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Spackling Is the Quickest Way to Fix Drywall Holes

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With the widespread use of drywall construction for home interiors, homeowners often find themselves dealing with dents, holes and gouges in their walls due to the softness of the material.

With a little lightweight spackling compound and some handiwork, these problems can be quickly repaired.

Lightweight spackling compound is sold in hardware stores, paint stores and home centers in quart-size containers for about $5. The advantage of this product over standard spackling compound is that after it is applied to a wall and dries, it will not shrink, crack or change shape. This makes patching walls usually a onetime repair that needs no added sanding or recoating.

To repair dents and gouges, simply apply the compound to the wall and smooth it with a putty knife that is at least as wide as the area you are fixing. You may have to make a few passes over the area before it is filled evenly and smooth with the surrounding wall. Once it is, do not touch it again. The compound will dry in several hours and then be ready for painting.

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Patching a hole in a wall up to 4 inches across is also simple, but it requires creating a backing within the hole upon which to apply the lightweight spackling compound.

An easy way to do this is to cut a piece of 1/8-inch hardware cloth (a stiff but flexible steel mesh available at most hardware stores) slightly larger than the hole and wedge it into place. Once it is set into the hole securely, the spackling compound can be applied directly to it until the hole is filled. Use a 3-inch-wide putty knife to smooth the material.

For holes between 4 inches and 8 inches in diameter, you need to provide a solid anchor for the steel mesh within the hole. The best way to do this is to cut a strip of 1-by-2-inch wood about 8 inches longer than the hole. Position the strip inside the wall, centered across the hole. Then carefully drive a 1 1/4- or 1 1/2-inch drywall screw through the wall next to the hole so it bites into the wood strip behind the wall. Do this again for the other side of the wood strip. Tighten the screws enough that they recess slightly below the wall surface.

With the strip anchored in place across the back of the hole, you can secure a piece of hardware cloth to it with a couple of half-inch screws to form your backing for the spackling compound. It is sometimes easier to get the compound to adhere properly if two layers of mesh are secured.

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Apply the compound to the perimeter of the hole first and work toward the center. Smooth it with a putty knife. Also apply some compound over the heads of the screws.

When it dries, sand it smooth and touch up the surface with more compound if needed. Let it dry overnight before painting.

Incidentally, lightweight spackling can also be used to patch damaged wood surfaces around the house.

Comments and questions can be sent to TheHomeDoc@aol.com.

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