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Home · Property Management · Remodel and Repair : Patching Up After Doorknob vs. Drywall
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by Bill and Kevin Burnett, Inman News

There was a minor mishap in Kevin’s house last week. His wife, Heidi, and daughter, Katie, were moving some furniture in the master bedroom when Katie stumbled and fell against the door.

No big deal, right? Katie’s a strapping 16-year-old; a little stumble is nothing for her. The same can’t be said for the wall that she pushed the doorknob through.

Kevin decided to look at this as a teachable moment: You break it, you fix it.

Can’t you just hear the “Aw, Dad” now?

Fixing a hole in drywall is simple, and there are a couple of tricks to make the job go smoothly.

First, prepare the work area. Protect the floor beneath the damaged wall. An old bath towel or sheet works well as a drop cloth. Tape a piece of newspaper on the wall below the repair location to catch any dust produced from sawing or sanding. Catch the dust as it falls in the newspaper, and direct the debris down the paper into a wastebasket.

With the work area prepared, cut out the damaged piece of drywall. Draw a rectangle about an inch outside the dimensions of the hole, and cut out the damaged center with a keyhole saw. Measure the hole and cut a replacement piece of drywall 2 to 3 inches larger than the hole.

Cut it by scoring the finish side of the paper with a utility knife, breaking the cut along the score line and cutting through the paper on the back to remove the piece.

Now, here’s the trick. On the back of the replacement piece, draw a rectangle about three-eighths of an inch smaller than the dimensions of the hole. Score one line and crack it.

But instead of removing the entire piece by cutting the paper on the face, peel the gypsum “filling” from the face paper. Repeat this process on the other three sides, leaving a rectangle of drywall with paper on the edges. These flaps will act as drywall tape.

Apply joint compound to the sides of the opening, and embed the paper flaps into the joint compound. Apply a light coat of joint compound over the entire patch, smooth the edges out with a drywall knife, and let it dry.

Finishing the job is the same as finishing any other drywall job, big or small. Apply a second coat of mud, let it dry, and sand it smooth. If the wall is textured, apply a third coat of mud, let it dry, lightly sand and texture to match.

Kevin’s walls are smooth, so he’ll apply a final coat of mud, expanding the edges out to feather the finish into the existing wall.

After that, all that’s left to do is paint. Because Heidi was complicit in the furniture moving, that’s her job.
A step-by-step photo essay on patching drywallPhotos courtesy Kevin Burnett.

Copyright 2010 Bill and Kevin Burnett

See Wall Cracks? Fight Back.

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  • John Ratkov Jr

    They sell a patch at Home Depot with metal and has tape on it all you do is stick it to the hole and mud the metal will be stronger than any drywall patch and not break next time also would be good idea to get a handle stop circle would keep from this problem

  • Nick

    I do the same, except with a wooden strip behind it. First, I tap on the wall horizontally to determine where about are the 2×4 behind it. Typically they are 16 apart. There is high chance that there is no 2×4 behind it and thus the hole. If you have a 2×4 right behind it, you can probably remove the loose sheet rock and patch over it.

    Next, I mark the area I want to cut out with a bubble level. I cover the floor and cut the damaged sheet rock same as you described. Make sure it is at least 2″ by 2″. I use a sheetrock saw or a pocketknife. You can determine the thickness of the sheetrock after the cut. Most of time, it is unless it is in the garage.

    Next, I use a 1/2 inch plywood (or a 3/4 inch wood). Cut with a circular saw (or table saw, if you have one) so it is extends 2″ inches at either end and slightly narrower than the hole. For example, if the hole is 3″ wide and 4″ in height and you determine to put the wood in horizontal position. So the wood strip will be 3 + 2 + 2 = 7 and less than 4 (such as 3 , so it fits into the hole to be repaired). Mark the wood with a pencil so you know where the 3 begins and ends. I also mark a large V so looks like V in case I cover the pencil mark. Mark the sheet rock 2 to the right and left of hole with pencil so you know where about the wood extends to. Place the wood behind the sheetrock, align with the pencil mark on the wood. Hold the wood with your finger or a string. You may want to place a sheetrock screw in the center of the wood to hold it so you do not drop it into the wall cavity. Secure the wood with sheetrock screws. In this case, one at either end will do. At 1 to the right and left of the hole. Remove the string that is holding the wood and the center screw in the wood.

    Cut out a 3x4 sheetrock. Fit that to the hole now and secure with a single sheetrock screw. That is why I want the hole to be bigger than 2x2. Now patch the wall with sheetrock patching compound and join tape. I prefer the dry powder type that you mix water. It is stronger and sets faster. Typically they come in 20 or 40 minutes set time. If you are doing a large area, use the 40 minutes. It will begin to harden around 30 minutes. If you do not have the joint tape, use any stationary paper and cut it in 2 width.

    If the hole is larger than 11, I would suggest using two strips of wood each about 1 to 2 in width instead of a single large piece of plywood behind it.

    Now, anyone has suggestions of how to fix a hollow core door dent?

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