Tutorial: How to Patch Drywall

I wasn’t kidding when I said we’d be getting back to home improvement posts over the next few weeks!  The mister and I spent over 6 hours on Sunday changing up some lighting in our kitchen and dining room and we’re here to share our process.

I’ll show you finished lighting pictures soon, but first I wanted to share some of the steps we went through to get there.  It all started when we installed can lights in our kitchen 2+ years ago.  We went from this:

To this (oh yeah – we painted our cabinets and scraped popcorn ceilings, too!):

We’d always planned on adding other lighting in the adjoining dining room later on, so we installed a double light switch box when we changed out the lights.

However, novice DIY-ers that we were, we didn’t realize they made light switch boxes (for inside the wall) for remodeling.  So, we bought a “new construction” box and proceeded to cut a giant hole in our wall in order to hammer the box into the stud.

This is what I’m talking about.  Nasty.

We got an outrageous quote from a handyman to patch this hole and decided we’d figure out how to do it ourselves.  Until we got around to it, we hid the mess with a clever little cardboard solution.  Yeah, we weren’t fooling anyone.  For over two years.

Needless to say once I learned how to patch drywall (from a little segment I saw on HGTV), it was time to fix the mess.  Here’s how we did it!

Tutorial: How to Patch Drywall

1. Piece of drywall the same thickness as your wall (We used a 24″x24″ piece from Lowe’s)
2. Drywall saw
3. Utility knife with drywall blade
4. Scrap piece of wood or two
5. Several long (3″) drywall screws
6. Glue (We used Elmer’s craft glue)
7. Spackel to blend the patch with your wall
8. Primer and paint to match your wall

Step 1: Using a drywall saw (like the one pictured below, found here) cut the edges of the hole you want to patch so that it is nice and square.

Drywall Saw

Step 2: If your hole exposes a stud, that is great news!  You can attach your drywall patch directly to that stud.  If not, you’ll have to attach a scrap piece of wood to a neighboring stud as a brace.

Since we were working around a switch box on the other side of the wall and having to leave space for a new one, our brace (bottom left) isn’t ideal.  If we were strictly patching the hole, we could have put 2 cross braces in between the studs and everything would have been hunky-dory.

Step 3: Cut a new piece of drywall so that it is several inches bigger than your hole on all four sides.  For this you will need a utility knife with a blade made especially for your drywall (like this one, found here).

Drywall Blade

Here’s a good method to cut drywall.  With your knife, score the drywall along the four sides of your square.  Then “snap” it by folding it along those score lines.  Flip it over and score the other side of the drywall along your creases.  This will create nice clean edges on your patch that is now cut down to size.

In the photo below, I have already cut this patch down to size and outlined roughly how big the hole will be in comparison to the patch.

Step 4: Score the BACK side of your drywall patch (the part that will be inside the wall) to the size of your hole.

A good way to do this is to hold the patch up over the hole so that the edge of the hole peeks out one side.  Mark where the top and bottom of the hole are on your patch.  Do the same for the other three sides and connect the dots.

In the photo below, I “marked” the patch where you see the red dots on all four sides.

Then I used my utility knife and scored the drywall to connect the dots.

Step 5: Snap the drywall along these four score lines and PEEL the drywall away from the paper backing on the other side.  You can see I’ve done this on two sides already in the photo below.

Here is what your patch should look like now.

Step 6: Test out your patch to see if it fits in the hole.  If not, shave away at the sides until it fits!

(Optional Step): Since we knew we’d be installing a light switch box in this section of the drywall, we went ahead and cut the hole for the box in the patch.

Step 7: Put the patch in the hole.  You’ll notice the paper we left along the edges overlaps the “good” drywall on the wall behind it.  With your utility knife, score through the paper layer on the edges of your patch AND through the paper on the drywall behind the patch.

This is the very important SECRET step!  It is how your patch will blend into your wall without looking lumpy around the edges!

Step 8: Remove the patch and peel away the paper layer you just cut through on your wall.

This is how the edges of your hole should look after peeling away the paper (and paint and bits of whatever else were on your wall!).

Step 9: Test your patch and make any adjustments.  Then drill pilot holes through your patch into the brace (or stud) you will attach it to.

Once you have your pilot holes, attach the patch to the brace using drywall screws.

Look at how pretty that fit is!  See how the paper from the patch fits within the area we peeled from the original drywall?

Step 10: Glue the paper along the edges of the patch to the drywall beneath it.  We used Elmer’s glue because that’s what we had.  Then spackel over the edges of your patch to hide any seams or screws.

Hooray!  Can you guess what we were installing in this light switch box?? 😉

Here’s a long shot so you can see how messy this can be!

Step 11: After your spackel dries, sand it down for a nice smooth finish.

Step 12: Prime and paint!

If you’re like me, you can see bumps and dents in drywall much easier once it’s all the same color.  After I painted I noticed there was a dent I hadn’t filled in with spackel, so I filled that in, waited for it to dry, sanded and painted (again!).

Here’s what the drywall looked like post-patch and painting!

And here’s what it looked like after we added the switch plate back on!

Step 13: Enjoy your newly patched drywall and dare your guests to spot the patch!!

I HOPE you found this tutorial useful and that I made it sound easy enough for you to try it yourself.  We actually saved ourselves over $150 (I think that’s how much the quote we got was – with the switch box and all) doing this patchwork ourselves, and I don’t think a pro could have done a better job!

Happy patching and let me know if you have any questions. 🙂

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