Bookmark these expert tips for patching up drywall like a pro.

By Caroline Biggs
January 31, 2020

There's nothing worse than staring at an unsightly hole in your wall. Luckily, if your walls are composed of drywall—or a board made from a mix of plaster, wood pulp, and other materials that are less dense than pure plaster—they're easy to repair in a pinch. "Drywall offers efficient coverage and reliability for building walls that are very flat and straight," says Steve Monos, a craftsman at NYC Drywall Repair. "It's design allows for ease of repair." So, how does one go about repairing a hole, large or small, in their drywall? We asked Monos and contractor Scott Pfleeger for tips on patching up holes of various sizes. Here's what they had to say.

Related: How to Repair Window Screens

Understand when the damage is beyond repair.

Although drywall is designed to be easily patched or replaced, Pfleeger says some holes are beyond repair. "You will know when a hole in the ceiling or wall is beyond repair if any three of the following occur," he says. "One, the surface has gotten wet and is soft. Two, the drywall has been burnt from a fire. And three, the framing that supports the drywall has been disturbed from an act of nature, like a tornado or fallen tree. Other than that, no matter the size of the hole, drywall can be replaced."

Prep appropriately.

According to our experts, prepping a hole in your drywall for repair is almost as important as how you fix it. "When prepping a hole in the ceiling or wall, you want to make sure it is a solid area and not soft," Pfleeger says. "If the area is 'dimpled in,' it could poke through your new finish." That's why it's important to prep and prime the area before applying any finishes. "Always sand and apply latex or oil-based primer to prep the surface prior to standard plaster application," Monos adds.

Treat small marks with spackling paste.

If you don't already know the wonders of spackling paste, now's the time to learn. A type of putty used to fill defects in drywall and plaster, spackling paste is a foolproof way to patch up small holes and cracks in minutes. Simply sand and scrape off the loose paint surrounding the hole until a flat surface is achieved, then apply spackling paste with a small putty knife. "Apply two coats at least," Monos says. "Allow time to dry in between coats and then lightly sand and paint."

Fill medium-sized holes with a patch kit.

To fix a hole larger than the size of a dime in your drywall, our experts say to pick up a patch kit made with quick set gypsum plaster, such as Plaster of Paris ($5.76, amazon.com), at your local hardware store. "Patch kits can fill deep holes and harden in about ten minutes so you can apply a second coat right away," Monos says. "Also, joint compound mixed with a little bit of Plaster of Paris will help even out the surface to a flatter layer."

Fix large holes with mesh drywall tape.

Looking to repair a hole the size of a doorknob? Pfleeger says your best bet is to employ some self-adhesive mesh drywall joint tape. "Mix your quick set material thick—with very little water," he says. "Place a few pieces of mesh drywall tape over the hole before applying the first layer of compound." he says. However, he notes that any repairs that are larger than the circumference of a doorknob are "best handled by a professional."

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