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The Seven Most Common Drywall Problems…and How to Fix Them by Lynnie Winter, CP – Taken from PWC January/February 2011 issue.

Painters and wallcovering installers find all types of surprises on the job every day – the most common of which is drywall damage. Drywall damage can range from miniscule nail holes to huge, gaping holes requiring a drywall installer to replace entire pieces. Usually it is the painting contractor or the wallpaper installer who has the “pleasure” of repairing the drywall damage. Here are the seven most common drywall problems contractors encounter and the best way, to repair them.

1.) Nail Holes, Gashes, Nicks & Scrapes – These are simple enough to fix. Sand surface smooth, if necessary, then fill with either quick-dry spackling or quick-setting joint compound. Allow to dry, sand lightly if necessary, then prime with a good-quality paint primer or wallcovering primer (depending on whether you’re painting or papering the wall), and you’re good to go!

2.) Nail Pops – For nail pops, remove the loose drywall mud. Screw in a drywall screw above and below the popped nail if possible. Hammer the screws in slightly to form a dimple, then apply drywall mud to the dimples and to the hole where the popped nail was. Let it dry, then sand smooth. Apply a sealer/primer before painting or wallpapering.

3.) Holes – Whether they are caused by a door-knob, wayward flying objects, indoor sports or an adolescent fist, holes require some attention. This type of drywall damage can vary widely, making it difficult to give an exact repair recipe, but there are some general guidelines for repairing these types of drywall holes. Repair patch kits are ideal for some of these; they are made of nonrusting aluminum and are fiberglass mesh reinforced. However, drywall tape and drywall mud may be all that are necessary for repairing some of these damages.

Clean off any rough edges or protrusions on the wall surface. Apply the repair patch according to the manufacturer’s directions, then apply drywall joint compound to the patch with a broad knife or taping knife. be sure to feather the edges into the surrounding wall. Allow to dry overnight; sand with sandpaper or sanding sponge, and apply a second coat of mud, repeating the process until the patch is invisible and the wall is smooth.

In all instances, it is critical to apply a good-quality sealer/primer to seal the porous surface of the dried joint compound. When choosing a good sealer/primer, be sure to look for a product that is zero or low VOC. Gone are the days when contractors could use those smelly, oil-based primers with reckless abandon, leaving the client to suffer with toxic fumes for several days! Customers won’t tolerate that anymore, and it is much better for contractors, too.

4.) Damage Caused by Electrical or Plumbing Issues – Oversized outlet openings and new holes created by changing light fixtures can be repaired by using either drywall tape or the mesh repair patches, cut to size, as outlined above. For larger holes, such as those areas cut out to access plumbing, you will need to have new drywall and cut to size for the repair.

To begin, cut the edges of the hole with a utility knife to make them straight and tidy. Clean off any rough edges, loose paper or protrusions on the wall surface. After trimming the hole into a tidy square or rectangle, use a piece of paper and a pencil to make a simple template for cutting out the piece of drywall that will fit into the hole. Use rosin paper if the hole is on the larger side. Just lay or tape the paper on top, lay your pencil lead sideways against the cut drywall edge and go completely around the hold. (Be sure any tape you use is non-damaging and removable.) You now have an accurate template to lay on your new drywall piece to cut out a very well-fitting piece.

Screw in a piece or two of backing wood as an anchor for the new replacement drywall. Cut a one-by-four strip of wood at least 4 inches wider than the widest part of the hole you are repairing. Insert the wood into the hole, leaving 2 inches on either side behind the existing wall. While holding the wood, insert drywall screws into the drywall, then into the backing wood, making sure you are at least an inch from the cut drywall edge. Install a screw or two on the other side. You should now have a secure backing to screw into when setting in your new replacement drywall. Place the drywall into the hole and fasten it securely with screws. You are now ready to tape and mud the cracks, following the standard procedure.

5.) Torn Drywall – This is often caused by wallpaper hung on unprimed walls and is every homeowner, painter and paperhanger’s worst nightmare. your client wants to freshen up the house by replacing the existing wallpaper with a fabulous grasscloth or paint color, and you have the job of removing the old wallpaper. Trouble is, whoever installed the wallpaper took a shortcut and didn’t prime the walls correctly with a good-quality sealer/primer, leaving you with torn drywall and a real mess. What to do?

First, you’ll need to finish removing the wallpaper, if possible. Remove any loose, torn pieces of drywall paper; sand edges smooth. Apply a penetrating drywall sealer/primer to the walls and allow it to dry. Look for a zero- or low-VOC product that will penetrate the drywall without smelly solvents or ammonia. Once dry, apply drywall mud where necessary with a broad or taping knife. Allow to dry, then sand; repeat where necessary. When you are satisfied that the walls are smooth, apply another coat of the penetrating sealer/primer to seal the drywall mud and prepare the walls for painting or wallpapering.

6.) Scoring Tool Damage – Countless small holes left by scoring tools that dig into drywall during the wallpaper removal process are truly annoying and completely avoidable. If you use a wallpaper removal scoring tool, be suer to choose one that is designed specifically to prevent this type of drywall damage.

For repair, the wall will most likely have to be sanded smooth, then completely skim coated with drywall mud. Sand mud when dry, then apply a zero- VOC penetrating drywall sealer/primer to the walls. They are now ready for paint or wallpaper installation.

7.) Water Damage and Water Stains – If the walls have suffered water damage, the drywall must be completely replaced after the water source has been stopped. The potential for mold and mildew growth is too large to risk not replacing the drywall.

But for water stains on drywall ceiling where there was perhaps a small roof leak that was quickly fixed or below a window where the window was left open during a rainstorm, there is hope. There are many products on the market designed to completely seal these stains before painting. Look for one that is low VOC and environmentally friendly. This will benefit both you and your client! Apply according to manufacturer’s directions and let dry thoroughly before proceeding with painting or wallpapering.

These are some of the most common drywall repairs contractors must make on everyday jobs. Fortunately, there are many good products in the marketplace today to help make the job of repairing drywall safer, faster and easier!

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