How to Patch a Drywall Ceiling

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  • 2-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • $70-120
What You'll Need
Newspaper or plastic sheeting
Drywall saw
Drywall compound
Hand sander
Drywall tape
Wooden cleats/braces for attaching the patch
Ceiling drywall for patching hole
Drywall screws
Tape measure
Utility knife

Drywall ceilings aren’t as vulnerable to damage as walls. When drywall ceilings are damaged, they require a different repair process. Ceiling drywall is thicker than the sheets used for walls. If you buy a kit, make sure you buy one specifically for ceiling patches. Patching a drywall hole can be relatively quick and simple.

Step 1 - Measure the Hole

Measure a square which reaches to the farthest point of damage in each direction. While you're at it, place newspaper or plastic sheeting on the floor to keep any compound or dust from staining the floor as you work.

Step 2 - Cut Out a Square in the Ceiling

Using a drywall saw, cut a square or rectangle from the ceiling that removes all of the damaged drywall. Use a utility knife to smooth any rough edges of the new square hole.

Step 3 - Cut Out a Square Patch

Using the same measurements, cut a square patch for a sheet or scrap piece of ceiling drywall. If the scrap you are cutting from is thinner that what is in your ceiling, it is because the scrap is from a sheet meant for the wall. Test your square patch by fitting it into the hole. Cut out any rough spots or jagged edges from the patch or the ceiling if they prohibit the patch from fitting in the hole.

Step 4 - Secure Wood Cleats

Two wood cleats can act as a support for your patch and provide an anchor to which you can secure the patch. Secure the wood cleats inside the ceiling so that they can act as a backing for your square patch. Slide a cleat into the hole so that about half of it is behind good drywall and the other half shows through the hole.

Secure the cleat by driving two drywall screws through the good drywall into the cleat.

Step 5 - Secure Patch to the Cleats

Press the patch into the hole and secure it to the wood cleats by driving drywall screws through the patch and into the cleat behind the hole.

Step 6 - Fill in Joints and Screw Holes

Spread a thin layer of drywall compound over the cracks between the patch and the ceiling with a utility knife. Also spread compound over the screw holes to fill them. Don't forget the screws holding the cleats over the good drywall.

Step 6 - Apply Drywall Tape

Cut out 4 pieces of drywall tape to go over the filled joints. Cut precise lengths and widths so that the tape doesn’t overlap. Use a medium utility knife to smooth out the tape. Then go over it with a smaller joint knife, working out the excess compound towards the outside edges of the tape. Go over it again with the larger knife, pressing lengthwise with long strokes.

Step 7 - Apply More Coats of Compound

Go over the entire square with a layer of drywall compound, using a large utility knife. Allow it to dry before adding several more coats. Add a slightly thicker layer with each coat until your patch is covered adequately. Smooth with a large knife repeatedly and often, feathering at the edges and starting and finishing from different directions.

By the final coat, these layers of compound should be larger than the original drywall patch.

Step 8 - Sand Before Priming and Painting

Finally, sand lightly before and after applying the final coat of compound. Your cleanly patched, smooth wall is now ready for priming and painting.

Repair work is inevitable. However, by following this guide and patching your drywall ceiling on your own, you saved big.