How To Fix A Hole In Your Ceiling Drywall

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    This guy is asking me about how to repair a hole in his drywall ceiling. It seems that he was up in the attic trying to fix some electrical problems and lost his balance and put his foot through the ceiling.

    From first glance you might not think this is a bad situation but it really is for him. The first thing that I noticed was that the break in the drywall was right up against a decorative molding. Now I am not sure that molding can come out but it really should if he expects to have a decent job in the end. Additionally what you might not see in the picture is that the ceiling is both cracked back about 10 inches from the hole and it is popcorn textured.

    This and not to mention that with us getting into winter and the colder temperatures a ceiling will remain cold and when you start working with drywall compound. Drywall compound is not as finicky as enamel paint to dry. Eventually it will dry or cure but it might take an extra day. The only thing he can hope for is a warm night above 50F at least.

    How do you fix a hole in your ceiling?

    Ok so the first thing is to diagnose the problem. We already know that the drywall is going to need to be cut out past the cracks because you can’t have cracked drywall and expect it to turn out well.

    For a hole this large you need to cut a rectangular opening and because drywall is screwed or nailed to the ceiling joists you need to make that cut so its right in the middle of the length of the joist. Thats because the old drywall and the new drywall ends both need to be screwed or nailed into a shared joist.

    Once you have the hole cut out and you are looking at about 3/4 of an inch of joist around the perimeter you can begin by cutting your piece of scrap drywall to fit the hole. When you cut your piece you want to cut it an inch bigger than the actual hole. Then you will cut through the drywall from the back to remove the back paper and the plaster for that last extra inch.

    What will remain is a piece of drywall that fits your hole and a 1 inch border of paper on the drywall that you will overlap onto the existing drywall ceiling to cover the gap.

    Before you install the drywall you want to apply drywall compound to that flap and the edge and then when you insert it in the hole you need to put a drywall screw or nail every 6 inches into the joist. Also you want to mark where the center joist are on the ceiling and on that molding because you won’t be able to see them to get a screw in once the drywall is covering them.

    If the existing drywall is loose because you cut out a nail or two you will need to add them back to support the ceiling.

    Before the drywall compound drys you want to use a 6 inch wide knife to firmly press that paper border on to the ceiling like you are closing an envelope.

    Once the drywall compound has cured which will be about 4 hours on a warm day or overnight on a cold one .. you want to start evening out the drywall with compound. It might take you 2 or 3 passes with the compound and some sanding to get everything flush with the old ceiling.

    At this point you need to apply the popcorn texture. They sell fake texture in a can at most home stores so you can try that and it might give you a good approximation of what you have.

    Now you need to paint and it would be a good idea to apply some latex primer if you have any but if not expect to use two coats of paint.

    Final Note

    You will probably notice that I didn’t really address that molding on the edge of the damage. Unfortunately to get a good tight and professional job you would probably need to remove that molding but it is really a lot of work to do that and have it look good when you put it back up. Especially if you are an amateur.

    What you can do in this case is take one of those snap off utility knifes and cut that edge along the molding as close as you can and if possible see if you can tuck that piece of drywall up and behind that molding without removing it.

    If you do this you won’t be taping the joint in this area so you will need to add a couple extra screws on each joist near that molding to make sure it never moves.

    Damage like this can be difficult to fix and hide. Professional know all the tricks to get it done without extra work but they have the skill to execute those tricks and for most home owners you probably won’t be repairing holes in your walls or ceiling very often. Many people never have to do it.

    So, be careful walking in your attic and good luck.


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