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A DIY Guide for Patching Drywall

Posted on Nov 28, 2019 in:
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Maintain
  • Homeowners

A chair and basket against a smooth wall

Q: There’s a small hole in the drywall in my mud room that needs to be fixed before I host family over the holidays. Is it possible to repair it myself?

A: I usually recommend hiring a drywall professional. However, it can be difficult to hire one for such a small project on short notice. But you can do it yourself.

You’ll need some basic drywall tools and materials including a level, drywall patch, drywall saw and knives (4” and 6”), drywall pan, drywall joint compound (“drywall mud”), tape, sandpaper, dust mask, and screws, to name a few. Once you understand the overall process and have everything you need, you’re ready to repair the drywall.

Step 1: Protect Your Floor

Put down floor protection and have a vacuum ready.

Step 2: Prep the Hole and Place the Patch

Using a framing square or level, draw a square on the drywall around the damaged area. Cut along the sides of the square with a drywall saw and remove the cutout.

Install a piece of wood to act as a backer, securing it with screws. Be careful to seat the screws just below the flush, but not so deep that it breaks the drywall.

Place the drywall patch (cut to size) in the hole.

Step 3: Mud and Tape Patch Seams

Using joint compound and tape will help hide the seams and prevent cracks down the road.

Simply apply mud to the patch’s seam using a 4” drywall knife. Make sure the layer of mud exceeds the length of your seams by an inch on each side.

Cut tape an inch or so wider than the seam. Press it onto the mud, using a drywall knife to flatten it. Use the knife to remove any excess mud from the tape’s edges.

Repeat these steps for the remaining seams of your patch, making sure the tape overlaps at the corners.

Apply a thin coat of mud on top of the tape using a 6” or wider drywall knife and feather out the edges of the mud to prevent ridges.

Clean your tools with water and let dry overnight.

Step 4: Apply the Next Coat of Mud and Feather Out

The mud is used to fill the seams, but also to feather out the buildup on the surface so it looks flat. The farther out the feathering goes, the harder it is to see the seams.

Using your 6” drywall knife, apply the proper amount of mud (well-mixed and smooth). Transfer the mud with your knife into a drywall pan. Holding the pan in one hand, use the knife to apply mud with your other hand.

Build up enough thickness to make the tape disappear, feathering it at least 6” beyond the tape.

After you’ve built up the mud in the designated area, take your widest knife and skim the mud to make it smooth, flat, and feathered out. This helps to reduce the amount of sanding later.

Clean your tools with water and let dry overnight.

Step 5: Sand the Mud and Apply a Few More Coats

Using a drywall sanding pad and drywall sandpaper, carefully sand the mud as flat as possible without exposing the tape. The transition from the mud’s edges and the original wall surface should be smooth with no ridges.

Repeat steps 4 and 5 for additional coats as needed, feathering out the mud farther.

Let it dry and sand smooth again.

You can now apply texture to match the original wall. If using cans of spray texture, read and follow directions for proper application, making sure to practice on a spare scrap of cardboard or drywall beforehand. Multiple coats may be needed to match the rest of the wall.

Step 6: Clean and Paint

You can prime the new spot, but I recommend painting the entire wall from corner to corner for the best possible match.

In the end, don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect—your patch can always be fixed later. If nothing else, you will have achieved a better understanding of plaster and drywall by doing it yourself.

Now go and enjoy your holiday gathering!


Daniel Westbrook is the owner of Westbrook Restorations in Seattle, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’ more than 2,700 members, write to


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