Patching, repairing drywall can be DIY project

Ask The Builder

January 06, 2008|By Tim Carter | Tim Carter,Tribune Media Services

My son was practicing some self-defense punches, and now I am left with a pesky drywall repair. Should I go look at drywall repair kits, or is there a better way? I can't afford to hire any of the drywall repair services. Can you teach me how to repair drywall?

Drywall patching and repair is not a difficult job. The steps required to repair drywall are few and not too challenging.

If I had a dollar for every drywall repair kit I have seen at the various conventions I attend, I would be a very rich man. Many of these drywall repair kits are wonderful, and a few border on genius.

I have always liked the one that is a thin perforated piece of aluminum. It has adhesive on one side. You peel off a layer of protective paper, stick the metal over the gaping hole (making sure the edges of the metal lap over solid drywall at least 1/2 inch) and you are 80 percent finished.

All that is left to do is cover the metal with two coats of drywall topping compound. The first coat oozes through the holes and, once dry, makes the flimsy metal patch quite stiff.

But as much as I am smitten with many of the drywall repair kits, I usually prefer to do drywall repair using a small piece of drywall. This ensures there is a solid piece of drywall where, moments before, there was a hole. Be aware that there are many ways to do drywall repair using a piece of drywall, but the method I am about to describe has never failed me.

Start the job by trying to rip out the dangling piece or pieces of drywall from the hole. Then carefully insert your finger into the hole, trying to probe and feel if there are any pipes or wires behind the drywall.

Assuming there are no wires and pipes in the way, you need to use a pointed drywall saw, which resembles the spear on a sailfish. Create a square or rectangular hole using this saw. The hole should be at least 3 inches wide and at least 3 inches tall.

You will need a piece of wood that is at least 1/2 -inch thick, 1 inch less than your hole is wide and 3 inches longer than your hole is tall.

You may need a helper for the next step. Carefully insert the piece of wood into the hole, pulling it against the back side of the drywall. Adjust the piece of wood so that there is an equal amount of wood above and below the edges of the hole. Insert a total of four 1 1/4 -inch-long drywall screws through the drywall and into the wood strip: two screws at the top and two at the bottom.

Cut a small piece of drywall that fits snugly into the hole. Attach it to the wood strip with a few drywall screws. It is now time to tape and finish the drywall patch.

I suggest you use the rapid-set powder joint compound that gets hard in as little as 30 minutes. This allows you to apply two coats and wet-sand the patch with a grout sponge in just an hour. If you then use a hair dryer to accelerate the drying process, you can paint the repaired area within minutes.

Expert home builder and remodeling contractor Tim Carter has 20 years of hands-on experience in the home industry. He is a licensed master plumber, master carpenter, master roof cutter and real estate broker. If you have a question, go to askthebuilder.com and click on "Ask Tim."

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