Monday, March 16, 2009

How To Repair Damaged Drywall Yourself

Drywall that has been well finished looks good and there's no denying it. I have been in the home improvement business for almost a quarter of a century and I am regarded as a fine finisher and drywall repair man in some circles, but I must admit I can always appreciate fine walls and ceilings that have been masterfully taped and finished. In my opinion it is a beautiful sight and I'm not above giving credit to other fine craftsmen that deliver good quality work.

But this article focus is to help the novice; the inexperience homeowner who wants to repair their own damaged walls/ceilings themselves. And I'm confident you can do it because I'm living proof that taping and finishing drywall/sheetrock can be accomplished by practically any one. All you need is good information (which I will provide) and the willingness to implement it. That's all. Hiring a contractor to repair your damaged walls/ceilings can become quite expensive to say the least, but with practice and the will to get the job done, you can do a fine job yourself and be proud of your own work. And not only that but you can save yourself a bundle of money over time too!

The most important aspect of repairing drywall/sheetrock is having the patience to do it correctly. When I first started out I couldn't get it right for the life of me. It was really embarrassing--I was fired from three jobs! I had to fight back the tears and I walked around with my head hung down for a long time and although it's been nearly twenty-five years ago, I still remember the pain and disappointment that I suffered. But you don't have to endure that because I'm going to instruct you on how not to do what I did. I'm going to walk you through it step by step to help you achieve quality results. And the great part about it is that it won't cost you a single penny and you will not be embarrassed about your failed attempts either. All I ask of you is that you be committed to the task and give it your very best; after all, I'm going to give you my best in hopes of helping you to repair your home and restore it to its former grandeur and beauty. So welcome aboard and off we go.

Stress lines, mapping lines, crevices, cracks, small holes, dents and busted drywall/sheetrock can cause agonizing headaches for most homeowners. But most of these problems can be corrected and alleviated by homeowners and novices alike. For starters you need to take a good look at the damage area and see what category it falls under. If your walls or ceilings are showing signs of stress lines or mapping lines here's how you should address it.

Stress and Mapping Lines
Stress lines/mapping lines are small little lines that look like lines on a map, thus we get the name mapping lines. It looks much like a map with various routes shown from one point to another. Now stress lines do indeed look almost identical to mapping lines except they are usually cause by foundation problems; which is no reason to push the panic bottom because not all stress lines are an indication that your foundation is crumbling to the ground. Stress lines are more of an indication that your house is still settling, that's all; and stress/mapping lines are the easiest to repair.

Generally speaking, stress/mapping lines are very small hair line cracks and many are less than a 1/32 of inch deep and even less in width, but they can run the length of your walls/ceilings creating an unsightly presence. Fortunately, they are the easiest ones to repair. First of all I like to clean the area on the walls/ceilings that need work and by all means make sure your work area is safe from all hazards that could cause an accident.

You will need a material list, albeit a short one but nevertheless a material list. You need a box of joint compound or sheetrock mud as it is known throughout the trade. A box of all purpose joint compound is a very good product to work with. There are a number of other joint compounds that are available on the market such as taping compounds and lightweight finishing compounds that are designed to do specific jobs better and more effectively, as well as fast drying powder mix setting compounds that dries very very quickly, but can prove to be very difficult to work with. I will mention more about these later on in this article.

You will need a roll of drywall tape to cover the stress/mapping lines. Drywall tapes comes in two types:

(1) paper tape that is made out of a strong paper that is applied over the stress/mapping lines and
(2) fiberglass mesh tape that is alkaline resistant and is highly recommended for use on plaster repairs, as well as drywall/sheetrock repairs.
Both are very good but I prefer using the paper type in almost all situations; especially the kind of paper tape that has the crease down the middle of it (fiberglass tape does not).

You will need a drywall tray to hold the mud in. Trays come in various lengths: 12", 14", 16", 18" and even up to 24". But a twelve inch tray will be sufficient. The trays usually comes in two types: plastic and stainless steel. You can use the plastic type if you prefer or if your budget will only allow it, but I prefer the stainless steel tray and I have about eight of them for my own personal use, but I have used the plastic ones before and they can get the job done. You will need at least three different size drywall knives to work with.

a) Taping knife:
you will need one tapping knife to put the joint compound/mud on the wall/ceiling as well as embedding the tape into the mud. Your tapping knife should be a 4", or 5", or even 6" knife. Either one will be good for taping, but find out which one is more comfortable for you to use and choose that one. There's no need to purchase all three unless you want to. I must own at least thirty different knives: 2", 3", 4", 6", 8", 10", 12", 14" and 18", and I have several knives that are the same size and type, but you really don't need all of that to do a really neat job; all you need is a few good knives for taping, bedding and finishing. That's all.

