On the 5th Day of Christmas … Repair Drywall

Christmas gift - patching drywallLarge holes in drywall can be fixed with a drywall patch, some spackle, and a putty knife. Image: Holly McCravy - Greenville, SC/HouseLogic

Devote a little time and energy to fixing up the house of a friend or family member, and you’ll be giving the true spirit of Christmas. It doesn’t cost much to offer a helping hand (even if you’re all thumbs), and you’ll brighten everyone’s holiday — especially your own.

Good old drywall is everywhere in our houses, and it comes in for its share of daily wear and tear: We drill holes to hang mirrors and artwork, ram it with remote-controlled toys, and occasionally bump furniture into it, leaving large cracks and holes. (The classic: An interior door swings open and the doorknob punches a hole into an adjoining wall.)

The good news: Minor wall repairs are easy fix-its and use simple drywall tools. The other side of the coin: You’ll probably have to repaint walls to cover the patch job.

Here are some tips to make walls as good as new:

Patch small holes — those ½-inch or smaller — using lightweight spackling compound, available at hardware stores and home improvement centers for $2 to $4 for an 8-oz. tub.

1. Place a small dab of spackle on a putty knife.

2. Press the spackle into the hole.

3. Scrape the knife clean on the edge of the spackle tub.

4. Hold the knife at a slight angle and scrape it across the hole to remove excess spackle.

5. Let dry. If necessary, sand lightly to remove any bumps.

Repair larger drywall holes — those bigger than ½-inch across — using commercially available patches. The sanity-savers come in various sizes — pick one that extends past your wall boo-boo by two inches all the way around.

Patches are made from rust-proof aluminum or fiberglass mesh. They’re designed to hold spackle so you can completely cover the offending hole. Peel-and-stick backing clings to walls permanently, and makes repairs virtually fool-proof. An 8-by-8-inch patch is about $4.

1. Remove the backing from the patch, and place it over the hole so that the hole is right in the middle of the patch.

2. Press the patch into place so it adheres tightly to the wall.

3. Load up a putty or drywall knife with spackle, and press the spackling compound into the mesh. The object is to completely cover the mesh.

4. Feather the spackle out 2 inches beyond the patch in all directions so that the edge of the patch is hidden.

5. Let dry completely, then sand lightly to remove bumps.

If the job isn’t perfect and the screen shows, that’s OK. Go back over the patch with fresh spackle until the mesh screen is hidden. Paint the wall to complete the repair.

Congratulations! You’ve just one-upped Santa!

Got an idea for helping out a neighbor or family member with home improvement and maintenance chores?