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Ask Eli - How To Patch Nail Holes In Drywall?

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How do I patch nail holes in drywall? – Dave


If your drywall damage is just a nail hole, here is a trick that works better than the Minor Drywall Repairs Article that I’ve already written. 

Things you will need:

  • Spackling or drywall mud that you can thin a little bit with water. You can also use hot mud which is a setting type compound.
  • A ziploc sandwich bag

The first thing you want to do is make sure the paper around the hole is not sticking out past the surface of the wall. You can just take the back of your thumbnail and rub across the hole on a slight angle so your thumbnail pushes the frayed paper back into the hole. You can dent the edges of the hole a little but try not to gouge the paper or tear it. The thumbnail works well for this because it is curved.

The best thing to use for this repair is what we call hot mud, or a setting type compound. Mix a small amount of the drywall mud to the consistency of cake frosting or tooth paste. It needs to be as thin as you can get it while still holding its shape. When you are done mixing it, put a little of it on something and watch it for a few seconds. If it keeps spreading out then it is too thin.

Put the drywall mud into the sandwich bag, get most of the air out, and zip the bag closed. Now take a pair of scissors and cut one corner off the bag so that the hole is small enough to fit into the nail hole in the drywall. Stick the cut off corner into the hole as far as it will go and start squeezing the drywall mud into the hole. You want the mud to completely fill the hole and ooze out the other side. When you are sure that the hole is full, gradually pull the corner of the bag out of the hole while still squeezing the drywall mud until you have the bag outside the surface of the wall and have made a little bump with it.

If your walls are textured and you have used the hot mud, then you may be done.  While it is still wet, you can work the bump a little if it doesn’t match the texture around it.  If you are having trouble getting it to match, you can wipe the bump down flat with the drywall surface and work on the texture later when the patch has set up.  You can look at our article, light texture for very small repairs, for ideas about how to match the texture later.

If you are not using hot mud then you will need to let the repair dry completely and see how it looks. If you used regular drywall mud then it will shrink back into the hole a little and you will have to repeat the above steps. You can reuse the drywall mud in the sandwich bag. Just make sure you get as much of the air out of the bag and it will be ready to use again after the repair is dry. You may want to cut the other corner off instead of reusing the corner you already cut off, because it will have dried drywall mud on it that can make the repair look lumpy. 

If your walls are smooth then you will need to sand down the bump. Depending on what you used for drywall mud, you may be able to do this with just your fingers. If it is a light drywall mud then it will be very easy to sand. The texture on your finger tips may be enough to rub it down. If not, use a fine grit sanding sponge or a piece of sandpaper on a block. You want to slide the sandpaper across the bump very lightly one time and then look at it. Repeat this until you are happy with the repair. If you are too rough when sanding, you will start sanding into the paper on the drywall which will make the area around the repair look rough.

Once it is all dry, you are ready to paint. You don't want to paint when it is wet because you can rub down the wet drywall mud. If you used the hot mud then you can do the repair and paint within an hour or two. I recommend putting a coat of primer over the repair before painting. Most people will skip the primer and just paint it, which is fine. You will find that the sheen matches a little better if it is primed first, but most people won’t notice this at all.

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