Homes are made of sturdy stuff. But the truth is, it's easier than you think to punch a hole through a wall, creating an unsightly cavity that will need to be repaired before you list the property for sale. Fortunately, any handy DIYer can remedy this problem with a careful approach, say the experts.
"It's quite easy to make a hole in drywall. Many of my homeowner customers have small children who have kicked a wall between two studs and made a sizable hole with very little force," says Paige NeJame, owner of CertaPro Painters of the South Shore in Rockland, Massachusetts.
Assuming the material is common wallboard (a gypsum panel made of calcium sulfate dihydrate), repair isn't difficult. “But it does require patience to ensure the finished product blends naturally with the existing surface," explains John Bianchi, product manager for National Gypsum, the Charlotte, North Carolina–based drywall producer.
Remedy for small holes
If your hole is smaller than a quarter, it can be easily patched with spackle sold at your local hardware store.
"Start by creating a small indentation around the hole," suggests Robert Taylor, owner of the Real Estate Solutions Guy, a real estate investment company in Cameron Park, California. "Lay a putty knife flat over the hole and gently tap the knife blade with a hammer until there's a slight indentation around the hole no deeper than one-eighth of an inch."
Next, take your putty knife and spread a little spackle over the hole. Use a slightly wet sponge to blend in the edges where the spackle meets the drywall.
"If your spackle doesn't fill the hole, let it dry and put on another coat," Taylor says.
Once dry, lightly sand and repaint the repaired area.
For medium-size holes
For a hole bigger than a silver dollar but smaller than the size of your fist, follow these steps, which will likely take under two hours, recommended by NeJame:
- Clean out the hole and gather any loose pieces of drywall. "If the wall was painted, keep a piece of it so you can bring it to the paint store and match the paint," says NeJame.
- Cut a piece of large fiberglass mesh tape (often sold in a hole patch kit) and place it centered and flat over the hole, overlapping the edges of the hole by several inches.
- Fill the mesh tape with a thin layer of drywall compound and let it dry for at least an hour.
- Sand the drywall compound lightly to a smooth finish. "You want smooth edges so you can't feel where the hole and the wall meet."
- Repeat steps 3 and 4.
- Paint the repaired area using a matching paint.
For larger holes
Got a bigger chasm to fill? Bianchi recommends these steps, which could take several hours:
- Identify the location of studs, electrical wiring, and any additional utilities behind the wall.
- Obtain a piece or section of drywall that's the same thickness as your existing walls. Using a carpenter's square and utility knife, cut out a rectangular piece that's slightly larger than the hole you're repairing.
- Place the new piece over the hole and trace around it with a pencil. Cut along the pencil line you made with a drywall saw.
- Cut a one-inch by three-inch piece of support lumber at least two inches longer than the width or height of the new hole.
- Using drywall screws and a drill/screw gun, attach the wood piece through the existing drywall on opposite sides of the hole.
- Place the cut drywall patch in the opening and attach it to the support lumber piece using drywall screws and a drill/screw gun.
- Apply joint tape to the edges of the patch, covering all the edges and screws.
- Apply drywall compound to the patch edges with a drywall knife. Let it dry.
- Finely sand.
- Repeat steps 8 and 9 if needed.
- Paint the wall.
Know when to look for help
For a hole that's bigger than you're comfortable working with, enlist an expert. "Professional drywall contractors can do this job right and quickly identify and troubleshoot issues that might otherwise be missed," says Bianchi.