Fixing A Hole In Wall Among Easiest Of Home Repairs

October 13, 1991|By William C. Ward | William C. Ward,Staff Writer

I was nine years old when I was introduced to the world of wall repairs. In a tantrum over an infringement of my civil rights (I was not allowed to watch television for more than 10 hours that day) I savagely kicked open the door to my bedroom and heard a sickening crack. The doorknob had stuck into the wall. As I gingerly pulled it away, a shower of white flecks tumbled out all over the floor.

I was terrified. Not only had one of my civil rights been rescinded, but now I was going to experience capital punishment.

My father hired someone to fix the wall, and I learned a valuablelesson (the cost came out of my allowance): hiring people to do things is expensive.

Repairing damaged wallboard may seem a complicated, dangerous undertaking best left to the experts, but actually it's easy and saves a lot of money.

Pat Smith, president of Picasso Builders in Severna Park, says he charges an average of $40 to repair small holes and $60 for large holes in wallboard walls -- which he saysare relatively simple to fix.

Wallboard, or drywall, is easily marred and damaged, but fortunately just as easy to repair. All you need for most repairs is a wallboard saw, a screwdriver, wallboard tape,a metal rule, a utility knife, wallboard knives, joint compound and closed-coat sandpaper. You may wish to substitute a polyurethane sponge to wet-sand the compound after the repair is made.

Before getting started, you might consider goggles and a respirator mask to protect your eyes and lungs, as wallboard cutting can involve dust and small fragments that can cause injury. To protect your carpet from compound spills and dust, you should place a drop cloth under the work area, and bring a bucket in which to clean the tools.

* Popped nails.Popped nails result from house shifting and resettling. If a wallboard wasn't flush to the studs when it was installed, the ringed nails may pop from the wood, breaking the wallboard's paper surface.

To fix this, drive a wallboard screw into the stud about two inches below or above the popped nail. Then scrape the loose paper and compound from around the nail with a small wallboard knife, being cautious notto damage the panel. Drive the nail to slightly below the surface ofthe wallboard with a hammer, and sandpaper the area to take any roughness off. Give the nail and screw areas three coats of compound witha small wallboard knife, letting each application dry for about 24 hours (faster-setting compounds are available. Follow the instructionson the package).

"The biggest problem people have with this is putting the compound on too thick," says Smith. He suggests using the compound sparingly to prevent misshapen deformities on the surface of the wallboard: "You don't want to put it on too thick, or you'll be sanding forever."

Finally, sand or wet-sand the area until smooth.

* Dents and gashes. Anytime you move furniture you run the risk ofdamaging the fragile paper surface of the wallboard. Minor dents, gashes and scratches can be fixed by sanding the damaged area, applyinga coat of compound with a medium wallboard knife and letting it dry for 24 hours. When applying the compound, "you want to go over the area two or three times, using two fingers on the back of the blade," instructs Smith. Using this technique, he says, gives you better control of the blade.

Apply a second coat, and while it is drying, lightly wipe it with a damp sponge to level it with the surrounding area.Let the compound dry completely. Wet-sand the area with a well-wrungout sponge until the area is smooth, rinsing and wringing the spongeoften. Or sand the area lightly with 150-grit sandpaper, being careful not to mar the undamaged surface paper.

* Small holes. For small holes, wallboard tape will be needed. To begin the repair, apply a thin coat of compound around the hole, after sanding away the jagged edges, then cover the hole with tape by crisscrossing it over the opening, pressing the ends of the tape strips into the compound lightly.

"The biggest problem people have in fixing small holes is pushingthe tape into the hole," says Smith. Pressure never should be placedon the center of the tape strips above the hole, and the tape shouldbe long enough to comfortably overlap the rim of the hole.

The next step is to coat the taped area with joint compound, smoothing it with a medium wallboard knife. Feather the edges of the patch and let it dry for the appropriate time for your joint compound. If the patchcracks, apply another coat, and let it dry. Finish the repair by sanding or wet-sanding as before.

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