Monday, January 1, 2007

Patching wall imperfections with spackling

As I mentioned in my Upstairs bathroom: removing the wallpaper post, I inadvertently took small divots out of the plaster wall with the blade of my putty knife when I was removing the wallpaper. The repair for this little mishap is rather easy: spackling

Spackling is great for use on either drywall or plaster walls and I’ve used it many times to patch wall imperfections. Whether it’s a small depression left by an old picture hook location, or just a dent accidentally made in the wall, spackling is a quick, easy way to fix the problem. Granted, this assumes you’re working on walls that will ultimately be smooth – that is, non-textured – and repainted. If you put a divot into a wall that’s painted blue, you’re still going to end up with a patched area that’s white that needs to be sanded and repainted. Not out of the realm of possibility, it just takes a little more care to blend the patch job with the rest of the wall when you’re done. Thankfully, that’s not my dilemma here.

The spackling I prefer is DAP’s DryDex Spackling, which goes on pink and dries white. Once it’s white, you know it’s dry enough to sand. The primary limitation of spackling is that you can only patch shallow holes. Supposedly, deep repairs can be fixed with multiple layers. I tried it once and ended up with cracks in the spackling. I think it can be done; you’d just have to build up thin layers. If memory serves me, I wasn’t that patient, and thus, I failed.

Before I go any farther, I’d be remise if I didn’t tell you that spackling is not a long-term solution for fixing cracks in walls caused by a home’s natural settling. If you’re selling your house next week and need a quick fix, knock yourself out. But if you’re sticking around for a while and don’t ever want to see that crack again, spackling most likely won’t fix your problem. You see, as your house moves from season to season, it literally moves from season to season. Humidity can cause your house to move in unexpected manners. If you use spackling, those subtle movements will undoubtedly cause cracks sooner or later. To fix those types of cracks, you’ll need more serious repair techniques involving reinforced joint compound, which I’ll be covering in the next few days.

Back to my project at hand. Since I’m dealing with shallow divots created by my putting knife, this DryDex Spackling will work well. Most of the trouble spots I’m fixing are no deeper than a 1/16th of an inch deep. See the photo to the right.

I recently changed my technique for applying spackling after a few prior repair jobs left too much spackling on the patched area.

To start, I spread a generous coat of spackling across the area surrounding the blemish with a plastic putty knife. I like plastic putty knives for this application because they’re flexible and make it easy to press the spackling into place.

Right after the spackling is down, I take a rigid 4" drywalling joint knife and drag it across the entire repair area. Move from one side to the other and make one pass, if at all possible, with the blade held at a 45-degree angle. The rigid blade – which does not flex – will remove the majority of the excess spackling from the area and will greatly reduce the amount of sanding needed later.

One particular repair job from the past that haunts me is in our downstairs bathroom. There’s a spackling repair job right above the toilet that really stands out (to me, anyway) on the mocha-colored wall. Every time I’m standing there doing my business, I see the repair area as a small bump gently rising up from the rest of the wall. Even though the area is smaller than a U.S. quarter, the nearby lights above the sink cast light across the repair just right and accentuate the problem. In hindsight, I can tell I put on too much spackling then didn’t sand it down enough. To my defense, it’s hard to see how smooth you have a spackling repair until it’s too late. After all, I was sanding the white spackling that had been put onto a white plaster wall.

Once the spackling in the repaired area has dried, use 220 grit sandpaper or higher and sand the area smooth. Since most of the excess spackling was removed at the time of application, not much sanding is needed, so don’t be too aggressive.

I can’t believe I just used so many words to describe such an easy task. Trust me; it’s easy like Sunday morning.

As I mentioned above, I’ll be showing you how I repair the structural cracks in my upstairs bathroom’s plaster walls in the next few days. Trust me, there are plenty of cracks to fix, and it seems each is unique. Should be plenty of fun ahead of me!

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