Repairing Drywall

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If your walls are new and leveled, your wall corners are square, and your house is not covered in wall paper…you are missing out on the true New England homeownership experience.  Here, houses are older, and wonderfully imperfect.  Except when it comes time to renovate. 

I went into our small bathroom renovation thinking, how much trouble could I get into with a 3×5 foot space?

The answer: a moderate amount of trouble.

What I thought was going to be a simple wall paper removal project turned into a discovery and resulted in me tearing out a thin piece of particle board that had wallpaper on one side, and glue on the other.  Who thought of this?  I have no clue, but I can say this: it was a ridiculous idea.

After removing the panels, I was left with severely damaged drywall.  In an effort to avoid completely replacing it, I decided I would try to repair it.  I scoured the internet looking for directions and found a lot of mixed ideas about how to proceed. One thing that most people seem to agree on is that you need to take these steps:

  • seal the paper
  • skim coat
  • sand
  • skim coat
  • sand
  • skim coat
  • sand
  • And then you are ready for paint!

Here is what I started with (warning: it is not pretty!):

Let’s get started! :
Step 1: Prepare The Walls

Before you seal the walls, it is important to try to pull off any loose paper as this will help prevent bubbling.  Here is what it looked like after I spent a few minutes peeling paper.  On the day I decided to do this it was 100 degrees in our house so I quickly decided that I did not really want to peel the extra paper….so I gave up.


Step Two: Seal The Paper

In order to seal the paper, I ended up going with a product called RX-35. There are others on the market, but this product has great reviews and is made specifically for sealing torn drywall. It goes on easy with a 1/2 inch nap roller, and has a milky consistency. (Tip: Make sure you put down a drop cloth, it drips a lot!)

Before starting this project make sure you run out and get yourself some full coverage chemical goggles and a mask.  It is dusty!  As you can see, I splurged for the best quality mask… tank top.

I gave the sealer 24 hours to dry before I started with the skim coat process.


Step Three: Skim Coat and Sand…..Forever

Once again, there is mixed information out there regarding how to skim coat walls. I chose to mix an All Purpose Joint Compound with a small amount of water so it retained some of its thickness.  After doing this process several times, I found that a thicker consistency is just my personal preference. It adds a bit to the sanding step, but I like working with the thicker compound compared to a soupy one.  This is your call!  To mix: scoop the joint compound into your mud pan and slowly add a tablespoon of water until it reaches the desired consistency.  If it becomes too watery, slowly add joint compound to fix.

Using a 12-inch or 14-Inch Taping Knife, put about a 1/2 inch of the mixture on the edge.  Spread the mixture in a thin layer across the walls.  I found it helpful to go in a variety of directions before smoothing it in horizontal strips.  This ensures that you get it into any small crevices.

Note: Try not to focus too much on getting it perfect, if you go over it too many times it starts to get a little tacky.  Every few passes be sure to wipe off the excess mixture into your 14-Inch Plastic Mud Pan.

The 1st coat looked semi promising, don’t worry too much if you don’t fill every crevice, there are at least two more coats that can take care of it.

I waited 24 hours before sanding, and used a hand-held sanding sponge. I prefer these to the paper, and they seem to work better with the skim coats. Just make sure you get yourself a pair of chemical goggles and a mask.  It gets messy quick!

Sanding goes quick in a small space, and then you are ready for your second skim coat.  Repeat the same step, and 24 hours later you will be ready for your third coat.

Here is how the 2nd coat looked:

By coat 3, I was much more confident that this process would work!

Since my walls were so severely damaged, I did a 4th coat:


Step Four: Prime and Paint The Walls

Choose an all purpose primer, and your favorite paint, and go to town!  The joint compound does absorb paint so it may take a few coats to fully cover.
Here is what our walls looked like once I got primer and paint on them, almost entirely smooth!:



This process took quite a few steps, but we finally have nice smooth walls and have not noticed any bubbling!  It is truly a miracle!

Shopping List

Sealer RX-35

All Purpose Joint Compound

14-Inch Stainless Steel Taping Knife

14-Inch Plastic Mud Pan

Chemical Goggles

Dust Mask

sanding sponge

Paint & Primer


***Be sure to keep an eye out for the full post about our small bathroom renovation!***

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  1. onanothercoast

    July 31, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I would literally have no idea how to do any of the things you are doing! I used to love watching HGTV home makeover shows and now I just want to keep reading your posts and see all the different home projects you’re doing! So happy to have found each other over the blogosphere! 🙂

    1. Laura Cameron

      July 31, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      Thank you so much for the comment 🙂 I am also an HGTV fanatic!

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