As a handyman, as a landlord and as a homeowner, I have tackled my fair share of small drywall repairs.

And never mind the knockdown texture that I saw way too much of in the late ’90s (that’s a whole ‘nother article), I am talking here about really small drywall repairs. Issues created by moved or removed nails, screws, picture hangers and/or damage caused by maybe just a little bit more.

Four Tips for Patching Small Holes in Drywall

Choose Joint Compound

While you may be tempted to reach for spackling – and it does have it’s place – a quart of pre-mixed joint compound is your best choice in this case.  If you read the label on the back of most spackle, you’ll find something like — Not intended as a finish/top coat. . . . So skip it.

Always Size the Knife

Always size the knife you are using to the repair you are about to make (and never mind the painful truth of how I learned this one). Say you are working now with an abandoned nail hole, forget the instinct to go for a 3, 4 or 6-inch knife; each would be too large for this job – a flexible putty knife 1- to 2-inches wide will do just fine. Work to fill the hole, but feather the compound onto the surrounding surface.  The fix may require more than one pass and you may need to sand the edges prior to paint.

patching small holes in drywall :: using the butt end of a drywall knife to prep a nail holeYour Knife is a Powerful Tool

The butt end of your tool is great for working the raised edges of a hole back into the wall.  Just rock the end of the knife’s handle back and forth over the penetration. You could even, if the circumstance demanded and as the 6-in-1 tool suggests – give the spot a hammer-like whack . . . or two.

Think About Paint Touch Ups

You will eventually apply paint to your repair.  And as important as matching the paint color and sheen, is finding the even so discrete paint roller defined texture of a wall.  You don’t get this right and light hitting the surface will ultimately reveal the repair.

To match the heavy, but not quite orange peel-type texture created by a thicker napped roller, you can take a wetted touch up roller and work it into the compound before it has fully dried. (This is an acquired skill, but it actually does work.)

Chances are, and don’t miss this one, you will need to do your touch up painting with a paint roller too.

– Don’t Forget to Prime

Lastly, questions – Were your walls painted without first applying primer? Nope.  Do you prime now? Yep.

These techniques will work for fixes all the way up to and through applying tape to cover a hole . . . if again, you always size the knife you are using to the repair.

Thanks and BMoxie BMore! Email with questions if you like.

More Moxie:

On repairing textured walls — Orange Peel.

On the effect known as flashing and tips on matching paint.

More Essential Skills from Building Moxie, here.