Disaster Fix: Drywall Repair

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Drywall Damage Discovered: A disaster?

There's only one thing as disconcerting as the unexpected discovery of a hole or damage to interior walls in an otherwise perfect home.  The  first ding or scratch in your shiny new car is a one-time event, but the supply of free holes lying in wait for drywall in any active family home is endless.

Because it is fire-resistant, drywall or gypsum board is now one of the most common building materials used in the interior of modern homes, and if only because it is paper-covered gypsum, a chalk-like material, it can suffer varying degrees of damage easily.  The careless moving of furniture or active children at play with projectiles of any kind may result in gouged drywall; serious holes  may be a result of that innocent hallway hockey game,  a baseball,  or simply tough and tumble kids.

 Do you have beat-up drywall or gypsum board in the hallway that has been scratched beyond recognition, or spots with the surface paper torn right off,  holes right through the wall like the kind caused by a bouncing baseball? You're not alone.

 Let's face it, walls  are bound to suffer damage, so what's the fix?  It is possible to repair a broken, badly damaged drywall section beside an exterior door no matter how badly the dog chewed it.  Drywall repair is not difficult.  With only moderate DIY skills, you can restore damaged drywall to perfection you can be proud of. Here's how to do it.



Even the worst damage to drywall surfaces can be fixed one way or the other, but how much work will it be will depend on the severity of the damage.  Is it actually easier to start over and install new drywall instead?  Evaluation comes into play.  

Bottom line, the real trick is to correctly evaluate the remaining drywall and the extent of damage it has suffered before you start— and then it’s usually a piece of cake to effect repairs as required.  Let’s take a look at the fix for the easiest ones first!


1        A few minor scratches to the wall surface, paint damage, or small stains: 

Minimal superficial damage of this type can usually be touched up with matching latex paint.  Latex paint is often thick enough to mask and fill tiny scratch defects.  Check carefully to see if the drywall paper is broken, which would require additional repair.  Two coats of typical interior latex paint may be required to conceal minor scratches and return the surface to its former glory. If stains are involved, do use a primer-sealer prior to painting to perfection with your chosen colour.


2        Deep scratches with underlying surface drywall damage

If both the paint and the top surface of drywall paper are damaged, additional care is required. See that white chalky stuff underneath the surface paper?  That’s  gypsum, the plaster-like compound from which drywall is made.

 Damage of this type can usually be filled satisfactorily with a small application of suitable drywall filler.  Apply a thin coat  and allow the filler to dry properly before application of a second coat if necessary.  Sand the dried filler nice and smooth, remove dust, and seal the repaired area with suitable latex primer.   Paint the area with latex paint to color match if possible —and recoat as necessary. If no matching paint is available, a creative design or even a creative ‘partial design’ can be used in a secondary color to distract from, or simply conceal the repair.

If you have a small amount of matching original paint left over from the original paint job, spot-paint and 'feather' the painted area carefully. If you have enough paint, repaint the whole plane surface for the best outcome.  Otherwise, it may be a fine opportunity to re-decorate and change the colour of the wall.


3        Drywall  surface paper is broken or torn: 

Serious surface damage of this type requires the removal of all loose paper to ensure an invisible repair and proper adhesion of filler compound.  Sand the edges of the broken paper to ensure all paper is feathered back with no sharp paper edges or fibre protruding. It is preferable to 'bump' paper edges below the finished surface where possible or they may show up even if filled carefully.   Fill holes with drywall filler, allow it to dry thoroughly, and topcoat with additional filler as necessary.  Careful sanding, priming and painting should follow as above.


4        Small Perforations through the drywall:  

 Several applications of filler may be required to fill small, deep holes penetrating completely through the back paper layer.  You may require a bit of ‘backing filler’ such as crumpled paper or other fibrous material placed in the hole, depending upon the size of the hole.  A piece of drywall tape may be applied to the surface for additional support. Apply filler in several layers, allowing the layers to dry before adding more material. Filler tends to shrink and may crack as it dries if too thick, so allow it to dry thoroughly prior to adding thin layers of filler.  Fill slightly above the surface desired, since the filler will shrink back as it dries.  Allow it to dry completely, then sand the area level and smooth, feathering the repair back as required for an invisible repair. Seal and paint as above.


