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Can I do my own drywall repairs

In this article we will discuss some of the foundational concepts relevant to drywall repairs. By reading this, you will either have a better understanding of what you need to do in order to make your own wallboard and texture repairs or be better educated to hire and judge the quality of a contractor for your drywall project.

Throughout the skilled trades, many people struggle with finishing drywall and finishing concrete. In this article we will discuss some of the foundational concepts relevant to drywall repairs. By reading this, you will either have a better understanding of what you need to do in order to make your own wallboard and texture repairs or be better educated to hire and judge the quality of a contractor for your drywall project.

  • If you are a renter, you may be looking at repairs to ensure that you can acquire a full return of your safety deposit. As such, you find yourself receiving an involuntary education on either how difficult drywall patches can be to self-perform or you may be discovering how expensive a "simple" repair can be.

  • If you are a homeowner, perhaps you first purchase was a structure that needs some tender love and care (TLC). Whether there are cracks or nail pops in the drywall from the home settling or you have discovered an unwelcome water damage that wasn't previously known or disclosed.

  • If you are a business owner, you may have a tenant improvement contract which makes you responsible for interior upgrades and/or repairs. The prior tenant may not have been as scrupulous with the quality of their repairs and now their lack of skill is your canvas.

A few facts about gypsum wallboard systems:

  • Drywall gets its name from the installation on the drywall panels without water. Prior common interior wall coverings were plaster which is a build up of cementitious materials applied to wooden lath or metal wiring.

  • Drywall is often referred to as sheetrock. Sheetrock is a brand of drywall.

  • The standard sheet (or panel) of drywall is 4 feet wide by 8 feet long (32 square feet) and comes in depths of 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch.

Regardless of the source of the damage to your drywall, you now have to decide whether it is worth spending your time to repair these areas or if you will hire someone else to complete the task for you. Whether you are doing the repairs yourself or discussing the cost with contractors, you may find these points helpful:

  • Nothing is perfect. The process of repairing drywall and blending texture is a skillful method that creates the perception of perfection. When repairing even a small damage you will want to extend your repair area so as to get a greater surface absorbing the imperfections between the area repaired and the existing wall. A skilled drywaller has learned how to divert the eye from inconsistencies that even the best repair can leave behind.

  • If the drywall is broken, heavily cracked, or noticeably uneven you most likely will need to remove and reinforce a section behind the wall board. I have found that 1 inch by 3 inch pine (available at most hardware stores) is a great resource. These braces can be cut a few inches longer than the length of the hole in the drywall to provide a firm backing and plenty of room to fasten the repaired section to existing drywall. There are some pre-cut reinforced patching materials, but unless you are used to working with these products they can be difficult to texture.

  • What many people don't understand is the number of coats necessary to achieve a smooth surface and the amount of time it takes to achieve this result. Typically a joint between new material and the existing wall has "mud", a name commonly used for joint compound, applied to the joint with paper or fiberglass "tape". Fiberglass tape typically has some adhesive on its backing so it can be easier to install for people with less experience. The joint is usually set with a first coating of joint compound that spans 4 to 6 inches. Once this dries, typically after 24 hours, it is lightly sanded and a second coat is applied that doubles this width. Usually this is followed by another sanding and a final coat of mud.

  • To shorten the time between coats, many skilled drywall tradesmen will use what are called "hot" muds. These are joint compounds with additives which allow them to set and dry more quickly. Some of these advertise 90, 40, 20 and even 5 minute dry times. These can be more difficult to sand down, but if you know what you are doing you can "sand" them with a wet sponge to expedite the process and reduce dust.

Once the damage has been cut out, the wallboard supported and installed, and the various coats of joint compound have been applied, the surface is ready for texture. Texturing a drywall repair adds another level of complexity. Wall textures vary from smooth, to lightly applied "orange peel", to heavy textures, knockdown applications, and many hand troweled variations. For the texture to blend, it often needs to be applied at least one foot (preferably more) beyond the furthest point of the joint compound layers. If you are looking for drywall repairs or reconstruction after water and/or fire damage, please give All American Restoration Services (AARES) a call.



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