Do It Yourself Home Improvement: Matching Drywall Texture After Repair

The article explains how to match the texturing on an area of drywall after repairing it. Step-by-step instructions and list of materials are included.

For good or bad, most homes these days are built with interior walls made of the pressed gypsum product known as "sheetrock" or "drywall." Drywall is a product that has revolutionized modern construction, making it easy to put together light, inexpensive walls and ceilings in a fraction of the time (and cost) it would take to install their plaster-and-lath counterparts. However, drywall can be fragile; it's easily dented and broken, and literally melts upon prolonged contact with water. Accidents happen, so it's not uncommon to have to repair the occasional hole. Fixing a hole is fairly easy, but most drywall surfaces are painted and textured -- and matching the texturing may seem well nigh impossible.

It goes without saying that you shouldn't have to worry about retexturing nail holes. Spackle, paint, and move on. Larger holes are another matter. If you don't much care what the wall looks like, then let it slide. If you're like the rest of us, however, you basically have two choices: try to match the original texture or just redo the entire wall. After a few tries at the first, it may seem easier to do the latter. But never fear: your best tools are patience and perseverance.

First of all, you have to decide how perfect you want the match to be. If you can handle an almost-match, life will be a lot easier. Once you've decided that, you simply have to experiment. That's the secret -- that there is no secret. You'll need several items to do your texturing job. A plain kitchen sponge, a spray bottle of water, and joint compound are the basics. You might also want to try using a small roller, a cloth, and/or wadded-up paper to get the look you're after.

There's a possibility you'll need a little sand for the job. Texturing is usually accomplished by manipulating the joint compound as it's applied, but this isn't always the case. It may be that your wall's texture was produced by mixing sand into the paint. If it looks like this was how it was done, just take a little of the paint you're planning to use and mix in some sand. To match the exact texture, you'll still need to experiment a bit. Paint the repaired area; if it doesn't look right, immediately wipe off the wet paint and try again. It's up to you to decide when it's a match.

The same is true with joint compound texturing, which is a bit more complicated. You'll need to thin your joint compound with water to the consistency of sour cream -- that is, it needs to be just barely over the solid side of the line between liquid and solid. If the area to be repaired is fairly large, pick a small spot to experiment on before moving on to the whole area. Spray water on the area, then smear joint compound on the repair spot with your sponge, pulling the sponge away with a rolling motion. This will pull the joint compound up into small peaks or stipples. If the area is big enough, you can try using a small roller. Be forewarned, however, that the thickness and style of the nap will affect the stippling of the joint compound.

You can make your judgment call just after applying the joint compound, or later, after it's dry. If you don't like how it comes out, you can easily remove it -- joint compound is deliberately made so it dissolves in water. If it's wet, just wipe it off. If it's dry, spray it with water, wait a few minutes, and rub off the stippling. In either case, be careful not to rub so hard that you rub off the backing paper on the drywall board.

From then on, it's a matter of patience -- you just have to experiment until you find a method that's right for your repair. Try using different ways of smearing on the joint compound and pulling away the sponge. If you have to, try different thicknesses and consistencies of joint compound. It the sponge just won't cut it, consider using cloth to texture the compound, or wadded paper -- clean newsprint, paper bags, and toilet paper can provide a variety of different textures.

Once you've got something you can live with, try to blend it in along the edges, where the new texture meets the old. Then step back, pour yourself a cup of coffee, curl up with a good book, and wait. The joint compound will dry in about an hour. As it dries, it turns from concrete gray to snow white. If you don't like the results, it's not too late to rub it off and try again. Warning: make absolutely sure that you're satisfied before you paint the wall. Once you've painted your patch job, it's too late to fix it -- unless you want to break out the paint stripper.

When you're satisfied with your texturing attempt and everything is nice and dry, prime the repair spot with primer paint. Go back to your book for a while. When the primer is dry, paint over the repair area with either the same paint you used on the wall in the first place, or as close a match as you can get.

That's it. Once the paint dries, you've done all you can. In fact, you've done about as much as a professional can, short of redoing the entire wall. Whatever you do, it won't be perfect -- but then, few wall repairs are. And who's going to know but you?

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