5        Larger holes, perforations with pushed in or broken-out drywall.

      Hockey pucks, flying baseballs, wild kids and reckless furniture movers all are notorious for poking miscellaneous and annoying holes in that perfect drywall. Here'

Use a pointed drywall saw or knife to cut away ragged edges of the broken drywall to a neat rectangular or square shape, ensuring that all adjacent drywall is intact, and not cracked. Use a square to ensure corners are cut accurately.  Measure the trimmed hole carefully.  Apply the measurement to the back side of a brand new piece of drywall that is at least 1" larger in both directions. Cut and remove a strip of gypsum around the edge back to the actual dimension of the hole, without damaging or loosening the front face of the drywall paper.

Drywall Patch Ready for Installation

Drywall Patch Prepared  for Installation                                                                                                 Note: Back surface paper  ( outlined in red) cut to fit the measurement of the neatly trimmed  hole in the wall.                                                                                                                                                         The front surface paper remains intact and is larger than the hole   Photo © 2014 by rakukkee

 Dry fit the resulting ‘top hat’ piece into the hole to ensure it fits neatly into the hole. When the patch is sized correctly, apply filler compound to the edges of the hole in the wall, and also on the surface surrounding the hole.  Install the patch, squeezing out excessive filler with a suitable tool, and feather the edge back several inches. Always remove extra filler from the surface before it dries. Re-coat the whole area with drywall filling compound, feathering the edge back  8-12",  allow the filler to dry completely, and sand the surface smooth.


6        Large Areas Shattered with big holes and extensive cracks

    In the worst scenario, it may be necessary to completely remove and replace damaged sheets of gypsum board entirely. Cut the broken gypsum board back to the center of the closest 2x4 stud support. Score and cut adjacent ceiling and corner drywall as necessary to assure a clean fit. Fit a new sheet of drywall the correct thickness as required, and fasten it securely. Use drywall screws rather than nails. The following procedure is also used in scenarios like fire and flood damage where hidden damage may be an additional consideration.


7        Repairs For Catastrophic Damage: Fire and Flood  

To remedy catastrophic damage, replacement of the complete wall surface usually will be more cost-effective and return a better outcome than patchwork repairs. If drywall has been soaked with water or exposed to sewage under flood conditions, mold potentially becomes a threat. It is essential to strip out all of the drywall, vapor barrier, insulation regardless of type, and wood structural sections that have been soaked. Wiring may also have to be replaced.

*Tip: Always score the drywall corners at the center of a stud, each end of the wall and/or along corners and the ceiling as necessary to avoid unnecessarily damaging adjacent surfaces while removing larger sections of damaged drywall.

Remove the broken drywall and remove all nails or screws from the studs.  Replace damaged or warped studs as necessary. Remove damage or slashed vapor barrier if the wall being repaired is an exterior wall.  Always remember  it is essential to remove and replace insulation if it has been wet or fire-damaged to avoid potentially serious odour and mold problems later.

**Note:  For drywall damaged with storm water and/or sewage backup, use safety protocol for handling contaminated materials  and wear protective waterproof gear including rubber gloves.

Allow the room to dry completely to prevent future problems with mould. Heat and ventilate the area as necessary. Clean up and install replacement insulation and vapour barrier.

Install new drywall sheets horizontally for the smoothest job and fit carefully using drywall screws as fasteners for the best outcome.  Fill and tape, sand and smooth the surfaces as above, and finally, prime and paint. Install and finish all trim as required.

Now you not only know how to repair drywall damage. Evaluate, cut away damaged material as necessary, and use these simple methods as required to fix it up —and it’s good as new. Now you can use these same skills for repairing and renovation of that fixer-upper.


Is that Incoming I hear?

Tags: #home repair, #How to fix drywall ,   #drywall repair, #DIY repairs, #home maintenance



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