How to fix and repair damaged drywall

(Shutterstock photo)

Regardless of the age of your home, drywall damage will occur. Whether it’s doorknobs, roughhousing, minor water damage, moving furniture or assembly parts of works of art, mirrors, TV mounts, window treatments, etc., it will happen. Minor damage is relatively easy to repair. Small screw or nail holes can even be patched with white toothpaste and varnished without contact to fade in.

Repairs to areas with major water damage are best left to professionals. You never know what kind of damage is lurking behind that drywall. There could be mold, and that is something best left to a professional mold remediation expert.

The age and condition of the paint on your wall and the amount of paint stored from the time it was applied are really key factors in how quickly you complete drywall repair projects. But it is the quality of the patch work that is critical to keeping drywall looking like new. The paint looks only as good as the surface it was applied to. A bad stain with a poor texture match will be more noticeable than expected, even with the best paint coating.

Nail holes in a wall that has had a picture used to hang it can be filled with putty paste, sealant, or even toothpaste for an extra small hole. Let it dry and sand it down before repainting.

Any dents or holes larger than a quarter will require drywall texture and drywall tape or mesh to complete the project. Anything over a 2-inch square will require a piece of drywall to cut a patch along with the following tools:

  • Utility knife or drywall saw. Having both can be useful, but you won’t need both if you only own or have access to one.
  • 12 inch straight edge.
  • One level.
  • 4 inch spatula.
  • Coarse sponge or sandpaper.


  • Acrylic sealant, if the plaster is matched to a different material / surface, e.g. B. a countertop, shower, tile surface, etc.
  • Drywall tub when a large amount of mud is needed.
  • Texture spray for orange peel surfaces.

Water damaged drywall

Water-damaged drywall can be identified in a number of ways. Often times you will find that the paint has ripples or bubbles on the ceiling and walls. If you feel the bubbles and they’re not firm, or if the paint starts to peel off as soon as you touch them, there is likely a water problem.

(Shutterstock photo)

You may even find water in the paint bubbles, which will make your investigation easier! Other common signs are areas where drywall is soft to the touch and water marks / discoloration appear. Before starting any repair of water-damaged drywall, it is necessary to identify and fix the source of the water ingress.

If water gets into your wall from rain, a sprinkler system too close to your house, or even a leak in the plumbing, you can see damage to your walls near where the leak occurs. That’s because drywall has a paper backing. If they get wet, they can bubble and wrinkle, much like a piece of paper.

To diagnose the problem, place a 4 foot level above the damaged area and learn how much the sheetrock has sagged. If it’s more than 3/8 of an inch, the structural integrity of the drywall is likely ruined and the section should be replaced.

If there was no sagging, use an awl to randomly press into the sheetrock. You should feel significant resistance, and the awl should not be able to penetrate more than 1/8 of an inch into the sheetrock without undue force. However, if the awl goes through the sheetrock much deeper than 3/16 of an inch, consider swapping the section.

To replace the section: Use a utility knife to cut out the damaged area, leaving a square or rectangle so you can easily combine it with a new piece of drywall. Look in the hole to see if the damage goes deeper than the drywall (say, on the studs) and find the source of the leak so you can stop it before repairing the wall. Put a fan near the hole you made and dry the area thoroughly before proceeding. Cut a new piece of drywall so it fits snugly into the hole you created. You may need to secure it with a piece of plywood. Then attach the drywall and cover the seams with a good quality drywall tape.

Prime, paint and watch closely if the damage returns. This could indicate a more serious water problem than you suspected.

How to repair the damage: If the damage is superficial, you may not need to replace the drywall. Dry the area thoroughly, sand the bubbles off the wall, and prime the area with a pigmented lacquer product called KILZ. This product prevents the stain from bleeding through a new coat of paint.

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