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Drywall holes can be patched, but it isn’t simple

Q. I just moved into a building where the previous occupants must have played indoor baseball. There are several holes in the drywall about the size of a baseball. Is there a fast, easy way to patch these holes?

A. Holes in drywall aren’t difficult to patch, but it is seldom fast and easy. It is usually necessary to repaint the entire wall after patching.

As for the holes, which are often caused by bumping of door knobs or the corners of furniture, there are at least a dozen ways to patch them. Many do-it-yourselfers prefer to use a repair kit, sold at many home centers and on the Internet.

Kits generally contain all or most of the materials needed to make the patch. Look for a kit that includes drywall joint compound, which is needed to smooth over the patch.

If you have several holes and don’t want to use kits, you can buy the materials separately. Buy “setting type” joint compound, which comes in bags and lets you mix only as much as is needed for the job at hand.

Following is my favorite method for patching drywall holes: Make a square pattern from cardboard that just covers the hole, and draw an outline of the pattern around the hole. Cut the edges of the drywall around the hole neatly to match the pattern lines, using a sharp utility knife or a fine-toothed keyhole saw.

Next, cut a piece of drywall that is about one inch larger on all sides than the pattern; this will be the patch. Place the cardboard pattern on the back of the patch and draw its outline so that there is a margin on all sides. Cut out only the back of the patch, along the pattern lines, so that the front paper covering is left in place to form four thin flanges.

Test-fit the patch in the hole, then butter the back of the flanges and the edges of the patch with joint compound and press it in place with a 6-inch-wide drywall joint knife. The paper flanges should hold the patch in place.

When the compound dries, smooth over the flanges of the patch with more joint compound – three coats are usually needed. Let each coat set up for several minutes, then carefully smooth it with a damp sponge and let it dry; this will reduce the need for sanding.

When the patch is smooth and all the compound is dry, prime the patch and repaint the wall.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.