Though it’s easier to install than the plaster and lath it replaced, modern drywall (sheetrock, gypsum board, plasterboard, or wallboard) tends to be softer and more damage-prone than plaster. Such damage ranges from dents and scrapes caused by door and furniture bumps to substantial holes. Though unsightly, this damage can usually be repaired by a competent homeowner with the correct tools and enough patience.
- small punctures made by nails or other picture hangers.
- dents and scratches that do not break the drywall.
- small holes that pierce the board or crack it and tear the paper - these are (for some reason) often fist-sized.
- larger gouges and gashes such as might be caused by falling furniture or overactive pets
Repairing Nail Holes
- press a dab of spackle or joint compound into the hole with a putty knife mound the patch slightly above the wall surface
- allow the material to dry (see the packaging for its recommended drying time)
- gently sand the patch flat. Start with a medium grit sandpaper and finish with a fine grit. Use open-coat sandpaper (the kind used for woodworking) to help keep the dust from filling the grit
- paint or install wallpaper
Repairing Dents and Scrapes
- lightly sand the dent to break the seal on the paint
- fill the hole with joint compound, using a six-inch taping knife to smooth the patch
- allow to dry for 24 hours (the wallboard compound will shrink), apply a second coat and allow it to dry
- sand the patch smooth with fine sandpaper and finish to match the wall
Repairing Small Holes
- cut a patch that overlaps the hole by an inch or so in all directions
- stick the patch directly over the hole or press it into a thin layer of joint compound (follow the directions on the package)
- cover the patch with several thin layers of joint compound, allowing it to dry completely between layers
- feather the compound at the edges with a broad taping knife to avoid making a "lump.”
- sand smooth starting with medium-grit sandpaper and finishing with a fine grit
Repairing Hand-Sized Holes
- draw a rectangle on the wall that completely surrounds the hole without touching it
- cut away the damaged section with a wallboard or keyhole saw (inspect first for wires!)
- cut a patch from scrap wallboard that is 1/8" smaller than the hole in both directions. Make certain the thicknesses match.
- make a backing for the patch: cut a piece of lath or furring strip (or an old wood ruler) four inches longer than the width of the hole, and fasten it to the back of the hole using a drywall screw at each end
- coat the face of the strip with drywall adhesive or other strong glue and press the patch into the adhesive; allow the glue to dry completely
- fill the gaps and screw holes with joint compound and joint tape. It will take multiple applications over several days to complete the patch: patience is a virtue in drywall work. When complete, sand smooth and finish to match the wall.
Repairing Large Holes
- cut a rectangular hole that reaches from stud to stud with a keyhole saw or drywall saw, being certain to watch for electrical wiring or pipes
- screw or nail one- or two-inch furring strips onto the studs at the sides of the opening, making sure they're flush with the back side of the existing drywall. These strips will be backing for your repair.
- cut a patch of scrap wallboard (match thicknesses!) one-eighth inch smaller than the hole in both dimensions
- place the patch in the hole and secure it to the furring strips with drywall screws
- use joint tape and joint compound to fill the gaps around the patch. The joint compound will take multiple applications over a period of several days: allow it to dry completely between coats.
- when finished, sand smooth and finish to match the surrounding surface.
For serious damage from settling or leaks and flooding, repairs may require removal of entire sheets of drywall or of the bottom two or three feet of drywall (iespecially in case of flooding). The principle for these repairs is the same: remove the damaged drywall, provide a firm backing and a properly-fitting patch, then use joint tape and joint compound to complete the repair. The underlying cause of the damage should always be treated first. If there has been water damage, obtain expert advice on preventing mold and mildew in walls and take the necessary measures before installing your patch.
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