of old paint or drywall sticking out that's hard to cover with patching material. The solution? Make a dent over the hole, and then fill the dent.

3. Fill a Row of Holes with One Swipe

Professional drywall tapers always fill a row of screw holes with one long stripe of joint compound, rather than filling every screw hole separately. In addition to being faster, this method disguises the screw holes better and makes it easier to sand the patch.

4. Skim-Coat Areas with Lots of Dents and Holes

In areas with a lot of dents and holes, such as the garage or entry where boots, hockey sticks and golf club bags leave their marks, don't try to fill every dent individually.

Instead get a wider taping knife and skim the entire area with a 'topping' or 'all-purpose' joint compound.

5. Use a 'Raking Light' When Patching Walls

When you're preparing your walls for paint, position a bright light so that the beam rakes across the wall. This will accentuate any defects, making them easier to see and fix, and will alert you to patches that need more fill or additional sanding.

Common Drywall Repair Mistakes, and How to Fix Them

While installing drywall is its own entire discipline that takes a while to master, most DIYers start out by fixing damaged drywall. Here are a few common mistakes, and how to quickly fix them.

1. Ending Up With Oversanded Drywall

A common DIY mistake is getting too enthusiastic about sanding a drywall joint. If you sand too much, you'll actually remove part of the paper face; this will need to be repaired.

To fix this mistake:

  • Apply new joint compound if the damage is extensive.
  • After the compound is dry, sand the area with fine-grit sandpaper... while remembering not to sand too vigorously!

2. Ending Up With Drywall Wall Pops

Drywall pops are nails that have moved from under the surface of the drywall and popped through the finish.

To fix this:

  • Carefully chip away any material that is not flush with the wall or ceiling surface.
  • Drive screws into the surface of the drywall to securely attach it.
  • Finish the surface with joint compound, and sand when dry.

NOTE: When installing drywall, use screws instead of nails. Screws are less likely to create pops.

Ending Up With an Overcut

When installing drywall, cutting out electrical boxes may seem fairly straightforward, but with beginners, overcuts often can occur.

If you are replacing an electrical box, and the drywall hole is too large for the new box, here is a quick fix:

To fill in the hole before finishing:

  • Measure a piece of mesh tape to fit over the hole.
  • Using a knife, trim the mesh tape to the appropriate length.
  • Apply joint compound to the mesh tape (the joint compound should fill all of the holes in the tape).
  • Cover the area completely with the joint compound.
  • Let dry.
  • Apply a second coat to the area and feather into the wall.
  • Let dry and sand smooth.

Ending Up With Bubbled Tape

Bubbled tape appears when the tape has not been completely embedded into the joint compound. The tape becomes loose and a bubble appears on the wall. The tape then pulls away from the wall, creating a bubble along the surface of the wall.

To fix it:

  • Carefully cut out the affected area with a utility knife.
  • Retape and apply joint compound to the surface.
  • Allow it to dry and then apply a second coat.
  • Sand smooth.

Have Questions About Drywall Repair?

This blog post is aimed at DIYers who are new to drywall finishing. If you have any drywall tips or tricks you would like to pass on, leave us a comment below!

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