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How to Repair a Hole in the Wall

July 11th, 2013 Tools

Patching small holes in the wall is a fairly easy project, but can create a bigger blemish when done improperly. Although you can hang a picture in front of it for now, that hole will be there waiting the next time you redecorate. Read on, because smooth walls are just a few steps away.

Prep work
First thing's first: Can you actually fix the hole yourself? If it's bigger than a dime, or if the surrounding drywall is weakened, you may want to hire a professional. Larger holes require tape, screen or a piece of drywall as a patch, which can be a complex undertaking.

If you're ready to tackle the project, start by cleaning up the space to be filled. Gently clear away any loose bits of sheetrock and wipe the area clean of dust. If your walls have a shine - typically from semi-gloss or gloss paint - lightly sand the paint a few inches around the hole to provide some grip.

The tools
In addition to patching plaster (also known as spackle or joint compound), you'll need a plastic or metal trowel (also known as a taping or putty knife) and fine sandpaper, which can be found at any hardware store. Many easy-fix and quick-dry products are available these days, and although they can make the job easier, make sure your chosen compound is suitable for your wall and paint type. Standard spackle or joint compound works with sheetrock, old-fashioned plaster and all types of paint.

Ice the cake
Ever frosted a cake? That skill is about to come in handy. Follow the plaster manufacturer's instructions to prep your repair product, dip your trowel in the bucket and slap the stuff right over the hole in the wall. It can get gloopy, so be sure to protect carpets and furniture as you work, but don't worry about the surrounding wall, as you'll be painting later anyway. Spackle can be machine-washed out of most fabrics and cleaned off of your hands with soapy water.

It's OK to apply extra spackle, because now you'll wipe away the excess. Using smooth, deliberate swipes, spread it out over the hole. If you push down too hard or scrape the compound out of the hole, just apply a bit more. Spackle is forgiving: If you mess up, just scrape it away and start again, but don't take a long break and let it start to dry in the middle of your project.

Just like icing a cake, gently swipe in different directions with your trowel to spread the plaster evenly. Try to gently scrape close to the wall to avoid too much sanding later on, but at least a thin layer should remain in the immediate area around the hole. When done, you should have a fairly smooth, flat surface, but don't worry about small lines or a slightly raised area.

Sand it down
Don't trust your fingers - follow the manufacturer's directions on drying time. Even if the area feels dry, there may be wet spackle behind that you can't easily feel. Once you're sure that the spot is bone-dry, sand away any imperfections. If the area is raised because you didn't take enough away with the trowel, use large sandpaper swipes to slowly lower it flush with the wall. Take it slow and steady: If the tortoise and the hare were repairing walls, the tortoise would get a smoother finish. Use gentle, even pressure to avoid pushing your fresh repair into the old hole.

Wipe the dust away with a damp rag and you're done! It's best to apply a coat of primer before painting, but if your patch job is quite small, you may be able to simply paint without priming. Either way, no more hole!