How to Repair Large Drywall Holes

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Fixing a large hole in drywall, often referred to as "Sheetrock," is really no more difficult than fixing most smaller holes. The process is virtually the same. The main difference is that when repairing a larger hole, it is best to go from stud to stud rather than to attempt to work in the mid-section which is void of studs. After reading the steps below, you should be able to ascertain whether you will be able to handle the project independently or perhaps require some additional skilled-help from professionals. The goal is to make the repair auspicious--as if the damaged area never existed. One young homeowner is quoted as saying, "Hey Tom...look at the repair I just made, didn't I do a good job?" Tom replied, " Yeah, It was right over here right?" The moral of the story is that after a while, too many conspicuous repairs showing will reduce the market value of the home--giving the impression that it is a "Handyman's Special." So please heed this caveat before undertaking this project. If you sense you lack the necessary carpentry and finishing skills, consider your options.

  • Assess the damage. Before going out and buying any materials to repair the hole, it's necessary to inspect the damaged area very carefully. Depending on what caused the hole, it's safe to say it was caused by impact from another object; fists and feet not excluded! Very often, the damaged section will have one or more hairline cracks radiating away from the hole itself--and that has to do with the force of the impact. You might want to cut out those hairline-cracked areas as part of removing the damaged section. However, it may not be prudent if the cracks run several feet in either direction. Those cracks could be repaired independently with mesh tape and compound.

  • Collect tools and supplies. You will need a tapemeasure, levels (2-feet and 4-feet), utility knife with new blades, drywall handsaw, 1-inch x 4-inch runs of lumber, course drywall screws (if wood studs constitute the underlying framing), otherwise the non-course threaded screws are used for metal studs. Buy drywall of the same thickness as existing. Don't use scraps that were not lying flat, they're probably warped. You'll need either fiberglass or paper tape, Durabond 90 or Plaster of Paris, joint-board compound, taping knives (4-, 6- and 8-inch knives). It is possible to handle the entire job with a 6-inch taping knife, but when it's time to tape and feather out the compound, larger taping knives will serve to render a more professional looking job. Don't forget drop cloths, painting supplies, paint and primer.

  • Gather the utility knife and drywall handsaw to square the hole and cut out the (jagged) damaged piece. However, before marking for cut lines, take into consideration any hairline cracks that may have radiated beyond the actual hole due to whatever impacted the drywall. Determine where the wall studs are situated. Since this is a large hole, you may be able to actually see or feel for them. Typically, studs are located vertically, every 16-inches along the wall. It's best to use a 2-foot level (or longer) to mark the cut-out lines. Level the lines rather than just eyeing it, so that the new piece will be a truer square or rectangle. This part can be a little tricky in that you must remember that the new piece of drywall will share the stud with the existing drywall--which is already secured to the studs. Here's one sure way to get it right: keep in mind that wall studs referred to as 2-inch x 4-inch lumber have an actual size of only 1 1/2-half inches by 3 1/2 inches. So when you probe for the studs, take a finishing nail and hammer it in where you suspect a stud is located. If you happen to have a stud-finder, this can also be an effective way to locate studs. However, the trick is to find the exact center of the stud because you will need to share that stud with the existing drywall. When you begin to cut out the old section with the drywall-saw, you will eventually feel the stud momentarily as you go from the softness of the drywall to the denseness of the stud. At that point, you have located the very edge of the stud. In knowing that point, measure over 3/4 of an inch and put a pencil-mark there. Now you've found dead center of the stud. Use your level from that point in a vertical direction and draw a line commensurate with the damaged section. Repeat that process when you probe for the next stud. Caution: be very careful not to cut any any electrical lines that may be in proximity.

  • Cut from stud to stud. Oftentimes amateurs have an unwarranted fear of cutting from stud to stud, based on the believe that if you work with the smallest hole possible it will be easier to achieve superior results. In fact, just the opposite is true. A large hole that is not repaired from stud to stud will require installing wooden members behind the hole on all four sides so that the new piece butts up squarely with the existing drywall edges. When going from stud to stud, the existing 2-inch x 4-inch studs will be used to secure the new piece to and you will only need to install two strips of 1-inch x 4-inch lumber to secure the remaining two sides. Also, when rigging the repair with four wooden members that are merely drilled and supported by the outer drywall, it is a weaker and more vulnerable repair, overall. So by working from stud to stud, you will achieve a more secure repair since at least two sides will be screwed into the existing studs.

  • Install the 1-inch x 4-inch strips behind the two remaining edges of the existing drywall. Use course drywall screws to secure these wooden members. Remember, take advantage of the 4-inch lumber width and leave about 1 1/2 inches exposed to screw the new drywall to.

  • Examine the piece of drywall you removed and measure the thickness and type of drywall that it is. Don't make the assumption that the thickness is 1/2 inch just because that is generally the most popular thickness sold. If for example, this wall damage is in a boiler room or other area where local codes call for fire-rated drywall, it might be 5/8 inch or even 3/4 inch thick. If the damage is in a bathroom, it may be (MR) or moisture resistant (green rock), as it is often referred to. Be sure to use the same type and thickness for your repair. Also don't assume that you can easily make up the difference with plaster, if you use a thinner repair piece. It would take professional skill and constitute a real waste of time and effort.

  • Secure the new drywall piece by using drywall screws that are at least 1 1/4 inches long for drywall that is 1/2 inch thick and use longer screws such as 1 5/8 inches long for drywall that is 3/4 inch thick. Make sure that the edges of the existing drywall are tight and install more screws to these edges if required. A screw-in pattern of every 6 inches is advisable where possible. If you were slightly off on your measurements, and you find gaps of more than 1/8 inch or so where the new piece butts the existing drywall, it is advisable to fill in the gaps with Plaster of Paris or Durabond 90 before taping the seams. Make sure that you keep this fill-in patching, very level with the surface by sanding it flush after it has dried. This will prevent taping problems and a lumpy appearance.

  • Tape the seams and sand in between coats, followed by priming and painting. For taping techniques and whether to use fiberglass mesh tape or paper tape, it is advisable to read a reference source on "taping drywall" and ask for some professional advice along the way. It is strongly advised to prime before painting in order to achieve professional looking results.

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