Big hole in your drywall? Patch it, fill it, tape it, spray it. Here’s how

Erik von Ancken shares step-by-step instructions

Here’s what to do if you have a big hole in your drywall that needs to be patched.

We purchased:

Drywall square 16″x16″

Drywall screws

Drywall tape

Drywall saw

1″ x 2″ yard sign stake 1′ long

Utility knife

Quick dry spackling/patching compound (5-minute mud)

Spackling knife (plastic is fine)

2-sided sandpaper block (rougher and smoother on opposite sides)

Drywall spray-on texture (orange peel or knockdown depending on your wall)

We brought with us:

Electric screwdriver

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Step 1

Preparation, as always, is key. Identify the area that is damaged and draw a square at least an inch, maybe two, around the edges of the damage. It’ll be obvious where the drywall is soft and crumbling but what won’t be obvious is how far the damaged drywall extends inside the wall and under the paint. Removing all of the cracked drywall will make a clean, solid patch. Using your finger to pry out the cracked or crumbling drywall to try and see inside the wall to make sure you’re not about to cut through any wiring. Also, if there’s a stud inside the wall near the hole, you’ll see that too.

Step 2

Cut out the square of damaged drywall. I do this with a basic drywall saw (link above) but many pros use an electric drywall cutting tool. Just be careful you don’t slice any wires inside your wall!! Go slow. Push the saw into and through the drywall and pull it back and forth to cut. If you’ve already opened up the hole by hand and looked inside and felt around then you’ll know if there’s any wiring in the way.

Step 3

Clean up the hole you just cut. Use the utility knife to slice off any hanging cardboard edges of drywall concrete pieces. The hole doesn’t have to be a perfect square or rectangle, just free of tattered edges.

Step 4

Cut a new piece of drywall to fit the hole you just cut. Take a piece of paper and trace the hole and then draw that hole on top of your new drywall square. Then, using the utility knife, score the drywall following the lines you traced. The key to cutting drywall with a utility knife is repeated slicing. You may need to drag the razor blade over the same line 20 or 30 times to cut cleanly all the way through the new drywall piece.

Step 5

Add a backing to the hole. This is what the stake is for. You can use a 2″ x 4″ piece of wood if you have one laying around, a yard sign stake, or even a paint stirring stick, as long as it’s wood - it depends how much room you have inside your wall behind the hole. Place the wood inside the hole and then drill a drywall screw through the wall through the old drywall (the area that is not damaged) above and below the hole. The idea is you’re attaching the wood to the inside of the wall (the back of the wall) so now you’ll have a foundation to brace your new drywall patch. Once you screw through the wall and into the wood backing, it should pull itself up against the back of the wall and become solid - almost like a stud inside your wall.

Step 6

Install your patch. Place the new drywall patch you just cut into the hole, supported by the wood backing you just installed inside the wall. Screw drywall screws through the new drywall patch and into the wood backing to hold the patch in place.

Step 7

Mix up your 5-minute mud (or any joint compound / spackling) and use your spackling knife to start spreading it into the openings around the patch. Before you spend too much time making it perfect, tear off some pieces of drywall tape and place the tape along all 4 sides of the edges of the patch. The edges should be overlapping. Depending on which drywall tape you use, the wet joint compound should adhere to the tape. Once the tape is in place, continue applying the joint compound with the spackling knife to cover all of the tape and openings. The key here is patience. You’ll start out with big globs of spackling and then use less and less. Pull the spackling knife across the patch in a flat scraping motion with enough pressure to smooth out the spackling. Do this over and over until the surface is as smooth as you can get it. Be careful though, once the spackling dries (especially with 5 minute mud!) it will no longer be pliable and may curl or bunch up if you continue to try and shape it past its setting time.

Step 8

Wait. Even 5 minute mud will dry completely in much more than 5 minutes. Usually you can tell when the spackling has dried thoroughly by the change in color - it will look stark white. Regular joint compound/spackling dries in about 24 hours. Only then can you begin sanding. Make sure to wear a mask and put plastic or newspaper on anything close by because it’ll get dusty. Sand until the surface is smooth and there are no visible bumps or dips or lines. Run your hand over the surface to test the smoothness. If you’re not happy with how it came out, you may need to do a second coat of joint compound and sand again.

Step 9

Clean up the dust. Take a paper towel and lightly dampen it and then wipe the wall, including the patched area, to remove loose dust. Make sure the paper towel isn’t too wet - water will dissolve the joint compound! This is only to remove the dust, not the compound.

Step 10

Spray on your drywall texture. This is a bit of guess work. If your wall has a thin coat of orange peel (bumpy) texture, set your can of drywall texture to “light” and spray in a circular motion on and around the patch holding the can about 2 feet from the wall, splattering a bit of texture everywhere. The idea is to try and blend in the new bits of texture with the existing bits of texture. If you have heavier texture, then set the can (there’s a little flip switch on the nozzle) to thicker texture. As long as you’ve sprayed some texture on the entire area, it should blend fine.

Step 11

Once the texture has dried (it should also change color), paint it!

Then you’re done! Congrats!!!

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for News 6 and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting.