how to fix holes in apartment walls

Repair the walls before moving out

To start, you should go room by room and check all the existing walls for damage. There are different types of wall damage that can occur in your apartment, ranging from drywall damage to tiny holes. And, each repair requires the right tools. Knowing how to fix them is key to success.

While you can use your family handyman to do the job, there are also a lot of ways to do DIY repairs. Here’s how to tackle each type of damage you may come across.

1. Use lightweight joint compound to fill small holes

After taking down the photos from your gallery wall, you probably noticed the many small holes left by the nail head used to hang the frames. Patching a small hole left by nails, tacks or screws is simple and will leave the damaged walls looking great again. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Dust mask
  • Work gloves
  • Spackling paste, joint compound or lightweight joint compound
  • Sandpaper
  • Putty knife or drywall knife
  • Paper tape
  • Paint roller
  • Prime and paint

To start, squeeze a small amount of the spackle or joint compound onto each small hole and then use your putty knife or utility knife to spread a thin layer and blend it over the hole and wall. Once the spackle or joint compound is completely dry, use the sandpaper to lightly sand the surface of the wall. Make sure to really focus on the area around the edges so that you leave the wall smooth and flat around the repaired area. If this doesn’t do the trick, you may use a little touch-up paint to repair the damaged walls.

In a real pinch, you can use some materials around the apartment to fill the hole. Plain white toothpaste or baking soda mixed with white glue can also work to fill nail holes but aren’t recommended unless you absolutely have no time to get the right materials. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to vacuum and clean up all your joint compound dust after repairing the wall.

2. Large holes require repairing the drywall

2. Large holes require repairing the drywall

Now it’s time to tackle that large hole you hid under your favorite painting. Holes larger than those made by a small nail need serious drywall repair.

Luckily, you don’t have to fix the entire wall and it will most likely cost you less than if you were to hire the family handyman or let your landlord handle it and then deduct it from your deposit. Here’s what you’ll need to repair the drywall and it can all be found at your local hardware store.

  • Framing square
  • Drywall saw or drywall knife
  • Putty knife or utility knife
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Wood saw
  • Utility or taping knives
  • Drill with screwdriver attachment
  • Sandpaper/ sanding screen
  • Paintbrush
  • Piece of drywall or drywall compound
  • Plywood strips
  • 1 1/4 inch coarse – thread drywall screws
  • Drywall joint tape or fiberglass mesh
  • Drywall joint compound or drywall compound
  • Prime and paint
  • Paper tape
  • Damp cloth
  • Work gloves
  • Vacuum cleaner

Step 1

First, you’re going to want to use your framing square and pencil to create an even square around the large hole. Next, cut your plywood with your drywall knife so that it’s a couple of inches bigger than the hole itself. Then, place the plywood into the hole with the extra inches behind the large holes.

Step 2

Screw the plywood into place using your drywall screws. Then, cut out a piece from the drywall patch and using a drywall screw, drill it into the wood covering the hole. Take the drywall joint tape and cover each side of the square with the tape.

Step 3

Using your drywall knife, apply thin coats of joint compound and let it dry. Or, if you’re using a piece of drywall compound, attach the paper edges to the joint compound leaving the paper backing intact.

Once the first coat has dried, take the knife and scrape off any bumps created by the joint compound. When the area is completely dry apply a second layer of joint compound to the drywall surface making sure everything is smooth and even and then let dry.

Step 4

Once it has dried, sand lightly on the area to match the existing wall making sure not to sand too hard. If you have asthma or sneeze easily, then you could consider wearing a dust mask while sanding. Finally, it’s time to prime and paint! Grab your primer and paint roller and paint the wall making sure it matches the surrounding paint. Make sure to use the proper brushes as to not accidentally get paint on the adjacent walls. You’ll want to have enough for two coats of paint. Finally, take a step back and look at your gorgeous repaired area. Bye-bye damaged walls!

3. Erase scuff marks

Though scuff marks likely aren’t going to cost you any of your security deposit, they make the apartment appear dirtier than it is and make more work for whoever has to clean it. Scuff marks are one of the easier fixes when it comes to touching up your apartment walls as they don’t usually affect the whole wall or leave damaged drywall leading to drywall repair.

You also don’t have to tackle all the scuff marks in your apartment. Generally, it’s best to pick the worst ones and start there. A magic eraser works wonders to get rid of them, so pick up a couple and your walls will be white again in no time. If that doesn’t work, you can sand lightly to clean the surface.

4. Seal up loose joint tape

Joint tape can become loose tape if there has been previous water damage and can become very noticeable and leave a hole in the wall. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to repair. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Work gloves
  • Joint tape
  • Joint compound
  • Taping knife or utility knife

Step 1

Using the taping knife, cut out the loose tape from the wall.

Step 2

Spread a thin layer of joint compound over the area, add fresh joint tape and let the first coat dry overnight.

Step 3

Sand the area smooth and, if needed, add a second coat of joint compound.

5. Fix a dented corner bead

5. Fix a dented corner bead

The corner bead is the spot on the wall where you’ll see the drywall meet. And maybe you accidentally dented the corner bead of your wall while moving furniture around. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Fixing the corner bead is relatively easy and here are the supplies you’ll need.

  • Corner bead
  • Hack saw
  • Drywall screws
  • Joint compound
  • Prime and paint

Step 1

Start by using your saw and cut a half-inch below and above the damaged area. Then, very carefully, remove the damaged corner bead.

Step 2

Place the new corner bead in place and secure it with drywall screws.

Step 3

Apply joint compound and let dry. Then, sand smooth and paint the first layer. If you need a second coat of paint, go ahead and paint again.

6. Repair damage from tile or wallpaper

You wanted to make your apartment your own so you added a little wallpaper or tile to the walls. Now it’s time to remove them but the paper also removes the top layer of paint. It may seem like a huge deal at the moment but like the other damaged walls with large holes, it’s easy to fix. You’ll need some of the same materials as listed above.

  • Utility knife
  • Joint or drywall compound
  • Paint

Step 1

Remove the wallpaper or tile following the manufacturer’s instructions, if needed.

Step 2

Using the joint compound, patch drywall using skim coats to the area and let dry. Again you’ll possibly need to add a second coat depending on the wall. Once dry, sand and smooth the area.

Step 3

Using paper tape, tape off the area you’re going to paint. Paint the wall with one or two coats and let dry.

7. Fix a popped nail

Nail pops are sneaky, even sneakier than large holes or a pesky corner bead. A popped nail occurs when the nail head inside the wall or structure starts to protrude out of the walls. This typically isn’t the renter’s fault and while you can fix the popped nail, it’s probably best to call a handyman for this one.

How to Patch a Large Hole

Fix Holes larger than 6 in. diameter

Repairing a hole that’s larger than 6 in. diameter doesn’t require much—all you need are two short 1x3s and a scrap piece of drywall.

Patch a big hole in 9 steps:

  1. Start by cutting the ragged hole into a neat square or rectangle.
  2. Slip one of the 1x3s into the wall cavity and screw it to the edge of the cutout; be sure it overlaps into the hole by 1 1/4 in.
  3. Then attach the second 1×3 to the opposite side of the cutout.
  4. After cutting a piece of drywall to fit into the cutout, apply a bead of construction adhesive to the face of each 1×3.
  5. Secure the patch to the 1x3s with 1 1/4-in.-long drywall screws.
  6. Spread a thick coat of joint compound around the edges of the patch
  7. Use the drywall knife to firmly press paper tape into the compound; this will hide the joints.
  8. After the compound has dried completely, sand it smooth and apply at least two more thin coats of compound.
  9. Lightly sand the final coat, prime the area and brush on two coats of paint, letting the first dry thoroughly before applying the second.

Note: Cover the metal patch with a coat of joint compound. Then gradually feather the edges to blend the patch into the wall.


5. Fist or Head-Sized Holes in Drywall

Nothing says “I can’t believe she broke up with me” better than punching a hole in the wall. Nothing says “dude, great party” like a head-sized hole. If said head-sized hole was the result of an angry, drunken brawl, send the pieces of wall, along with flowers, to your recovering friend.

Hold on, don’t actually do that. You’ll want those pieces as a souvenir. This is a slightly more complicated bit of handiwork than the others in this article, but it’s really not that hard. You’ll need something to cut a new piece of drywall that is the size and shape of the hole (with maybe a 1/4” to 1/2” gap all around. A circular saw will do, or a jigsaw if the piece is very small or irregular. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but a really small piece, like 2” or less, can be repaired by taping over it with some drywall tape. But keep reading.

Now, this isn’t the same kind of job that you would do if you were remodeling Beyonce’s house, but it should do the trick to get a pesky landlord off your back. There are a few extra tools you may need for this job. Buy, rent, borrow or steal. (Contractors are usually big and strong. We don’t actually recommend stealing their tools.)

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A box of drywall screws and an electric screwdriver
  • A fresh piece of drywall to replace the broken area
  • A cutting tool, like a Skilsaw or jigsaw
  • A small bucket of drywall mud
  • A roll of drywall tape. There are several varieties. For this job, get the self-adhesive kind that looks a bit like Frankenstein’s bandages.
  • A basic 11” drywall trowel. Good ones are slightly concave. You’ll learn why in a minute.
  • An electric sander

Step 1: Use your saw to cut the new piece of drywall into the right size and shape. If the hole in the wall is rough, you may want to cut it into a square shape with your saw. Cut along studs, leaving half of the stud exposed. This will help when screwing in the new piece. Warning: Walls have all sorts of cool things inside them, like electrical wires, gas and plumbing pipes, and fiberglass insulation. If you cut into the wall, be absolutely, absolutely sure you know what you’re doing. If you cut into a wire and electrocute yourself, or blow up the place by cutting into a gas line, don’t come crying to me.

Step 2: Screw the new piece into place, onto available studs. Just enough so that it stays in place and won’t jiggle around. It’s fine to leave a gap all the way around between the existing drywall and the new piece. Aim for 1/4” to 1/2”.

Step 3: Lay drywall tape along the gap. Cut where necessary, and do your best to keep the tape centered.

Step 4: Okay, Leonardo, here’s where you get to be the artist. (No, not that Leonardo, the other guy! Oh, never mind.) Cover the gap and the tape with drywall mud. The trick here is to cover the ugly tape, but also make it flush with the wall. This is where the concave trowel is your friend — because of the trowel’s shape, the mud will be thick in the middle (where the tape and gap are), but thin at the edges (so it blends into the rest of the wall). Use your artistry and your trowel to slap it on thick. Wipe it flush, getting the mud as smooth and as flush to the wall as possible. Also, make sure that you have completely covered the drywall tape. Now, wait for it to dry.

Step 5: Sand smooth. The better job you did with the mud, the easier your job will be sanding. Oh, and cover everything with plastic because the dust will get EVERYWHERE.

That’s it! A quick coat of primer and some paint, and no one will ever know you were here!


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