Drywall Repair

Drywall repair is a relatively simple task for the homeowner. However, like many other home construction and repair jobs, a basic knowledge of the tools and techniques involved can help save you wasted time and energy. If you are considering installing or repairing the drywall in your home, read on for some helpful tips.


1. Where to Start?

You will need only a few tools to install drywall. A tape measure, a utility knife, a straightedge, and a cordless screwdriver are all the necessary tools for cutting and hanging the drywall. For mudding, you will need a mud pan, a scraping knife, paper tape, some water, and the mud. A hand sander, a pole sander, and fine grit sandpaper are necessary for removing excess mud when you are finished. A chalk snap line might be useful for marking cutting lines or where the screws should go. Finally, you will need to purchase a plentiful supply of drywall screws or drywall nails. All these tools are readily available at hardware stores.

Specific to drywall repair, a cordless screwdriver, a utility knife, a scraping knife, plywood or OSB particle board, and mud are the necessary components. For cutting around outlets, a router may prove useful, but you can use a utility knife instead to save on costs.

Also, consider the thickness of the drywall you need. Thicker drywall is useful for protection against fire, and for soundproofing. Ensure your screws are the appropriate length for adequate penetration through thicker drywall. Drywall installation on the ceiling requires more screws per square foot, depending on the size and weight of the drywall piece. "Green" drywall may be necessary in some areas that have high moisture, such as in bathrooms.

You may want to mark where the wall studs are before you hang the drywall. This is so you can accurately judge where the screws should go. You can also measure the distance between studs and then make the appropriate marks on the drywall.

2. Special Types

For certain applications, you may need to use special kinds of drywall. Bathrooms and other areas with higher levels of moisture require the use of mildew-and mold-resistant drywall and taping materials. Some brands offer water-resistance as a standard feature; a more common option is "green board," which is specially-designed drywall designed to be resistant to the effects of a moist bathroom. Be sure to check whether the drywall is advertised as "water-resistant" or "waterproof," depending on your needs.

Be prepared to replace or patch peeling tape and to apply drywall compound if there is no ventilation system in the bathroom. Even with a ventilation system, you may need to periodically touch up areas that are beginning to show signs of moisture damage. If you have no ventilation system installed, consider installing one or having a professional team install it.

3. Hanging the Drywall

Measure and cut the drywall to length, and begin hanging it. It is usually best to start on the floor level pieces and work your way up to the upper pieces. To avoid unnecessary holes and drywall cracks, try to insert screws so that they dimple the drywall just slightly, otherwise they might punch completely through the drywall. Eventually, you will cover up the screws with mud to prepare for drywall texture and finishing.

When hanging, try to stagger the seams; this will make the seams shorter, which lends resilience to the mud and tape finish. Longer seams stand a greater risk of developing cracks over time. Make sure to drive the screws in straight; screws driven in at an angle need to be driven in further than a screw driven straight. Consequently, they are weaker and may punch through the drywall, creating a hole. When driving the screws, start from the top and work your way down, avoiding working from the sides towards the middle.

For ceiling work, T-braces or drywall lifts are extremely handy. Once the piece is set into position, you can work at leisure to insert all the necessary screws or drywall nails. Be careful not to dislodge the braces or the lift before the drywall is fully secured.

4. Avoiding Problems

If a wall stud protrudes out further than the others on a wall, the drywall could bend and crack. Sometimes, repairing a stud is not possible or not a cost-effective option, so the best solution is drywall repair. If possible, try to anticipate problems like these so they can be addressed early, saving yourself time and money later. Drywall can be fragile before it is hung, and may bend or crack if mishandled or forced. Be sure to measure as accurately as possible before cutting a piece, otherwise they may not align properly. The edges may crack if you try to force a piece in too tightly against another piece.

Mark with a pencil where outlets and heater vents will be so you can cut around them accurately. Alternatively, you can cut out the required spaces before you hang the drywall, which may make the hanging process easier, with less chance of cracking or bending the piece. Using a straightedge (especially a T- or L-shaped straightedge) to guide your utility knife will help you avoid excessive or mistaken cuts. When you are mudding, only use the amount you need; excessive mud will be difficult to remove once it dries, and may create lumps on the drywall.

5. How to Fix Mistakes

Drywall repair is a common home maintenance task, since drywall may be damaged or begin to crack and show signs of wear after a few years. Doorknobs, for example, are known to be culprits for creating holes in drywall. Fixing small holes is a relatively simple task that a homeowner can accomplish without having to spend much money.

