Sheetrock & Drywall Repair

Every homeowner is faced with the need to repair drywall. Drywall or sheetrock is in most instances the material that makes up the surface of your interior walls and ceilings. This material was developed, to more efficiently construct the interior surfaces of residential and commercial structures. Prior to the introduction of sheetrock, or drywall, the application was normally a lath and plaster wall. This method of construction required the installation of either wood or metal lath, and the application of at least three different layers of plaster. Each layer had to dry, prior to the application of the next layer, and required the skill of an installer that could trowel on the plaster in a fashion to create a level surface for proper wall and ceiling appearance. A plaster wall or ceiling application was a labor intensive procedure and required skill and precision. In addition the plaster application was a very brittle and unforgiving surface that easily cracked if the substructure should shift, settle, expand or contract. Drywall or sheetrock was developed after WWII, to allow the more efficient construction of interior walls and ceilings. The need for a lengthy application process, and skilled manpower was substantially reduced due to the creation of large sheets of sheetrock material that could be applied by nail at first, and then glue and screw, during later applications. Sheetrock allowed the efficient creation of a level surface for walls and ceilings, with only the skill of an average laborer. It can be argued that the final applications of the drywall compound to create the final surface appearance requires time and skill, it does, however not close to the time and talent necessary to create a finished plaster finish.

The problem with a drywall of sheetrock installation is that the actual gypsum that is used in the formation of the sheet of material is not resistant to impact, scratches, bending, or any type of stress. The gypsum is a very brittle material that is easily marked and damaged. To create a more substantial surface that would not damage quite as easily as exposed gypsum, the creation of a paper layer over the gypsum sheathing was introduced. This paper layer allowed a stronger surface that would stand up to some impact as well as provide a more staple surface. However, this was only paper, and damage to the interior sheetrock surfaces of a residential or commercial structure is a common place issue. Therefore based upon this situation, the normal homeowner is subjected to numerous instances where the sheetrock surface is blemished by normal traffic within the home.

How do you repair a normal, everyday drywall impact that causes a blemish in the wall?

If you are a contractor, or understand the concept of drywall applications, the answer is quite simple and straight forward. If you are an inexperienced of naïve homeowner that thinks any blemish on their interior wall surfaces is a major issue, or even a catastrophe, then the entire scenario is different.

Everyone calm down, because the repair of sheetrock or drywall is an easy solution that really takes no talent or experience.

  • It is important to evaluate the type of damage that has occurred on the sheetrock wall or ceiling. What are some of the basic characteristics of typical damage and what are the solutions?
  • Impact and penetration; this type of damage occurs when the sheetrock is hit or impacted by another object such as a fist or a hammer. The depth of the penetration will determine the type of fix that this issue will require. If the damage is an actual hole in the sheetrock, then the fix should follow the procedures that are explained later in this article. If the damage is a rip or tear on the surface of the sheetrock, then the surface type of solution should be followed.
  • Rip or tear; this type of damage occurs when the surface of the sheetrock is subjected to another hard surface that rubs or pushes against the sheetrock surface. This situation will produce a tear or blemish in the top of the sheet of sheetrock.
  • It is also important to identify the type of sheetrock that is damaged. Is the sheetrock a normal, standard type of gypsum that does not have a specific waterproofing or mold reducing type of additive? If this is the case, the typical repair should be followed. If the sheetrock is a special type of sheetrock, then the repair needs to follow the same procedures that were used to produce this special type of sheetrock.   It does not make sense to patch waterproof sheetrock with a standard type of sheetrock compound and tape. It makes much more sense to patch with a corresponding waterproof material or fiberglass to support the waterproofing or mold reducing type of sheetrock.
  • If the damage to the sheetrock is simply a scratch or a scrape on the surface, then the repair can be a much easier and simpler repair than a penetration or puncture.

Evaluation of the type of damage is important to the overall repair of the sheetrock, the technique as well as the type of material that is used.


How to patch a penetration or hole in the surface of the sheetrock.

