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Repairing a dent in the wall is simple, but it takes practice

Repairing a dent in the wall is simple, but it takes practice

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No matter how careful we are in the house, a dent in the wall is like a dent in the car — it happens. Repairing the dent on a drywall or plaster wall is similar to the dent in the car, but it is something that the homeowner can easily fix, no matter if it is drywall or plaster.

Starting with the small gouge or dent, the basic premise is to fill the hole, sand it smooth, then prime and touch up the area with paint. If you have a lot of repairs, start with the small ones first, such as nail holes, to build up your confidence and gain some experience. Take a 2-inch putty knife and some joint compound (commonly called “mud,” because of its consistency) and fill in the nail hole or dent. Use the knife to then scrape off any excess, then let this dry for about a day (nail holes will dry quicker).

Then, using a sanding sponge, very lightly sand the area until it is smooth and you can’t feel any ridges. Although it won’t look like the repair is done, it almost is. If the dent is still noticeable, you may need a second coat of mud, as it will shrink slightly as it dries.

Next comes the primer on the spot, allowing it to dry for about 2 hours, then touch it up with paint. If you don’t have any paint, get a quarter-size sample from some location and take it to the paint store to get it matched. Be aware that for ceilings, this can sometimes be hard to get an exact match. Each paint manufacturer has its own shade of ceiling white paint, but they are all slightly different. So, you may end up having to paint the entire ceiling if you are not happy with the touchup.

A hole in the drywall requires slightly more work. Hardware stores carry square patches that can be placed over the hole. You then cover this patch with mud, overlapping the patch by about 1 inch. After a day, using a 10-inch knife, apply a second coat, going beyond the previous edge by about 2 more inches. Wait a day and repeat the process. On the fourth day, use the sanding sponge to get everything smooth, then prime and paint.

This is a process, and with each attempt, you will get better. If it doesn’t look right, usually more mud or more sanding will take care of the problem. There is an art to this and some people would prefer to leave this to the professional.


Materials • 2-, 4- and 10-inch putty knives, joint compound, sanding sponge, drop cloth, paint brush, primer and your paint.

Time • Anywhere between one hour and four days (because of drying time).

Cost • Putty knives cost between $5 and $15, depending upon the size, and the joint compound is about $10 for one gallon.

Steve Cloninger is the owner of Get It Done Home Repairs & Maintenance. Visit his website at

Do you have a home improvement question? Email it to or write to Home & Away, 900 North Tucker Boulevard, St. Louis, Mo. 63101.

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