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Minor Drywall Repairs

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In this article we will discuss drywall repairs that are about the size of a quarter or smaller.  This method also works with damage that is longer but not wider than a quarter.  So if someone scraped the corner of a piece of furniture across the wall and gouged it, this repair method should work.  It also works on larger areas as long as they are just dents and not all the way through the drywall. Also check out our Ask Eli answer discussing nail hole repairs in drywall.

Things you will need:

  • Light weight spackling, preferably a non-shrinking type in a little plastic tub. You can also use hot mud or a setting type compound.
  • 1” to 2” putty knife
  • A sharp razor knife
  • A fine grit sanding sponge

First thing you need to do is prep the damaged spot.  If it is a dent then you probably don’t have to do anything to it.  Just make sure that there isn’t any part of it sticking out farther than the rest of the wall.  You can use the handle of the putty knife to dent in spots that are sticking out by pressing the end of the handle and dragging it across the bump.  If any of the paper part of the drywall is torn, make sure none of it is sticking out.  If it is sticking out you will need to cut it off.  When cutting the paper around a hole, cut back about 1/4” and angle towards the center of the hole so that when you are done, the part you cut is wider at the surface and tapers smaller as it goes into the drywall.  Leave any pieces of drywall that are still attached behind the hole or dent.

The spackling product you use may be different than what I use, so read the instructions before you use it to make sure it will work with my instructions. Scoop out about twice the spackling you think you need on the end of your putty knife. Any that you don’t use can be put back in the tub and saved for another project. Press it into the hole and scrape the putty knife on about a 45 degree angle. Try not to go past the edges of the damaged spot any farther than you have to. If your wall has a smooth finish with no texture then you don’t have to worry about this but if you have texture then you want to keep the repair as small as you can. Drag the putty knife across the damaged area a couple times in different directions to make sure the spackling adheres to all sides of the hole. While doing this, make sure you have solid, even pressure on the putty knife. The knife should bend a little bit when you are using it. 

u may also need to adjust the angle of the putty knife.  If the spackling is a little stiff it will react differently than spackling that is softer.  If you have the putty knife on too sharp of an angle to the wall with softer spackling it will cause your repair to puff out a little in the middle.  If the angle is not steep enough with a stiffer spackling it may crack as you are dragging the putty knife across it.  Just keep experimenting until you get it right.

If you have smooth walls then you are done at this point and should let the repair dry completely before painting.  Check your work before you paint to make sure you are happy with the repair.  You may need to sand lightly if there are any spots sticking out.  You can slide your hand across the wall to feel if the repair is flat.  If the spackling shrank while drying, you may need to do the spackling step a second or third time to get it right.

With textured walls, you should clean up around the edges of the repair while the spackling is still wet.  To do this, use your thumb or a damp sponge and carefully wipe the spackling off the texture around the damaged area.  Make sure you don’t touch the spackling where the damage is.  You want to keep this area smooth.  Gently place the sponge or your thumb as close to the damaged area as you can and wipe the excess spackling in a direction away from the repair.

If you are using spackling that does not shrink, and you are in a hurry, you can texture at this point.  It is better to wait until the patch is dry though, and sand it lightly before you texture it.  When you drag the putty knife across the damaged area it bounces across the texture on both sides of it.  This creates lines across the spackling that may show through the texture when you are done.  If you let it dry, you can sand lightly to take these lines down before you texture.  You will end up with a better looking job if you do this.

If you want to sand your repair before texturing but you are impatient and don’t want to wait for it to dry, you can use a heat gun of hair dryer to speed up the drying process.  It will probably take about 15 minutes to dry it with a hair dryer.  I have heard of people propping up their hair dryer or taping it to a chair so they don’t have to hold it.  I can’t recommend doing this, but if you are going to do it, don’t leave it unattended.  It would be a terrible fire hazard to leave a hair dryer running unattended like that.

When the spackling is dry you will be ready to texture.  We also have tips for texturing your small drywall repair. Make sure the texture is dry before you paint.  If you paint before the texture is dry you might rub the wet texture off the wall. It is best to prime the repair before painting it, but if you don't have primer it is fine to just paint it. It is also best to use a roller to put the first coat of paint or primer on the repair to help prevent rubbing the texture off. Most spackling and texture will be a little bit yellow or tan when wet and will turn white when dry.  You can also tell by touch.  If you touch the wall and then touch the repair, and the repair is noticeably cooler feeling, then it is not dry yet.  If you aren’t sure just wait until tomorrow to paint it.

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