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Tips to Patching Drywall

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1.Use a Soft Mud Knife
Photo credit: dvs / Flickr

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Drywall is prone to damage, whether it’s nail holes from pictures, cracks or grooves from furniture. Fortunately, there are many ways to fix drywall without replacing it or hiring a professional. If you know a few simple tricks, repairing your own drywall is a quick and easy way to freshen up your home.

Use a Soft Mud Knife

It’s the quality of your tools – not talent or years of experience – that will determine the quality of your drywall repair. Use a mud knife that flexes easily when you press it against a solid surface. Rigid putty knives can work for small repairs, but they can gouge walls as you apply pressure. If you use a metal mud knife, make sure it’s free of rust. Rusty knives will stain spackle, and those stains can bleed through primer and paint. Plastic knives are great for small jobs, but they wear out quickly. Once the edge of a plastic knife becomes pitted or grooved, it will be impossible to achieve a smooth finish.

Clean Up Dust and Chunks of Drywall

The biggest mistake most people make when fixing drywall is failing to prepare the area properly. Joint compound and spackle must be applied to a clean, solid surface to prevent future cracking. For nail holes, use the tip of a knife to remove any debris. For large, jagged holes, carefully cut away loose bits of drywall. Use a rasp or file to smooth any raw edges before you apply joint compound.

Washing with Water Instead of Sanding

Sanding spackle and joint compound makes a mess, even if you lay out plastic sheeting and seal doorways. For very small fixes such as dents and nail holes, you can smooth the spackle without sanding. Simply wait until the repair is dry, and use a damp kitchen sponge to gently wipe at the area until it’s smooth.

Using Drywall Tape

Many people will do almost anything to avoid using drywall tape because it often ripples or leaves an obvious seam. However, tape is essential for preventing future cracks along wallboard edges. Paper tape ripples and expands as it absorbs moisture from wet joint compound. To prevent rippling, moisten the tape in a bowl of water before applying it. You will need to apply enough joint compound to cover the tape completely, feathering the edges to make it blend in with the rest of the wall. Don’t worry about wide seams. Sometimes it’s necessary to feather the edges out to a foot or more to make your tape lines invisible.

Using Caulk for Cracks that Keep Appearing

If you have problems with long, jagged cracks that appear year after year, you might consider using caulk. Drywall tape works best with straight lines, and simply filling the crack with joint compound will result in fresh cracks when the home shifts again. Try a flexible water-based caulk that you can smooth with your finger or a damp cloth. Read the label on the tube and make sure the caulk is paintable so you don’t face peeling paint later on.

Once any repairs are made, you’re free to prime, paint or texture the wall. Always use a good primer before you start painting to seal the joint compound and give the wall an even tone. Keep in mind that if the original paint is older, it is probably stained or faded. To prevent a patchy look, paint the entire wall or room. You’ll be able to enjoy fresh new walls for a fraction of the price it will cost to hire a drywall professional.


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