10 Tips for Patching Drywall
Before you paint a wall you have to prepare the surface, which inevitably involves patching. It’s one of the most important steps. But sometimes it takes more than just a can of spackling and a small putty knife to get good results. Here are some wall patching tips and products that will help you speed up the job, avoid problems and end up with a flawless wall.
Use Self-Priming Filler
Patches made with traditional patching materials need to be primed with a sealing-type primer before painting. Otherwise the patched areas could show through the finished paint job as foggy spots. But if you patch with a self-priming patching material, you can avoid this extra step. There are several brands; just look for the words ‘self-priming’ or ‘with primer’ on the container.
Use Setting Compound for Big Holes
It’s fine to fill screw holes and other small wall dings with patching compound, but for dime-size and larger repairs, and for holes that are deep, it’s best to use a joint compound that sets up by a chemical reaction. These are available in powder form with setting times ranging from five to 90 minutes.
The reaction starts when you mix in the water, and the compound hardens in the specified time. The five-minute version is nice because you can buy the powder in a convenient 5-lb. box, and the compound hardens quickly, so you can apply another coat right away. Remember, setting-type compounds are harder to sand than regular patching materials, so make sure to strike them off flush to the surface when you fill the hole. You’ll find setting-type compounds wherever drywall taping supplies are sold.
Make a Dent for the Patching Compound
When you remove a nail, drywall anchor or picture hanger, there is usually a little ridge of old paint or drywall sticking out that’s hard to cover with patching material. The solution is to make a dent over the hole, and then fill the dent. Most good-quality putty knives have a rounded hard plastic or brass end on the handle that works perfectly for making the dent. The rounded end of a screwdriver handle or the handle of a utility knife will also work. Press the handle against the hole and twist it slightly while applying pressure to dent the surface, or if you have good aim, use your denting tool like a hammer.
Cover Cracks with Repair Spray
Stress cracks usually show up around window and door openings. The cracks are the result of framing movement and are hard to fix permanently. But using spray-on crack repair is a good way to at least extend the life of your repair. The spray forms a flexible membrane over the crack that can stretch and relax as the building moves.
If the crack is open, fill it first with patching compound. Then follow the instructions on the can to cover the crack with the crack-repair spray. Let it dry and cover it with paint to finish the repair. You’ll find crack-repair spray at hardware stores, paint stores or online.
Fill a Row of Holes with One Swipe
Professional drywall tapers always fill a row of screw holes with one long stripe of joint compound, rather than filling every screw hole separately. In addition to being faster, this method disguises the screw holes better and makes it easier to sand the patch. Instead of sanding around each hole, you can just sand the whole stripe.
You can take advantage of this tip whenever you’re filling a series of holes that are lined up and close together, like the holes left from a shelf standard or a row of pictures. Use a 6-in.-wide putty knife and apply the compound as shown in the two photos.
Skim-Coat Areas with Lots of Dings or Holes
In areas with a lot of dents and holes, like in the mudroom where boots, hockey sticks and golf club bags leave their marks, don’t try to fill every dent individually. Instead get a wider taping knife—a 6-in.-wide putty knife will do—and simply skim the entire area with joint compound. For the best results, use ‘topping’ or ‘all-purpose’ joint compound.
Mix a tablespoon or two of water into three or four cups of the joint compound to make it easier to spread. Then put a few cups into a drywall pan and use your 6-in. knife to spread it. Spread a thin coat of joint compound over the area. Then scrape it off, leaving just enough to fill the recesses and holes. You may have to apply two or three coats to completely fill holes, but the thin layers dry quickly and are easy to apply. Sand the wall after the final coat dries.
Seal Exposed Drywall Paper Before Patching
When you peel off old adhesive or self-sticking picture hangers, you often tear off the top layer of drywall paper, leaving fuzzy brown paper exposed. If you try to patch over this without sealing it first, the water in the patching material will cause the paper to bubble and create an even bigger problem. The key to patching torn drywall paper is to seal it first with an oil- or shellac-based sealer (KILZ Original and BIN are two brands). These are available in spray cans or liquid that you can brush on. Don’t use a water-based product or you’ll likely have the same bubbling problem. After the sealer dries, sand the area lightly to remove the hardened paper fuzz. Then cover it with patching compound as you would for any other wall repair.
Use Stick-On Patches for Midsize Holes
There are all kinds of ways to patch doorknob-size holes. But the quickest and easiest is to use one of these stick-on mesh patches. They’re available in a few different sizes at paint stores, hardware stores and home centers. To use the patch, just clean the wall surface and sand it to give the surface a little ‘tooth.’ Then stick the patch over the hole and cover it with two or three thin layers of joint compound. You can speed up the process by using setting-type compound for the first coat.
You Can Spray on Wall Texture
Orange peel texture on walls or ceilings is nice for hiding defects and adding interest, but it can be a real pain if you have to make a big patch. Luckily you can buy spray-on orange peel patch that will allow you to match the texture of the patch without hiring a pro. You can buy the patching material in a few different versions: regular, quick-drying and pro. The pro version gives you the most control over the spray pattern.
Make sure to practice spraying the texture onto a scrap of drywall or cardboard to fine-tune your technique before you spray it on the wall patch. Let the test piece dry before you decide whether you need to adjust the nozzle for a coarser or finer texture. Remember, you can always add another coat if there’s not enough texture after the first coat dries.
Use a Raking Light When Patching Walls
When you’re preparing your walls for paint, position a bright light so that the beam rakes across the wall as shown here. This will accentuate any defects, making them easier to see and fix, and will alert you to patches that need more fill or additional sanding. If your walls look smooth in raking light, you can be sure they’ll look awesome when you’re done painting.