  • In most instances a hole or penetration should be filled with a material to prevent the compound patch and filler taping material to adequately fill and remain over the penetration or hole. If the hole is not filled with something to stop the patching material from simply filling the hole and falling out the back of the sheetrock, the patch will not survive the test of time.
  • A clever method of repairing a hole that is through the sheetrock is to push a piece of cardboard, or another material that will compress and then expand after you are able to push the patch through the sheetrock damage. Many people use fiberglass or aluminum screening material, which they actually stuff into the hole or penetration. Try to be creative and use whatever is around the home. If you have some old screening, cardboard, tin foil, etc. this type of material will all work. Tie some strings onto the material in the center. These strings should be held as you penetrate the hole in the sheetrock and try to push the material through this hole. Once the material is pushed through the hole, effort is made to pull back on the string towards the exterior to allow the material to firmly be drawn to the backside of the damaged sheetrock, therefore causing a blockage against the back of the sheetrock.
  • Another clever method of filling a hole in the sheetrock is to wet paper towels and force them into the penetration. The wet paper towels will easily be forced into the penetration with a pencil or other type of thin rod. Once the hole is filled, let the wet paper towels dry prior to filling the top of the penetration with taping compound.
  • In some patching applications, the use of steel wool is a good method for filling the penetration. Steel wool is easily pushed into the penetration and there is no waiting period for drying of the material forced into the penetration, such as the wet paper towels.
  • In any repair, once the actual hole is plugged with another material the repeated application of taping compound is necessary over the top of the plug in the sheetrock penetration. Repeated applications of taping compound will be required due to the fact that the taping compound will shrink requiring a topping of two or three times to properly fill the hole.


How to patch a rip or a tear in the sheetrock.

  • This type of repair is much easier than the penetration of hole in the sheetrock. The rip or tear can be easily patched with the application of a layer of taping compound directly over the damage. Once the taping compound is applied over the damage in the sheetrock, a layer of taping paper is recommended. This paper is available in rolls and can be applied directly over the wet taping compound. In some instances, the use of a fiberglass mesh over the wet taping compound will enhance the strength of the repair. Fiberglass mesh has become extremely popular in repairing the sheetrock damage due to its ability to withstand future damage and stress.
  • A secret to any sheetrock patch is to use thin layer of compound instead of heavy layers. The thin layers will dry much more easily and in less time and will produce a much more even and clean surface. If too heavy a layer of taping compound is applied, this compound will take a long time to dry and will dry with the tendency to crack and blemish. This will make the next layer of compound more difficult to apply in an even and professional looking application. Many layers of compound is much more beneficial to a professional outcome than one or two heavy layers.
  • The use of a wet sponge is in many cases, much better than the use of sand paper or other abrasive methods of finishing and smoothing the surface of the patch. The use of a flat wet sponge will not cause any dust and will not more evenly smoothen the surface of the work.

What are some general rules of thumb when repairing sheetrock?

  • Use fresh material. Do not attempt to use old taping compound that has been in the can for months or even years. Go to the store and buy new and fresh taping compound.
  • Use the proper trowel or taping knife. Do not attempt to smoothen the surface of the patch with a piece of cardboard or you butter knife from the kitchen. Go and purchase a professional 4 or 6 inch taping knife for the repair.
  • Use a separate trowel to hold the taping compound, and use the taping knife or trowel to remove a small portion of taping compound off of the separate trowel.
  • Be neat and clean, do not allow the taping compound to fall of the trowel or the knife and if you do, clean it up instantly. There is nothing less professional that to track taping compound all over the house because you stepped on some taping compound on the floor. Clean up your mess!
  • Patience is a virtue, this is so important when trying to patch sheetrock. The taping compound will require time to dry and it is so important to allow this to occur. If you rush the repair, you will only extend the time to a final successful repair and frustrate yourself as you attempt to push the completion of this task.
  • Repeated attempts to adequately patch the drywall are OK! No one is watching and judging. The final result will be in place for hopefully a long time, the time to succeed in the repair has no realistic bearing on the final result.

The most important aspect of any sheetrock repair is that it is a basic function of taping compound and tape. There is no magic other than patience and focus. There is really no talent to be learned other than common sense, ambition and focus.

Go to the store, buy a tub of taping compound, some paper and fiberglass tape and have fun. Use a wet sponge and if need be, some very fine sandpaper. Your patch will be as good as the initial application and if it fails, do it again, it is only sheetrock!! Good luck!


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