Skip to Content

How to Repair Drywall: From Holes to Perfect Walls

If you’re confronting a drywall repair issue at home, you need not resign yourself to a hefty professional repair bill. In most instances — mold and water damage may be exceptions — the average DIYer can learn quickly how to repair drywall.

Read on for an introduction to how to repair drywall, featuring guidance on drywall fixes that are well within the capabilities of most DIYers.

Man's hand with a putty knife showing how to repair drywall damage

Assessing Drywall Damage

Certainly, assessing drywall damage is an easy proposition when you’re staring at a ding or dent carved out by a doorknob, a hole created by an improperly mounted painting falling from the wall, or by roughhousing children or pets.

But you also need to be aware of water damage problems, which can manifest in a number of ways. If you notice discolored or sagging drywall, or see paint peeling from it, those likely are signs of water damage, in which case your first call should be to a plumber to look for water leaks.

More seriously, if you notice dark brown or dark black splotches on your drywall, you may be dealing with a water-related mold problem, which can have serious health consequences. Any drywall repairs involving mold damage are best left to professionals.

Tools and Supplies for Drywall Repair

Happily enough, in terms of how to repair drywall, most of the problems you’re likely to face in your home will be holes that can be fixed with a drywall repair kit. These kits include everything you’ll need for repairing holes in drywall up to eight square inches.

If the hole in your drywall is larger than the damage that can typically be addressed with a repair kit, you can still do the work yourself with just a few tools and supplies. Read on for a quick look at what you’ll need as you explore how to repair drywall.

Drywall Saw

drywall saw, also called a keyhole saw, has a long, narrow blade used to cut around the hole in your drywall, creating a square or rectangular hole into which you can insert a drywall patch panel.

Utility Knife

utility knife is basically a razor blade encased within a handle that is used for a variety of cutting chores. In terms of how to repair drywall, you’ll need a utility knife to score the paper coating of your drywall repair panel before snapping it off the panel and fitting it into your repair hole.


You’ll need a screwdriver to attach your drywall repair panel over the damaged area with drywall screws. Drywall screws typically are topped with an X-shaped indentation requiring a Phillips-head screwdriver.

Putty Knife

For spreading out the repair paste along the edges of your drywall repair to bring it flush with the adjacent wall surface, a putty knife will be needed. If you don’t have a putty knife or two already, you should consider buying a set of various-sized blades.

Joint Compound

The repair paste that you’ll use in exploring how to repair drywall is joint compound. A mixture of gypsum dust and water, joint compound is spread between the existing drywall and your repair patch to create a seamless transition.

Self-Adhesive Mesh Tape

Self-adhesive mesh tape is used to bridge the gap between your undamaged drywall and the repair area. It provides a place for the joint compound to stick to cover the gap.


Preparing your drywall repair area for priming and painting will require using fine-grit sandpaper to bring the repair flush with the existing wall. A 220-grit sandpaper is ideal for this part of the work.

Drywall Repair Panels

In learning how to repair drywall, you’ll find out it comes in four thicknesses — ¼-inch, ½-inch, ⅜-inch and ⅝-inch — with ½-inch being the most common size. Most drywall repair panels you’ll find will be ½-inch thick, but they can be used to repair holes in all thicknesses of drywall.

Pallet loaded with sheets of drywall

If you want to make your repair with the same thickness of drywall, you can buy a single sheet of 4×8-foot drywall at your local home improvement or building supply center. Cut out a patch of the size you need, and keep the rest on hand for any future drywall repair needs.

Covering Holes in Drywall

As already mentioned, most of the drywall holes that you’ll be dealing with in your home will be just a few inches across. Those are well within the capabilities of even novice DIYers learning how to repair drywall, particularly with the use of a drywall repair kit.

Basically, the kits comprise an adhesive mesh screen which is placed across the hole, along with repair pastes and sandpaper. Once the screen is in place, the repair material is spread across it with putty knives that also are part of the kits. When the repair material dries, it is sanded down with sandpaper included in the kits.

Not included in the repair kits are the primer and the paint needed to bring the wall back to its original condition. You’ll find more about priming and painting farther along in this post on how to repair drywall.

How to Deal with Large Holes

Unsurprisingly, large holes — more than six to eight inches across or up and down — will present more of a challenge in how to repair drywall than small holes. However, with a little careful attention, repairing a large hole need not be too daunting as a DIY project.

Your first step will be measuring the dimensions of the hole and cutting a new piece of drywall or drywall repair panel in a square or rectangle a couple of inches larger than those dimensions. Next, place the piece of drywall over the hole, and trace its dimensions onto the wall with a pencil.

Use a utility knife to score the lines, and then use a drywall saw to cut from the edge of the hole to the corners of the scored lines. From there, snap off the drywall to reveal the area you’ve cut out for the panel.

Your next step will be to cut a piece of plywood the same width as the cut-out area, but several inches longer. Screw a drywall screw into the center of the plywood and guide it into the hole. Once it’s in place, secure the plywood to the back of the drywall with more drywall screws.