For a doorknob-sized hole, the first step is to use a utility knife or drywall saw and cut a square or rectangle shape around the damaged part. Now you have a regular shape to repair, instead of a jagged hole. Cut two strips of plywood or OSB particle board, small enough to slip through the hole into the backside of the drywall, and large enough to fasten to the drywall with screws. Next, cut a piece of drywall to fit into the hole, and fasten with screws. Mud and tape, retexture as necessary, and repaint. The repair job should be indistinguishable from the rest of the wall.

Sometimes, screws or nails will pop out from the drywall a little bit. The best solution is often to simply push it back in and reseal the hole. Using a utility knife, cut a little of the excess mud away from the screw, then use a hand screwdriver to gently drive the screw back in. Usually, about a quarter or half turn will be enough. Then apply a little mud to the hole and reseal it.

Sagging ceilings can be repaired by pressing the drywall back against the joist and inserting more screws to hold it in place. Apply mud, retexture and repaint as necessary. Inside corners can be repaired by applying a coating of drywall compound, then resealing with a strip of tape folded in half so that the bend presses into the corner. A special inside corner knife can then smooth the drywall compound.

6. Sanding

Although sanding is perhaps the least pleasant aspect of drywall installation, there are some steps you can take to minimize the inconvenience. First, you need to take care of your personal protection. A good face mask and safety glasses will keep the fine drywall dust out of your lungs and eyes. They are well worth the investment-no one wants to be coughing up drywall dust. If you are working in an unventilated area, consider a respirator.

A shadow light can help illuminate areas that need to be sanded. Look for dark spots on the far sides of the tape seams. They indicate areas that need sanding. On the other hand, low spots on the taping mean that more mud is needed, so go ahead and apply some more mud before you begin sanding. All other areas that appear flat and normal should be given a light sanding.

The tools you will need are a hand sander and a pole sander. The pole sander will be used on the ceiling, but most of the work can be accomplished with a hand sander. Power sanders may be tempting, but pose the risk of over sanding, a problem with drywall. The best results usually come from hand sanders.

Once you have finished sanding, sweep off the excess. There is no need to get rid of every speck of dust with a vacuum cleaner; a fine coating of dust left on the walls will actually help the paint adhere to the drywall better, so it is fine to leave a very light coating of dust.

7. Dealing with Moisture

Moisture can cause damage to drywall. Steam from a hot shower or splashes from a faucet, for example, are commonplace occurrences in bathrooms. Usually, water-resistant or waterproof "green" drywall will help delay or prevent the deterioration from moisture, but you may still need to reseal drywall seams if the taping begins to peel. Be aware that green drywall may sag if installed on the ceiling; try to find an acceptable alternative for ceiling work.

Even if you have an adequate ventilation system installed in your bathroom, you may still have problems with mildew if you live in an area with high humidity. Since mildew can grow through a paint finish, it is important to check for mildew and remove it before applying a new coat of paint after you reseal the tape seams. Mildew shows up as discoloration on the surface of the drywall. Ask at your local hardware store for information on how to treat this problem.

8. Taping and Texturing

Taping drywall along the seams will prevent cracks in the paint and texture later. Once all the drywall is hung, apply mud to all the seams and cover with tape while the mud is wet. Be careful to mud only as many seams as you can still tape while the mud is wet, otherwise the mud may begin to dry before you can apply tape. Once a seam has mud on it, apply strips of tape along the length of the seam, and use a scraping knife to flatten it. Any air bubbles will create problems like cracks later on, so be sure to squeeze them all out from under the tape. You can do this by using the scraping knife and ensuring that mud is squeezed out from under the tape on either side.

Your texture finish will depend on your personal tastes and what kind of texture is already on the other drywall in your home. Some textures require "splattering" onto the wall, and others require application with roller brushes. Check the instructions on whatever kind you purchase for correct application techniques. If you are retexturing a repaired piece of drywall, careful application of the texture will be necessary in order for it to blend in naturally with the existing texture. Again, appropriate techniques will depend on the texture itself.

9. Finishing Up

Painting over a repaired drywall job may be difficult. A notable problem may be that the fresh paint stands out against the old paint. Use your judgment on when to paint just the repair and when to repaint the entire wall. Small indents or holes may not require an entire repainted wall, but larger repair jobs may stand out if you only paint the repaired section. Having the original paint may help in making a decision; the original paint will match better.

Moisture can also cause problems with the paint finish. If the paint is flaky when it dries, the drywall behind it may be wet. If the paint doesn't seem to stick very well when you apply it (it may bubble up), the drywall is probably too wet.

Drywall repair is not as difficult as it may first appear. The average homeowner can handle the task with basic knowledge, and finish with results equal to professional work.
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