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How to Fix a Bad Drywall Job That Has Been Painted

If you’ve recently moved into a home with a bad drywall job that has been painted, or your handy friend or contractor installed sloppy drywall that left you thinking, “I should just fix this myself,” you’ve come to the right place!

Learning how to fix a bad drywall job that has been painted takes time, but it can be done with patience and determination. Read on to learn the signs of a bad drywall job that has been painted, the tools you need to fix it, and the step-by-step guide on how to fix it the right way.

How to fix a bad drywall job that has been painted

Signs of a Bad Drywall Job That Has Been Painted

If something looks off about your wall, it’s probably related to how the drywall was installed. Let’s review the typical tell-tale signs of a poor drywall installation:

Joints Visible

Drywall sheets meet each other at a joint or seam. Tape and mud seal the joints and should not be visible if the drywall is installed correctly. Look for these signs of the joints:

  • Drywall tape exposed on the edges
  • Creases and/or bubbles present in the drywall tape
  • Indents present in the middle of the two sheets
  • Humps in the wall caused by too much mud

Drywall sheets are commonly eight feet by four feet, and it takes several of these sheets to cover your wall. Any sign of multiple sheets indicates that the installation was not done correctly.

Nails and Screws Visible

A drywaller is supposed to sink the screws into the sheet around one millimeter, fill the hole with mud, and sand it until it’s smooth.

A bad drywall job that has been painted sometimes has nails or screws showing through that the person installing the drywall forgot to cover it with mud. Present-day drywall installers use screws, but you may find nails in older homes.

If you see a circle on the wall, it’s probably a nail or screw.

Corners Uneven

The wall’s corners should be uniform, sharp, and straight.

Like joints, the wall’s corners are sealed with mud and tape. You should not be able to see the tape. If the corners are wavy or have indentations, bubbles, creases, or gaps, the drywall was installed incorrectly.

How to fix a bad drywall job that has been painted

Rough Surfaces

While some walls are intentionally left rough textured, the texture should be consistent. If you have smooth walls, it’s easier to spot rough surfaces.

Look for the following rough spots:

  • Raised drywall that wasn’t sanded down properly
  • Scratches where low-grit sandpaper wasn’t finished with high-grit sandpaper
  • Mud splashes that were spilled and not cleaned up
  • Scratches or dents that were not repaired

Ceilings Sagging

Ceilings are supposed to be flat and stay in place for many years. If you notice a change in your ceiling, this could be a sign of a bad drywall installation if you’ve ruled out a water leak.

Messy Cleanup

The process of installing drywall is messy and creates a huge amount of dust and garbage. A professional drywaller should clean up after themselves before painting.

If the person who did your drywall left mountains of dust or trash, they weren’t professionals. Drywall dust makes it challenging to paint, and it can damage windows or door joints.

If your handyman failed to clean up their mess before painting, carefully inspect their work to ensure they didn’t forget anything else.

Signs of Toxic Drywall

If your home was built or remodeled between 2001 and 2008, you could have had potentially toxic drywall installed from China. Peak installation of this toxic Chinese drywall from 2004 to 2008 during the drywall shortage following the devastating 2004-2005 hurricane season.

Most toxic drywall components were installed in the southern United States. Look for these signs of toxic drywall:

  • A rotten egg smell throughout your home
  • HVAC system and other electronics frequently failing
  • Metal items protruding from the walls
  • Corrosion or blackening of metal items within your walls

A myriad of health conditions can arise due to toxic drywall, including persistent coughs, bloody noses, recurring sinus infections, and more. Visit the CPSC website for more information if you believe your house may have had toxic drywall installed.

How to fix a bad drywall job that has been painted

Tools You Need to Fix a Bad Drywall Job That Has Been Painted

How to Fix a Bad Drywall Job That Has Been Painted

Step 1: Determine the Size of the Damage

A bad drywall job that has been painted can come in all shapes and sizes. Before you start thinking about how to fix a bad drywall job that has been painted, figure out if you want to repaint the whole wall or just touch up a few small areas.

