DIY Hacks -How to repair plasterboard walls

Gaps, cracks or holes in your internal walls? Don't panic, here are my top tips for patching and repairing damage to your drywall.

how to repair a screw hole in drywall / plasterboard wall
Screw hole being repaired

I'm not going to pretend this is the most glamorous subject for a blog post, but if you, like me, have plasterboard (drywall) walls, knowing how to complete minor repairs is so useful that I'll bet you'll find this a more exciting read than first expected. Ok, maybe exciting is the wrong word, but if you are looking for simple repair tips for dents and holes in your drywall, stick around.

Bucket of smoothing wall filler used to repair holes in drywall

As there's quite a lot of info crammed into this post, I've tried to make it easier to navigate by working through specific examples which I've linked below. That way, if you are here for a particular reason, ie you want to know how to patch a large hole in your drywall, you don't have to wade through lots of irrelevant info about repairing wallpaper removal scrapes first. Don't forget to give me a follow on Instagram or Tiktok too.

Take me straight to...

Drywall anchors…do you take them out or cut the ends off and leave them in the wall?
What do you patch larger holes with?
What is the best tool to use for smoothing the filler?
How to reduce the dust when sanding.
Did you use drywall primer?

Reasons you might need to repair your plasterboard walls

Plasterboard is easily damaged, fact! But aside from accidental damage, there are lots of reasons you might need to patch a hole or fix a dent or crack.

How to repair minor wall damage... - Scrape marks left after wallpaper stripping on drywall

- Holes left from screws / drywall anchors

- Marks left after removing a shelf How to patch larger holes...

- Wall light removal in drywall

- Electrical socket move in drywall

- Patching large screw holes in drywall

How to repair damage to drywall

I've trialled different methods of wall repair and have found the following DIY strategies work best for me. I'm sharing my methods in case they are useful to anyone else and to hopefully help save you time and money (as I've made all the mistakes for you already!) but it's important that you find a system that works best for you and your home. The best method depends on the size of the hole, crack or dent. Small holes can usually be patched with some filler but larger holes will require some structural support which can be another small piece of plasterboard, expanding foam or even some really strong cardboard, anything that will neatly fill the hole and provide a base for the filler and drywall repair mesh to sit on.

I haven't used drywall primer in the examples below, because I was not installing new drywall and I wasn't painting directly onto drywall; in both of these situations you should use a primer first.

How to repair small screw holes in plasterboard
  1. Remove any items or objects from the wall so nothing protrudes out from the wall & make sure your wall is clean and dry.

  2. Sand over the area to ensure you have a flat surface.

  3. Push the edge of the hole inwards a little, if the layers of the plasterboard surface have created a raised edge (as can happen when something is pulled out of the wall). You can see how I’ve done this with the end of a wrench handle in the picture above. Not only does this help flatten the wall surface, but it also helps to fill the hole and gives you a base to put the filler on to.

  4. Using a palette knife or scraper fill the hole with your chosen filler. It's best to do this with multiple thin layers rather than one thick as this can cause the area with the hole to bubble.

  5. Allow each layer to dry fully before applying the next.

  6. Top Tip:At this point, many people will tell you to swipe over the hole with the palette knife / scraper in different directions with each layer rather than keeping going over it the same way... But instead, I use my trusty (super flexible) squeegee and sweep it over the area in a couple of directions and this creates a beautifully smooth surface which reduces the amount of sanding you have to do (a winner in my book!)

  7. Let the filler dry.

  8. Once completely dry, sand over the filler gently ensuring any seams are removed and that the layer of filler is not a raised patch in relation to the wall surface. Top Tip: Sanding filler can be very dusty, so I attach the hoover to the back of my sander to reduce the mess. If you don't have a sander that attaches to the hoover then place a dustpan or hoover nozzle against the wall, under the sander to catch the dust and think about wearing a dust mask.

  9. The wall is now ready to paint.

How to repair superficial scrapes and scratches in plasterboard

We've all been there, you get a bit carried away with the wallpaper scraper and accidentally make a scratch or groove in the wall. Don't panic! It's a quick fix.

Follow steps 5-8 above.

If you have lots of scrapes in the same wall, use the squeegee in sweeping circular motions over the wall working on one area at a time.

Note: Don't sweep back over partially dried filler as this will cause it to crumple up and ruin your smooth surface and you'll have to start again.

See below pictures which show an area of wall being layered up with a few thin layers of smoothing wall filler to cover the imperfections. The lower part of the wall was being covered with bead board so didn't need smoothing. As you can see the process above works even on large areas with minor damage and saves getting the wall professionally skimmed.

How to repair large holes in plasterboard walls

Larger holes need to have some kind of additional structural support so you can't use filler alone. Below are a three different examples of how I've done this around my home...

Wall Light Removal Repair

Important! The wall light was disconnected and removed by our electrician before I started the repair. I always leave electrics to the professionals.

There were actually four wall lights removed from our sitting room and each one had two screw holes and a large square hole from the cables so I took the opportunity to test different methods with regards to the drywall anchors / (or plasterboard Rawlplugs depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside!).

Hole in plasterboard after wall light removal. Drywall repair
Hole in plasterboard after wall light removal.
Drywall anchors…do you take them out or cut the ends off and leave them in the wall?

