Plaster Repair 101: How to Fix Damaged Drywall

Damaged Drywall

Whether you rent or own your home, you’re going to have to deal with upkeep and maintenance tasks. The decision to DIY or hire someone to do the job depends on the size of the problem and your own skills. 

Plaster repair, for instance, can be a quick and easy DIY task, or it can be a major undertaking. If you notice a small hole in your drywall, it’s a good idea to take care of it yourself before it gets bigger. 

The bigger the hole, the harder it is to patch. But a simple nick, scratch, or dent is simple.

You don’t need major construction skills to repair a minor plaster problem yourself. If your drywall is damaged, follow this handy step-by-step guide to fix it. 

What Tools Do You Need to Repair Drywall?

Before you can make any fixes, the first step is to gather the tools you’ll need. 

Of course, the more extensive the problem, the more tools you’ll need.

Any time you do home repair, you’ll want to have cleaning supplies on hand. You may need to dust off the area as you go in order to keep working. Paper towels or cleaning rags are always helpful.

For big repairs, lay some plastic floor protectors down before you start.

Drywall Repair Tools

In addition to cleaning supplies, be sure to have these basic tools on hand for a drywall repair:

  • Sandpaper
  • Joint compound (pre-mixed)
  • A putty knife and/or carpenter’s knife
  • A drill and screws
  • Drywall tape
  • Spackle
  • A trowel
  • Drywall saw

Depending on the size of the repair, you may not need all of these tools. They’re good to have in your toolkit, though, as you never know when they’ll come in handy!

Damaged Drywall

How to Fix Small Dings and Nicks in the Wall

At this level, drywall damage is the easiest fix. If you can catch the problem now, you’ll save yourself a lot of work later.

A small hole, ding, or nick is generally considered to be anything that isn’t bigger than a nickel. These little dents can be covered with basic spackle or joint compounds.

Joint compound is cheaper to buy pre-mixed for smaller jobs. If you mix it yourself, you’re going to have a lot of leftover products!

Fixing Drywall Holes

To get started on your repair, get rid of any hanging drywall inside or around the damage. You can do this with a gloved hand, a rag, or anything soft.

Next, take a sharp knife and cut a beveled edge around the hole. Clear away the mess, then add your spackle or joint compound using a putty knife. Scrape the material until it looks naturally level with the surface of the wall.

Once the spackle or joint compound is dry, use your sandpaper to smooth it down. Add more of the same material to strengthen the area, let it dry, and sand it again. 

Your final step is to add primer and paint to the repair so it looks like the rest of the wall. Done!

How to Fix Medium Holes (Smaller Than a Doorknob)

Medium-sized holes are going to require a drywall patch and some pre-mixed joint compound.

They’re also going to be messier than small holes, so you might want to consider covering up the area around the damage.

Fixing Drywall With Mid-Level Damage

To get started, dig out any extra drywall and debris from the area in and around the hole. Then, sand down space where you’ll be patching. It’s important to clean and sand any place on the wall where the patch will touch.

The drywall patch has two sides. One has an adhesive backing to it. Pull off the backing and apply it to the wall. Use your joint compound to cover the patch. There should be just enough compound for you to cover the patch and feather it after it dries.

Once the joint compound is dry, sand it gently. It doesn’t have to be flush with the wall yet. Apply a second coat of compound, then sand it after it’s dry. This time, you’re going to feather the edges so that it looks like your natural wall.

After you’re done feathering, prime the area and paint it. It should be difficult or impossible to see where the damage was!

Damaged Drywall

How to Fix Large Holes (Larger Than a Doorknob)

Once the hole gets bigger than a doorknob, you may want to consider calling in an expert, especially if wires and plumbing are involved. 

If you feel comfortable working on the job yourself, be extra cautious and have patience. 

Each step is going to take a little longer because of safety precautions. But you’ll be proud of the final outcome!

Fixing Drywall With Large-Sized Damage

The most important part of fixing large holes is to watch for plumbing and wires as you’re cutting. Covering the floor and any nearby furniture with plastic sheets.

To fix a big hole, you will need a piece of drywall. You can buy a small sheet or use a scrap piece bigger than the damaged area. You’ll also need furring strips, drywall screws, a razor blade, joint tape, and compound.

Take your new/scrap piece of drywall and cut out a piece one or inches larger (on all sides) than the hole. Cover the damaged area with the drywall and trace the edges. Use your drywall saw to get rid of the area that you traced.

Slide the furring strips into the new hole and use your drywall screws to anchor them tightly against the new drywall piece. Keep it all flush against the wall with the drywall tape, then secure it with the joint compound. 

When the compound dries, sand it down and put a second coat on it. Repeat the sanding steps until the material is flat. Add primer and paint when it’s dry.

Plaster Repair Safety Tips

Any time you work on a construction job like plaster repair, you have to take safety precautions.

Follow these basic tips any time you attempt to repair plaster:

Prepare Your Working Area

Make sure the area where you’re working is safe. For instance, if you are patching a hole near the ceiling, use a secure ladder or other scaffolding.

Use Protective Equipment

You should always wear protective eyewear and masks when working with plaster. Depending on how much damage there is, work boots and a hard hat could be necessary.

Follow Instructions on Any Equipment

Every power tool comes with instructions and safety warnings. Follow them as written.

Keep Small Children and Pets Away

Anytime you’re working on a construction project like plaster repair, keep small children and pets away from your working area. It’s not safe for them to breathe in plaster dust.


Repairing drywall doesn’t require a degree in mechanical engineering. With these basic tips, you’ll be able to safely and effectively fix small, medium, and large holes.

Author Bio:

Proxi Lawrence offers luxury housing for Kansas State University students in Lawrence, Kansas. Learn more about their housing options today!

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Plaster Repair 101: How to Fix Damaged Drywall

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