b) Bedding knife:
after the tape has been placed in the joint compound/mud, once it dries you are ready to apply the second application of joint compound/mud. This is generally done with an 8" or 10" knife. I would recommend that you use a 10" knife but if space dictates that you can not then by all means use a smaller knife. But if possible use a 10 " knife for bedding the tape down.

c) Floating knife:
Finally for your finish application use a 12" inch knife for floating out the repair area. A good twelve inch knife is the cornerstone for finishing in my book. As I stated earlier you can use a 14", 18" or even wider blade for floating out joints but the 12" should prove to be sufficient.

d) Sanding tools:
you will need a hand sander and a pole sander for your ceilings and for giving you leverage when sanding your walls as well. I don't recommend using power sanders or electrical sanders at this point, they can open up a can of worms for the young novice. However, you will need drywall sanding paper to fit your sanding tools and all of this can be purchased at your local hardware store and improvement centers.

As a reminder, be sure and follow all safety rules and guide lines when it comes to using all tools and equipment. Follow manufacturers' instructions and wear all safety gear to avoid injuries and accidents.

There are many contractors who prefer not to use tape when repairing hairline cracks like stress lines and mapping lines, but I have found out through trial and error that if you do not cover the lines with tape the lines are going to's just a matter of time. And not only that but they might very well continue to spread even further causing more unsightly problems. That is why I use and highly recommend that you use tape to cover the lines as oppose to just covering it with drywall joint compound/mud. That is the way (tape) to cover up the problem once and for all...unless there really is a much more serious underlying problem that must be addressed and rectified immediately.

After applying tape into the joint compound/mud make sure you have adequately removed all the excess joint compound/mud from beneath the tape. You should have a real tight bond between the tape and stress/mapping lines it is covering. Note: I did not say remove all the mud from underneath the tape--no, I simply said remove all the excess mud from beneath the tape after you have pressed the tape into the joint compound/mud that covers the lines...that's it. After it has dried apply a second application of joint compound/mud this time using a 10" drywall knife.

This step is often referred to as "bedding down" the tape. The purpose of this step is to hide the tape into the mud. You want the tape to be thoroughly covered and well hidden, but you want it to be as smooth as you can possibly make it. You want it to blend in as oppose to standing out with the rest of the walls/ceilings. After the joint compound has dried you should sand the edges if they have a build up. If you sand the whole joint be careful not to sand away the mud that is covering the tape and by all means try not to sand the tape. But if you do just go back and repeat that step all over's just a learning process

The final step of the drywall repair process--repairing stress/mapping lines is floating out the joint or repair area. Using a 12" knife try spreading the mud as smoothly as you can over the repaired surface. This may prove to be awkward at first but don't give up and don't become disillusion because things are not turning out so good; just keep in mind that this is a highly skill craft and it takes a lot of practice to do a good job--bar none.

Repairing hair line cracks is a very good start for novices and it's good to become acquainted with repairing drywall but now we are going out to catch bigger fish in the ocean. Repairing large cracks, crevices and holes will prove to be more challenging to say the least, but I do it all the time and so can you. You will employ the same techniques and basic fundamentals as you used and developed while repairing stress/mapping lines. But with larger damaged areas you might have to replace the drywall/sheetrock as part of your repair work; so let's get started.

Large Cracks and Crevices:
Cracks and crevices that are one inch and wider I consider and classify them as large cracks. Crevices are areas that have been gouged out or dug out for one reason or another. Accidents do happen and drywall/sheetrock can get damaged from day to day living. But you can do a really neat repair job yourself and save some real good money... and here's how.

Large cracks and crevices should first be cleaned out. Remove all the crumbling drywall pieces and make sure the area is free from dirt, debris and other surfactants that could hamper your repair job. Once the area has been cleaned you are ready to apply the joint compound. but before you do I want to take a moment and elaborate on the drywall setting compounds that I mention earlier in this article. Setting compounds unlike drying compounds (all purpose joint compound) have chemicals added in it to speed up the drying time and they almost always come in powder form that must be mixed by you. These setting compounds are often referred to in the industry as "hot mud" because of their ability to dry so quickly. There are 20 minute setting compounds that hardens in twenty minutes, that is, from the time you add water to it the clock starts. Forty-five minute setting compounds; ninety minute setting compounds are available at most hardware and improvement centers. I have even heard of setting compounds that dries in less than five minutes...but I personally have never used it. The twenty minute setting compound usually give me a pretty good run for my money. It took me a while to get use to it and it still presents a challenge today.

