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Patch and Repair Drywall

From the smallest dent to large holes of a foot or more, there are several ways to fix surface defects on your walls. Drywall (also known as wallboard or gypsum board) is the material most commonly used for interior walls. It is also easier for the average homeowner to patch and repair drywall and it is quicker to install than plaster.


Know Before You Shop for Drywall Repair

  • Decide whether you want to repaint the whole wall or just touch up patched areas. If you’re just patching tiny nail holes, you can cover up the repairs by dabbing on touch-up paint with a soft cloth.
  • If you’re patching a large number of holes and other damage, prime the patched walls before repainting -- especially if you’re choosing a semi-gloss or shinier finish. The higher the gloss, the more different surface textures appear between the patch and the surrounding paint.


Fill Dents in Drywall


Step 1

Clean off loose edges. Sand the depression to roughen its surface. Dip a joint knife into the compound sideways and load about half the blade width. Pull the knife across the dented area with a slow smooth stroke. Position the knife at a 90-degree angle and pull across again to remove excess compound. If the patch shrinks as it dries, apply a second coat.


Step 2

To blend in the repair with its surroundings, sand it very lightly - or smooth it out by wiping with a dampened sponge.


Step 3

Joint compounds, being relatively porous, must be primed before you paint them. Some paints also serve as primers.



Mend Split Tape


Step 1

Begin by carefully pulling away the loose tape. Use a sharp knife at edges or you may pull off material from either side as well.


Step 2

Apply compound to the wall, position the new tape, then smooth out any bubbles with light, vertical knife strokes.


Step 3

While the compound is still wet, apply a second coat. Let it dry, then lightly coat again, feather out the edges, and sand or sponge.



Set Popped Nails


Step 1

Press the panel against the stud, then drive new nails above and below the old one. Ring-shank types have better holding power.


Step 2

Dimple each nail below the surface with your last hammer blow. Pull the popped nail and fill dimples with compound.


Step 3

After the compound dries, apply a second thin coat, feathering it out at the edges. Wait a day, then sponge, prime, and paint.



Patch Nail Holes in Drywall


Step 1

Using the handle of your putty knife or any object with a gently rounded corner, press the raised drywall paper around the hole flush with the rest of the wall. It’s okay to leave a small divot, but don’t break through the paper.


Step 2

Scoop a small amount of drywall patching compound on one corner of the putty knife and press it into the nail hole and the surrounding area. Use the blade of the putty knife to gently skim off the surplus compound.

If you get patching compound on the surrounding paint, wipe it off with a moist paper towel without touching the patch.

Step 3

After the compound dries according to label directions, gently smooth the patch with 220-grit sandpaper without sanding through the paint. Wipe away the sanding dust with a moist paper towel. Running your fingertips over the patched area alerts you to any bumps or rough spots. The only dried patching you should see is the small dot covering the nail hole. Your wall is now ready to paint.

Why use a rag instead of a brush to dab paint over a patched nail hole? Because different painting tools can leave different surface textures. Along wall corners, where a brush is used for areas a roller can’t reach, you can see how the textures are different. Dabbing better mimics the surface texture of a roller.


Patch Holes 1 to 5 Inches


Step 1

Clean away loose drywall and cut off any loose paper. Leave the inner part of the gypsum rough. Cut a piece of wire screen 2" larger than the hole all around. Tie one end of a 12" string to a small stick or pencil, and thread the other end through the center of the screen.


Step 2

Bend the wire screen and insert the stick and screen into the hole. Pull the string until the stick holds the screen flat against the back of the hole. Holding the string taut, fill the hole, working in from the edges. Make sure the compound adheres to the wire screen. Tape the string tightly against the wall with masking tape.


Step 3

When the compound has dried completely, cut the string flush to the wall. When using joint compound, remember it shrinks as it drys; apply another layer to bring the patch even with the wall. A third layer may even be needed.



Patch Holes 5 to 8 Inches


Step 1

Measure the size of the hole you need to repair. Cut out (at a bevel) a rectangular piece of drywall at least an inch larger than the hole you are patching. Using the patch as a template, place it over the hole and trace. Cut out using the tracing as your guide at the same bevel as the patch.


Step 2

If the patch does not fit well, trim as needed with a utility knife. Spread compound around the beveled edges and fit the patch into place using a little pressure.


Step 3
Patch Drywall Holes 5 to 8 Inches

Smooth compound around the edges of the patch on the wall. Smooth it out and put drywall tape over all joints with the joint knife. At the end of each joint, press the edge of the knife blade in firmly and use as a straightedge to tear off the tape. Sand when dry. See Finishing after Repairing.




Patch Larger Holes with Backer Boards


Step 1
Patch Larger Drywall Holes with Backer Boards

Measure the size of the hole you need to repair. Cut out (at a bevel) a rectangular piece of drywall at least an inch larger that the hole you are patching. Using the patch as a template, place it over the hole and trace. Cut out using the tracing as your guide at the same bevel as the patch.



Step 2

Insert a backer board with construction adhesive applied to the ends. Hold the backer board firmly in place and screw drywall screws through the drywall into the board, at least 1" away from the edge of the hole. Repeat if using two backer boards.


Step 3

Place the new piece of drywall in the hole and fasten it to the backer board(s) with screws.


Step 4
Cutting Drywall

Smooth compound around the edges of the patch on the wall. Smooth it out and put drywall tape over all joints with the joint knife. At the end of each joint, press the edge of the knife blade in firmly and use as a straightedge to tear off the tape. Sand when dry. Finish as shown next.




Finishing After Repairing Drywall


Step 1

With both large and small drywall repairs, finishing is the same. Using a wide joint knife, spread a smooth, thin layer of joint compound over the repaired area or over all joints of the new patch. Be sure to extend beyond the damaged part and feather the edges out to the surrounding wall.


Step 2

Wait at least 24 hours. The compound should be dry before you sand it. Use a fine-grade drywall sandpaper on a sanding block. Wear a dust mask when sanding. You may have to repeat both these steps to achieve the desired results.


Get the Right Amount of Paint