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Repairing Wall Dents

The Natural Handyman

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Dear NH,
I need help as to how to go about repairing a hole in the wall. Well, not really a hole. It's more like a dent caused by a piece of furniture that banged against the wall. I'm not sure exactly what kind of wall it is, but it's fairly sturdy. I know the house was built quite recently (early 1990s) if that helps.
MM from Oneida, NY

When you say dent, I say drywall... or sheetrock... or wallboard... all names for the gypsum-based, paper-covered construction material of choice for modern walls and ceilings. Plaster... a Portland cement-based product... does not dent 'cause it's too dang hard. However, with enough "persuasion" it can break or crack!

Small dents or defects in walls are easy to fix with any of the patching compounds available for wallboard, regardless of the actual type of wall. Of course, larger repairs in plaster will need a special setting product made for plaster repair.

Repairing Wall Dents

For drywall, though, the easiest products to use are the premixed, lightweight spackling compounds, available in small plastic tubs or gallon sizes. Regular or lightweight wallboard compound is also an excellent choice for this sort of repair, but since you must purchase a gallon minimum it makes little sense unless you plan on going on a "denting spree"! Besides, once the seal on the container is broken, drywall compound does tend to dry out in the can over time. A year from now when you need it again it just might be somewhat lumpy and unusable.

All you need to do is apply it to the dent with a three inch wide flexible putty knife for any dent up to that width. Use smooth strokes to fill the crevice and to be sure that the spackle has stuck to the wall. Be neat and don't build up the spackle. When it is fairly smooth, stop and walk away. It is very difficult to get a perfect fill the first coat. The larger the repair, the harder it is! So go have a Perrier, watch the game and give the spackle some time to dry... at least four or five hours. I know... the labels say that they can be painted over almost immediately. That is true for very small holes, but in the case of a dent or larger fill, the product will smear if not given adequate drying time.

Sand the patch lightly with a 120 grit sandpaper to smooth it off. If you are satisfied with the repair, you can proceed to touch it up with paint... no need to prime these products if you are using a high quality latex wall paint. But if the patch is not full and level, apply a second coat of lightweight spackle and repeat the process.

I make the distinction between the "lightweight" spackles and the old fashioned plain spackle. Good ol' plain spackle... which comes either premixed or in a powder form... was designed to be used primarily on small plaster repairs, not on softer, paper-faced drywall. In my experience, I have found that spackle tends to dry so hard that it is almost impossible to sand without causing collateral damage to the drywall! Because of this hardness, there have been a few occasions where I have found it easier to just cut out the spackle rather than waste time sanding it. So if you ever use plain spackle, be very sure that you smooth it carefully and use multiple coats instead of building up the repair with one heavy coat.

copyright G.G. Alonzy

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  • Use these tips to repair holes in walls and these to repairing a mouse hole.
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