But the setting compounds have proved immensely good for my drywall repair business. You see, it really is a sought of plaster that dries hard and tough. It is sandable but it can prove to be somewhat difficult. I normally buy the sandable version of setting compound but it is still something to deal with. And I often keep a heat gun nearby so that after it hardens I can use the heat gun to dry it out enough for sanding. As I stated earlier it gets hard according to the time it is supposed to get hard but hard is not dry, therefore I use the heating gun to dry it completely and that allows me to sand it immediately.

After the cracks/crevices are ready the first thing I do is fill them with the setting compound and then I place the tape over the cracks/crevices. Following the same techniques as I described for repairing stress/mapping lines I remove all excess compound and make sure the tape is securely fitted over the cracks/crevices. I prefer using paper tape as I stated above but you can use fiber glass type or some of the many varieties that they sale for this particular purpose. After the initial application has been done and have dried I then bed down the tape with a second application of the same setting compound that I used to tape it.

After the second application has dried you may need to sand it to smooth out the edges and to make it flat. You want to try and avoid that raised look. The idea is to give the illusion that the drywall/sheetrock hasn't been disturbed at all. So be sure and sand it as smoothly as humanly possible...without damaging the drywall/sheetrock.

And the final application is the floating of the repaired area with a 12" drywall knife, just as we did before when we were finishing the stress/mapping lines repair. At this stage of the process I prefer not to use the setting compound that I used to tape and bed the tape. Instead, to float out the repair area I prefer to use regular all purpose joint compound slightly diluted with water to make it a little easier to spread. You don't have to do it this way but this is usually how I close it out. The key is to find out what works best for you.

If you have followed closely the instructions and directions I have given you through out this article then you should be ready to tackle the big job and do it admirably. Repairing large holes in drywall usually involves another dimension of drywall repair that to this point have not been mention. Some holes are so large that using tape to cover it like you would a line crack in is not an option. And for holes like this (3" and wider) you must fill the whole or patch with drywall/sheetrock. It's really not hard to do at all. If you have done a good job finishing then this should be a piece of cake for you. I like to think of this as a precursor to drywall/sheetrock installation, at least this is the way it progressed for me.

You will need some extra drywall/sheetrock on hand to implement the repairs, but if you do not have any on hand you can pick up a drywall/sheetrock panel from your local home improvement center and just use what you need and if possible save the rest for a later repair--believe me there will be more repairs. But before you begin cutting the drywall/sheetrock panel measure the size of the hole in question; measure the length and width of it. Use those measurements to cut out a piece from the drywall/sheetrock that you just purchased or found in the old basement. When you are cutting out the new piece try to cut the piece just a little smaller than the actual size of the repair so that you can fit the new piece securely into the area that is being repaired. If you have a drywall rasp you can sand the edges of the newly cut out piece thus making your fit even better, if you don't have a rasp just use drywall sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges-- that's good enough.

Now you will probably need some type of backing to keep the cut piece from falling through the hole.If it is a small hole you can simply screw a drywall in the middle of the cut piece and hold it with the opposite hand that you are installing with; then quickly apply some setting compound that will hold it in place until it dries. Or you can place a piece of wood through the whole and insert a couple of screws to hold it in place. This will be a sought of backing that will help keep the newly cut drywall/sheetrock patch from just falling through. Quickly apply the all purpose joint compound or setting compound over the patch piece then apply the drywall tape and be careful not to apply to much pressure because you could accidentally push the repair piece through the hole even though it has backing, so be careful and handle with care.

The procedures are the same for repairing and finishing stress/mapping lines, repairing cracks and crevices, as it is for repairing drywall/sheetrock with large holes in it. The only difference is with large holes you must replace damaged drywall/sheetrock with new drywall/sheetrock. After you have taped the newly installed drywall/sheetrock piece now you are ready to apply the second application of setting compound or all purpose joint compound, depending on what you have chosen to use. And finally after the bed application you are ready to apply your finish coat. As I stated earlier I prefer to use a setting compound for taping and bedding and regular joint compound slightly thinned down with water for my final application, but you can do it the way you want to. And if it takes four of five applications and plenty of sanding in between then that's okay too. Just take your time and do the best you can do and you will succeed. Good luck to you.

Autor: Don R Thomas

Donald Thomas is owner and CEO of AMERICAN PAINTING AND PRESSURE CLEANING, INC. He has been in the home improvement business since 1984. Please feel free to visit our website for more full length feature articles and a lot of great tools and equipment.

Added: March 17, 2009