Ideas from Ed: The Hole in the Wall

“Ideas from Ed” (October 2019)

This month:  The hole in the wall

Ed is a do-it-yourselfer who is happy to share some of his ideas and experiences in this monthly column.

I remember, while growing up, fighting with my sister about which of us was to put away an ironing board.  As we grappled over it, it fell and one foot went right through a wall.  Mom and dad weren’t very happy.  If I knew then what I know now, I could have fixed it as good as new!

If you have real plaster-on-lath walls, as many older houses do, this month’s article won’t really apply to you.  I’m just showing how to make a repair in “drywall”, or “sheetrock” as it’s sometimes called.  Maybe we’ll do some real plaster repair another time.  You’ll also note that I’m just doing this on a scrap piece of drywall to demonstrate the procedure, and not on a real wall. 

Here’s the hole I poked through to simulate some accidental (I hope!) damage:

Here’s a shot to show the approximate size.  You can see that if I had a patch about 2” x 2”, it would cover that hole:

The first step, then, is to determine the size of the area you’d like to replace.  In this case, as noted above, 2” x 2” should work.  Draw the area over the damage, and begin cutting it out, like this.  Try to be a little neat, with crisp straight lines.  Here I’m using a utility knife, but I really prefer using a multi-tool which you’ll see in the following steps:

Find a scrap piece of drywall with which to make the patch.  It’s probably best if the patch is the same thickness, but unless you’re working right over a wall stud, it doesn’t matter.  Add at least an inch to the cutout hole dimensions on all sides, so for the 2” x 2” square hole, then, I wanted a patch roughly 4” x 4”.  It doesn’t need to be perfect.  I’m showing the size of the hole as well as the size of the patch here:

Then, cut out the patch (the whole way through the drywall) so that you now have a small piece of drywall, at least 1” larger than the square hole on all sides.  The multi-tool makes this easy and neat:

Now, flip the patch piece over, and draw the original square cutout size on the backside.  In this case, I drew a 2” x 2” square, to match the cutout I made over the before-work damage:

Score with your utility knife from edge to edge, along one line, and then snap back that edge.  In this case, it was a 1” x 4” piece.  Then carefully peel that piece off from the FRONT facing, essentially leaving a “flap” of material on the front face of the patch.

Repeat that procedure with the other sides, leaving a “lump” in the middle (the size of your cutout hole), and flaps all around, like this:

Flip the patch the correct side up, and it should look like this, and the “lump” should match the cutout hole in the wallboard. 

Now is the time to make any final adjustments to the cutout hole if needed, so that the lump on the patch fits neatly into it.

With the patch inserted into position, use a straightedge and utility knife to cut neatly through the outer flaps as well as the front facing of the drywall.  It’s more difficult to do all these cuts in “real life” as likely the wall will have been painted, but a good sharp blade in the knife will help.  Here I am using a scrap of wood as a guide to make the cuts.  You just need to trim a little bit off of the patch, so try to keep the flap as large as possible.  Do this on all four sides.

You’ll end up with a slightly smaller patch, as well as score lines in the surface of the original (damaged) wall. 

This next step is what may be slightly challenging, especially, as I said, with painted wall surfaces.  On my drywall sample, it was quite easy to do.  You should peel back the front facing on the wall, essentially creating a “ledge” around the cutout hole.  The ledge should be about the depth of the thickness of the flaps on the patch.  Take your time and do this step carefully.  Then you can apply a coating of glue to the ledge, being sure to get it to all the edges.  I don’t show it here after glue application, but spread it around with your finger, to get uniform coverage:

Your custom-sized patch should now press neatly into position, and be nearly an exact replacement for the missing cutout in the panel.  I’d suggest holding a nice flat “something” against the wall for a few minutes until the glue starts to grab.

Now it should be VERY easy to put the lightest of skim coats of joint compound over the entire area, then sand it smooth so that the patch is unnoticeable! 

I hope all your projects go well.  Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!

Ed