Learning the Basics of Drywall Repair

Drywall repair is an extremely common need for homeowners. But, it may be the one that is least known for most. It is a durable, yet also, fragile material. It is fire resistant, but can be ruined by water and can be punctured easily by door knobs and other household objects. Making repairs is fairly simple, if you know the proper materials, tools, and techniques. The goal of this article is to provide you with that knowledge. The most common drywall repair issues that arise for homeowners are water damage and puncture holes so we'll focus on these for now. But, before we get to that, let's take a look at the tools and materials you'll need.

What Do I Need For The Job?

When it comes to tools and materials for drywall repair, it's really a short list when compared to other repair projects. Let's begin with the drywall itself, which is also called sheet rock. It comes in 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", and 5/8" thicknesses and in 4'x8' or 4'x10' sheets. The most common size used in residential work is 4'x8'x1/2". The thickness is only important if you are having to add or replace a portion of the sheet rock. The surfaces are finished by using a combination of tape products and joint compound (commonly referred to as mud). In new installations the joints and corners are covered with a paper tape which come in rolls 50 -100 feet long and about 2" wide. The joints are taped by spreading a light coat of mud along the edges, then pressing the tape over the seam with a drywall knife to smooth it out and remove the excess mud. The knifes are basically wide putty knifes and come in various widths. The joints, nails, and any other defects are the floated with mud 1-3 times to feather the mud. This process is known as "taping and floating" and is the standard for finishing sheet rock. After the finishing process has been completed and the mud has dried it is then feathered using either sandpaper or a damp sponge. The more skilled the finisher is, the less work it will need after drying. A final process known as texture is often applied to finish the surface. This involves joint compound, that is often thinned with water, being applied over the entire surface by use of a roller, a trowel, or sprayed with a hopper gun. These same tools and techniques are used for drywall repair with a few additional items. Rather than using the traditional paper tape, there is a fiber mesh tape that works great for drywall repairs. The rolls are the same size as the paper, but it has an adhesive that let's it stick to the wall without, first applying mud. Also, as an alternative to traditional pre-mixed mud, there are powdered quick setting products that are mixed with water so it's only necessary to mix what you need. The "Kwikset" muds come in 20, 45, and 90 minute setting times. This allows you to complete all of the steps of the repair process in a few hours rather than days. However, when using "Kwikset" for the first time, use the 90 minute to give yourself time to get familiar with the process.

Water Damage Drywall Repair

While water is essential to our survival, it is lethal to our homes. Water and moisture lead to more drywall repair than any other source. If it stays wet for any significant length of time, it's ruined. It is possible to salvage it if you act quickly to dry and ventilate the effected areas, but you need to inspect it closely for signs of mold and mildew or to see if it's become soft and crumbles easily. Water will most certainly leave a stain that will have to be sealed to prevent it from bleeding through the paint. The water stain will usually be your first warning of a problem. They are dark drown in color and, many times, mildew may have begun to form by the time you notice it. Obviously, the first action you should take is to find the source of the leak and correct it. Once this is done, you must further investigate to determine the type of drywall repair needed. With your hand, firmly press the area surrounding the stain. If the sheet rock seems hard and solid, it is probably safe to leave it in place, seal the stain, and touch up the paint. The most common stain blocking sealers are Kilz and Zinser. Either product should be sufficient, both are available in quarts or gallons that can be brushed or in spray cans, and both are available at most hardware and home improvement stores. Once you have sealed the stain and it has dried, you can paint over the sealed area, if you have some of the paint. Otherwise, you will, most likely, have to paint the entire wall or ceiling. If the rock is soft and your hand indents it or pushes through, then you've got a more extensive repair. If the water damage is in a ceiling or an exterior wall, it is important to determine if there is insulation behind the sheet rock that has gotten wet. The exterior walls and ceilings with no upper floor above are usually insulated with blown fiberglass insulation or fiberglass batts. Both of these types of insulation will absorb water like a sponge a hold it. Due to the lack of ventilation in these spaces, insulation can sometimes stay wet for months. This creates the potential for mold. If your water damage occurs in the ceiling, it may be possible to gain access through the attic and check the insulation. If no such access is available, your only option is to cut out an area of the drywall large enough to get your hand in and fell of the insulation to see if it's wet. If it is dry in the area immediately surrounding the stain, chances are you're OK. But if you find wet or damp insulation, you will need to remove a large enough area of sheet rock to allow you to remove and replace all of the wet insulation. At this point, you should decide how much of a sheet rocker you want to become. Cutting out a larger area is going to involve installing new sheet rock, taping and floating, and, possibly, matching texture. If you still feel this is something you can tackle, the next paragraph will explain the process. If not, this might be a good time to call a drywall repair contractor.

Patching and Reparing Holes

It is not that difficult to knock a hole through drywall. The most common cause are door knobs. If there is no stop on the door, and it's opened with too much force, it will open up a 2-3 inch diameter hole. There are many other sources of this type of damage such as furniture and children's toys. But, no matter the cause, it's got to be fixed. The first thing to consider is the size. Small areas, up to 6 or 7 inches in diameter, can usually be fixed using fiber tape or a pre-made drywall patch that consists of a small piece of aluminum sheeting with the fiber tape material attached around the edges. To perform this type of drywall repair, begin by scraping the area around the hole with a putty or drywall knife to remove any loose material and create a smooth surface for the fiber tape to adhere to. If the wall or ceiling has a heavy or bumpy texture, it will be necessary to scrape away an are large enough to contain the patch. For holes 2 inches and smaller, the drywall repair can be done using only fiber tape. Simply place several pieces over the hole, crisscrossing each other and extending at least 2 inches from the edge in all directions. When this is done, you will need to apply a coat of joint compound by spreading it with one of the knifes we mentioned earlier. The size of the repair will determine the size knife you need. If using traditional pre-mixed mud, you will now have to wait (most likely overnight) for it to dry before you can go to the next step. If you've decided to use Kwikset mud, the wait will be, at most, a couple of hours. The next step is to apply a skim coat of mud. The idea of the floating process is to feather the mud away from the patch so that there is no noticeable rise or bump. Therefore, try to spread each coat of mud as flat as possible to cover the patch area while avoiding piling it up. Usually 1 or 2 skim coats is enough for a small drywall repair and, when complete, the mud will cover an area 3 to 4 times the size of the hole. Now all that's left is to sand the patch with either sandpaper or by wet sanding with a damp sponge and if necessary, patch the texture. This same procedure can be followed using the pre-made patches I talked about earlier.

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