Close up of a man using a drill to secure drywall with drywall screws

Next, place the patch over the plywood and secure it with drywall screws. Install mesh tape around the edges and cover the tape with joint compound. Apply a couple of coats of joint compound, and then prime and paint the repair.

As a quick note for learning how to repair drywall, if you don’t have plywood immediately available, you can use one or more 2×4 boards or other dimensional lumber behind the hole as anchors for the drywall patch.

Tackling Drywall Corner Repairs

If your drywall damage involves an outside corner where two walls come together, you’re likely facing a repair of the “corner bead” where they’re joined. Corner bead is typically made of metal or plastic, and the first step in repairing it is to use a hacksaw to cut the bead above and below the damage.

From there, pull the damaged section of corner bead away from the wall and replace it with a new section of corner bead. Cover it with some thin coats of joint compound, then sand the repair area smooth before priming and painting it.

Finishing Touches for Top-Quality Drywall Repair

Covering the problematic hole is certainly the primary aim of knowing how to repair drywall. However, the time and effort you take to give the job a professional-quality finish is the true measure of your DIY skills.

Read on for some help on how to repair drywall so that no one can tell it was ever damaged.


If you’re repairing just a small dent as you venture into how to repair drywall, you’ll be using spackle — a putty made of gypsum powder and binding materials. If you’re repairing a hole, you’ll be using joint compound — a slower-drying mix of gypsum and water — to seal the edges of the repair.

In either case, you’ll need to sand down the area of the repair to bring it even with the surrounding wall surface. However, different sanding techniques are required for the two materials.

Wet Sanding

For repairs using spackle, wet-sanding the area will produce the best results in terms of how to repair drywall. One way to wet-sand spackle is to lightly dampen the repair area with a gentle application of water from a spray bottle. Once the area is wet, simply go over it with 220-grit sandpaper for a smooth finish.

Using a sanding sponge to wet-sand drywall repair

Or, you can use a 220-grit sanding sponge dipped in lukewarm water to achieve the same result.

Dry Sanding

For larger drywall repairs, dry-sanding the areas around the edges of the repair where joint compound was used to join the repaired area to the rest of the wall is the best technique. In fact, you’ll be using two different grits of sandpaper when repairing drywall.

At the start of your drywall hole repair project, you’ll use 80-grit sandpaper to smooth the edges of the repair area. Then, when you’re finished installing the adhesive patch or drywall panel, you’ll use 150-grit sandpaper to get the repair area ready for priming and painting.


Once your repair area is smooth, the next step is to apply primer. Your best choice will be a product that also seals the repair area, like this primer from Rust-Oleum. In applying the primer, either a small brush or a small roller will work equally well. For best results, apply two coats of primer to the repair area.


The final step in how to repair drywall is repainting. The trickiest part of repainting is matching the color already on the walls. If you’re lucky, you may have some paint remaining from the wall’s original paint job. But if not, there are still ways to get a good match.

For one, you can take a chip of the paint from your wall — there should be some chips from the damaged section of drywall — to your local paint store. If getting a paint chip is impossible, you can try using one of the paint-matching apps available for smartphones.

How to Repair Drywall Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you’ve learned something about the basics of how to repair drywall, you may have some more detailed questions about the process. Read on for insights into a couple of issues you might face as you work to add drywall repair to your list of DIY skills.

What precautions are needed to avoid damage to water lines or electrical circuits during DIY drywall repair?

If you are cutting, drilling, sawing, or screwing into your drywall as part of your repair, you’ll need to know where your home’s water and electrical lines are located. Having that information will help you avoid the potential for further problems.

Locating electrical lines

There are a couple of tricks for locating and/or avoiding electrical and water lines as you go about your drywall repair project. As far as electrical lines are concerned, a good way to figure out where they might be located is to use a stud finder, since electrical lines often run vertically along studs.

A couple of other tricks for avoiding electrical lines include not breaching the drywall around electrical switches and outlets. And, if your home has a basement, you can check there to get a good idea of where electrical lines are located.

Locating water lines

Finding water lines that might interfere with your drywall repair is a bit trickier than finding electrical lines. A first rule for avoiding water lines is to be particularly careful if you’ll be making drywall repairs in or adjacent to your kitchen, bathrooms, or laundry room.

As with electrical wires, you may be able to determine water line routes by tracing pipes in your basement. Also, pay attention to any resistance you feel to your tools. That resistance may indicate that you’ve contacted a water pipe, and you can stop before creating any real damage.

What other problems can occur with DIY drywall repair?

One of the things that you’ll be doing to fix drywall damage is sanding down the area which you’ve repaired to bring it even with the rest of your wall. Sanding those repairs in which you’ve used joint compound will produce extremely fine dust that can be a respiratory irritant.

A man wearing a respirator while sanding drywall

While sanding your drywall repair, you should wear a dust mask, or better yet, a dual-cartridge respirator, to avoid any health problems.

Wrapping up How to Repair Drywall

Now that you’ve learned something about how to repair drywall, you should have the confidence to tackle it as a DIY project whenever a household accident leaves you with damage. To learn even more, check out the many other drywall posts at DIY Painting Tips.