Tiny nail holes can be covered up by dabbing on some touch-up paint with a soft cloth. If you have more than a few nails that need touching up, you need to prime the patched walls.

Keep reading if you have a large area of the wall that needs repairing.

Step 2: Prepare the Wall

Prepare the wall by using a non-scratch sponge with detergent. TSP detergent is best for semi-gloss or gloss paint. If your walls are painted with flat or satin paints, you need to avoid abrasive scrubs and use one ounce of dish soap or powdered laundry soap with one gallon of warm water.

Learn more about how to clean walls before painting.

Step 3: Prime the Damaged Area

Chip off loose mud or drywall compound using a paint scraper. Use the corner of the scraper to puncture any bubbles on the tape. Cut off the separated paper with a utility knife, then brush off the dust and mud with a dry paintbrush.

Using a paint roller, spread on a coat of drywall primer to all the areas needing repair. Do not proceed until the primer is dry.

Step 4: Remove and Replace Nails or Screws

Remove any drywall nails that are popping out and replace them with 1 1/2-inch drywall screws. Use a drill and No. 2 Phillips bit to drive the screws in about 1/16 past the surface of the drywall.

How to fix a bad drywall job that has been painted

Step 5: Coat the Damaged Area

Hide the nails and screws with a coat of mud. Use a four-inch drywall blade to coat damaged seams. Moisten the drywall tape on top of the mud and scrape it flat. Add a second spread of mud on top of the tape, also scraping it flat.

Use a drywall knife to spread a coat of mud on uneven seams, then use the knife to scrape the mud flat. Allow the first coat of mud to dry overnight and recoat all the areas you plan to repair.

A six-inch knife should be used to create a wider seam. Let the coat dry, and apply a third coat with an eight-inch knife.

Put on a dust mask to protect your lungs, and use 120-grit sandpaper to sand the required areas. Shine a handyman flashlight on the wall to help you get the areas flat if the room isn’t light enough.

Step 6: Apply Texture

If there is an existing texture, apply the texture to match the rest of the wall. How this is done will depend on the current wall’s texture. You can duplicate a knock-down pattern by spraying texture from a can and flatting it with your drywall knife after it stiffens.

Wait for the texture to dry before moving to step 7.

Step 7: Apply Primer

Prime the walls with an indoor/outdoor primer like Kilz 2 Primer. Wait for the primer to dry before moving to step 8.

Step 8: Repaint the Wall

Roll on a new coat of paint, and you’re done!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to fix a bad drywall job that has been painted

What should I do if I don’t have the same color paint?

If you can’t match the existing paint, you will need to prime the entire wall and paint it with the color you have.

What are alternatives to drywall?

Standard drywall is popular because it’s quick and easy to install, but it’s not the perfect option for areas that get wet and flood frequently. Homeowners have plenty of alternatives to choose from, including the following:

  • Stone Veneer—Cheaper and lighter than real stone, stone veneer is a foam material replicating the real thing. It’s nowhere near as durable as stone but requires minimal maintenance.
  • Shiplap—One of the most popular alternatives to drywall in recent years, thanks to modern television. It’s easy to install and great at keeping rooms dry and warm.
  • Plywood—Easy and inexpensive to install and durable. Plywood seals in moisture well, but it’s not as fire-resistant as drywall.

Can I cover the wall with wallpaper instead of fixing it?

Yes, using wallpaper is an alternative to hiding a bad drywall job that has been painted. However, you want to be careful with the type of wallpaper you select for the type of damage you have. Smooth, solid-colored wallpaper will not be able to hide the imperfections on your wall.

Fill any cracks and holes before installing wallpaper. If the wall surfaces are really bad, skim them with a layer of plaster or use a thick-graded lining so you can provide a smooth surface for the wallpaper.

Choose one of the following textured wallpapers:

  • Vinyl
  • Pure Paper
  • Woodchip

Wrapping Up How to Fix a Bad Drywall Job That Has Been Painted

You’re ready to start working now that you know how to fix a bad drywall job that has been painted. If you want more drywall repair tips, head to this drywall repair post.