Repair a large hole in drywall

Last Updated on February 3, 2022 by Dave Farquhar

When I changed the cheap bar-style light fixture in my bathroom to something a little nicer, I found something weird other than a red wire. I also found a 5-inch by 2 1/2-inch hole in the wall behind the old fixture a few inches from the electrical box. It’s a good thing I know how to repair a large hole in drywall.

All it takes to fix a big hole in the wall is a scrap of drywall larger than the hole, a ruler, a utility knife, a pencil, some wood glue or regular white glue, and some Gorilla Glue.

First, I measured the hole. Then I took a piece of scrap drywall and measured it out, leaving a good half-inch margin on each side. Then I transferred the measurements to the other side. On one side I had two squares. On the other, I just had the larger square.

Using a utility knife, I cut through the paper on the drywall on each side of the drywall scrap. Then I held it over the edge of a table and pressed down. Press hard enough and it will snap. This is called scribing and snapping.

At that point, I had a rectangle of drywall. Then I cut through the paper on the inner rectangle–but only on one side of the paper. Next, I snapped those edges. Finally, I peeled the drywall core away. The result was a piece of drywall with some extra paper on one side, but not the other.

Then I tested the fit. It was close, but not quite perfect. I could have cut the opening in the wall a bit bigger, or I could trim the patch. I opted to trim the patch. It turned out had to shave off about 1/8 of an inch from the long side, and round off one of the corners. After I did that, it fit nicely.

I moistened the edges of the exposed drywall with a bit of water, then added a bit of Gorilla Glue. Gorilla Glue expands in the presence of moisture, so it will fill the voids left in the wall between my patch and the hole. Then I put a bit of wood glue on the paper flap on all four sides. I pressed my patch into place and let it dry for about an hour.

I don’t recommend using the Gorilla glue on the paper. For that part, I wanted a glue that wouldn’t expand.

Once it all dried, my patch was just as strong as if the drywall had never been disturbed. I’ll have to prime and paint it, and may have to dress the edge a bit, either by sanding, or feathering in some spackle. And I’d have to texture it if the drywall had been textured. But it’s a strong repair and it took less than half an hour to accomplish.

For a less noticeable repair, it probably would be possible to not glue the paper flaps, then trim them back after the Gorilla Glue dries. But I’ve been using this technique to repair large a hole in drywall for a while, and I’ve been happy with the results.

And where there are big holes in walls, frequently you’ll find small ones. I have some tips for quick fixes for small holes too. I also have some tricks for when you find an electrical outlet with an oversized opening.

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