I know some people say you should leave them in the wall and just cut the protruding edge off then hammer it in slightly, so in the interests of experimentation (that Science degree is finally coming in useful!), I gave that a try on one of the wall lights. I usually pull the drywall anchors out before I start filling the hole. I have to be honest this was a right old faff! Cutting the plastic edge off neatly while the plug was still in the wall was not easy and it all took a lot longer than just removing them. I've seen demos on the internet where they rest a large blade on the drywall anchor (just behind the protruding edge) and hammer the blade straight down, and that's all well and good if you happen to have a massive credit card size blade lying around...I didn't!

A flathead screwdriver being used to remove a drywall anchor.
Removing a drywall anchor with a flathead screwdriver

In summary, I’m going to stick with my tried and tested method of using a flathead screw driver to remove the drywall anchor by twisting it anti clockwise and pulling backwards at the same time and then going on to fill the hole .

Repairing the large cable hole

I used the same method for repairing each of the large central plasterboard holes and it went as follows;

  1. Cut a piece of plasterboard or similar* to fit the gap. I usually cut the exact size of the hole to start with and then trim the edges down a slither at a time until the patch fits the gap exactly. It needs to fit quite snuggly in the hole in order to provide support behind the mesh tape when the filler is layered over the top. *Top Tip:Here I actually used the super thick and reinforced cardboard sheeting that comes in with IKEA furniture. It's perfect because it has two thick outer sheets of cardboard with corrugated cardboard glued in between, so provides tonnes of support, but is free, sustainable and REALLY easy to cut.

  2. Place a piece of self adhesive plasterboard repair mesh tape over the hole, ensuring that all four edges are covered. If the home is too large for a single piece to cover all the sides, use multiple pieces with as little overlap as possible.

  3. Apply a thin layer of smoothing filler to stick the mesh tape in place and leave to dry.

  4. Apply additional thin layers of smoothing filler, allowing to dry in between.

  5. Don’t apply the layers too thick as this will mean extra sanding (& nobody wants that!)

  6. Top tip: Apply the layers in different directions each time in sweeping motions and use the magic (ok it’s not magic, but it is brilliant!) squeegee to get the smoothest finish.

  7. Once the final layer has dried, you can smooth off any seams or imperfections. As before, use the Hoover attachment if you have one on your sander or alternatively mask up and catch the falling dust with the Hoover nozzle under the sander / sandpaper.

  8. When you are happy with the smooth finish you have achieved, it’s time to paint

How to repair drywall after plug sockets have been removed

This was a bit of a weird one! This collection of sockets and switches was located inside a large built in cupboard in our bedroom. When we dismantled the cupboard the sockets were left half way up the wall and looked very odd so we arranged for our electrician to move them down to floor level which left these large holes which needed to be repaired. 

There was a thick piece of chipboard (which formed one end of the cupboard) between the wall and the sockets, hence why they are extruding out the wall so much in the first pic.

Some people would've chosen to replace the drywall but due to budget constraints (& the fact that this area of wall is normally behind a large freestanding mirror) I decided to repair the holes instead. The whole process was remarkably quick and simple to do and looking at the wall now, you'd never know those holes were ever there.

I could've cut the socket holes into neater squares and then filled them with strong multilayered cardboard (as before with the wall light holes above) or with small pieces of plasterboard, but this was a good opportunity to trial a different method and it turned out really well.

  1. Once the sockets have been removed safely by an electrician and there are no longer any cables in the wall spray expanding foam into the holes and leave to set.

  2. Once hardened, saw or cut the excess foam off.

  3. Apply self adhesive drywall mesh tape to the edges of the socket holes.

  4. Using a palette knife or scraper, cover the mesh in a thin layer of smoothing filler and allow to dry.

  5. Using squeegee tool, layer up thin applications of filler over the whole area, allowing to dry thoroughly between layers.

  6. Once the final layer is dry, lightly sand to ensure a smooth and level surface.

  7. Top Tip: Sanding filler can be very dusty, so I attach the hoover to the back of my sander to reduce the mess. If you don't have a sander that attaches to the hoover then place a dustpan or hoover nozzle against the wall, under the sander to catch the dust and think about wearing a dust mask.

  8. The wall is now ready to paint.

Patching large screw holes in drywall

I recently moved a shelf where the screws had made large holes and I couldn't therefore just fill them but had to patch as well. This was really quick and simple to do with a small piece of drywall mesh repair tape, see below pics of the process which is exactly the same as for repairing a small hole but with the addition of the piece of mesh repair tape.

Here are the links to the products I used (some are affiliate), but I always recommend choosing products that are best suited to your home.

Click here for Sander

Click here for squeegee

Click here for Filler

Click here for drywall repair mesh tape

Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to keep you up to date with future DIY, decorating, interior styling and upcycling projects, if you would like to receive my (not more than weekly & no spamming I promise) emails then please subscribe by scrolling down to the box at the bottom of the page.

Don't forget to check out some of my other DIY blog posts which are linked below

IKEA hack gets a style overhaul

DIY Hacks - Painting

IKEA Hack - Billy is my hero

5 tips for a successful IKEA hack

IKEA Hack - you HAVSTA try this one!

IKEA hack - BRUSALI cabinets to bespoke looking alcove built ins for under £150

Renter and budget friendly flooring - Floor Pops for the win!

5 perfect pink tiles you'll love

Bargain DIY stair runner - step by step tutorial

Upcycled pantry shelves of joy

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