How to Repair a Drywall Ceiling

Whether it's a smooth or textured ceiling, you can use standard drywall repair techniques to fix the damaged area.
Related To:

Repairing a Smooth-Surface Ceiling

Materials and Tools:

straight edge
measuring tape
long drywall knives 
mud pan
awl
utility knife
drywall saw
drywall sander
drywall tape 
paint supplies (paint roller, paintbrush, roller pan, drop cloth, primer and paint)
stud sensor
gloves
safety glasses
dust mask

Steps:

1. If possible, check the space in the attic above the damaged area for wires or plumbing lines. Use a stud sensor to locate the ceiling joists and determine what direction they are facing.
2. Poke an awl through the ceiling around the damaged area to determine how far the damage extends.
3. Use a straight edge to mark the area you plan to remove, and use a drywall saw to remove the damaged area and any insulation from above.
4. Most ceilings use standard 5/8-inch drywall; however, drywall is available in different thicknesses. Your replacement piece should be the same thickness as the existing drywall.
5. Make sure the replacement piece will have adequate support. If necessary, you can toenail a wood block between the joists for added support.
6. Use a utility knife to cut out a piece of drywall to fit the area you're replacing.
7. Replace any insulation you removed earlier, and fit the replacement piece into the hole in the ceiling. Secure the drywall to the ceiling joists using drywall screws. The screws should just dimple the drywall rather than breaking all the way through the surface.
8. Apply a thin layer of joint compound over the joints and drywall screws, and apply a piece of drywall tape to the wet joint compound. Apply an additional layer of joint compound over the drywall tape and smooth it out with a drywall knife.
9. Sand the area smooth and apply additional coats as necessary. Sand between each coat.
10. When the area is dry and smooth, prime and paint it to match the ceiling.

How to Repair a Textured Ceiling

Materials and Tools:

paint roller with textured sleeve (textures are available in a variety of patterns)
utility knife 
sanding block and fine sandpaper
putty knives in several different widths
joint compound container
joint compound
joint tape
masking tape
latex paint 
dust mask
safety glasses
drop cloth

Steps:

1. Spread a drop cloth around the area.
2. Use a putty knife to scrape damaged paint from the ceiling. Hold the putty knife at a 30-degree angle for the best results. Remove all the paint from the ceiling to avoid mismatched textures.
3. Use the utility knife to remove any damaged sections of drywall. For small areas, remove as little drywall as possible. For larger damaged areas, cut out the entire damaged area and replace it with a patch using standard drywall repair techniques.
4. With a small putty knife, spread a thin layer of joint compound along each seam.
5. After smoothing the compound, cut a piece of drywall tape to length and apply it to the wet compound. Drywall tape has no adhesive and must be applied while the joint compound is still wet.
6. With a clean putty knife, smooth the tape to remove air bubbles.
7. Apply a layer of joint compound on top of the tape. Allow the compound to dry, and sand it smooth. Use a wider drywall knife to apply a second layer, and sand the compound smooth after it dries. For smooth drywall joints, keep the blade as steady as possible and maintain consistent pressure.

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