As you may recall, last week, we hung a new light fixture in our dining area, which left us with a nice round hole in the ceiling where the previous light once hung. Our ceilings are lightly textured – not your typical “popcorn ceiling” but still textured enough to make the patching process a little different. A lot, if not most, homes built in the 70′s – early 90′s have textured ceilings, so we thought this would be a helpful process to share here on the blog. If you don’t have textured ceilings, but still have a hole to patch, the process is the same – just skip the texturing steps near the end. Let’s get started…
For this home repair process, you’ll need to gather the following supplies: a plastic shopping bag, a small piece of sheetrock, a 1/4″ strip of wood (or a thick paint stirrer), about four drywall screws (more if your hole is larger), drill, a piece of paper, pen, jigsaw, spackle (we used this), a putty knife, a small disposable plastic container, a few paper towels and ceiling paint. Note: if you have a hole saw, you won’t be needing the paper, pen or jigsaw.
Since it was going to be a day or two before we could get around to patching the ceiling, we decided to line the hole with a plastic shopping bag. This kept our blown-in insulation from falling through the hole. Even if you’re patching the hole immediately, this is a nice way to keep from having insulation fall in your face during the patching process.
As you can see, I left my plastic bag in place. I’ll be sure to also go up in the attic, push the insulation back into place, and grab the bag – probably right after I write this post. The second step of this process was to take a piece of wood and place it across the hole. I used a strip of 1/4-inch-thick wood that I picked up at the hardware store, but you can use anything you’ve got laying around. Come to think of it, a thick wooden paint stirrer might do the trick just as well. At that point, I screwed it down with a couple of drywall screws. Make sure you get the brace flush with the back of the drywall. Otherwise, your patch might not come out level.
After you get the brace in place, grab a piece of paper and trace the edges of the hole. I actually used a piece of label paper we had laying around (the kind that has two large labels per sheet) – I’ll get to why in a second. If you’ve got a hole saw big enough to fit just slightly inside the existing hole, you’re even better off. Just skip this step, attach your hole saw to your drill, and laugh as everyone else is trying to trace. For those of us without hole saws, don’t worry about getting the tracing perfect. You just need a rough idea–the spackling compound will fill in all the gaps.
Remember how I said the people with hole saws would be laughing at those of us without them? Well, they’re still laughing in this step. All they have to do is cut a circle out of a new piece of drywall. As I mentioned, I actually used a scrap piece of label paper in the previous step. Once the circle was traced, I took the label off the backing and stuck it directly onto a small piece of drywall to serve as my guide. If you use a regular piece of paper, you’ll just need to cut out your shape and trace it onto your new piece of drywall. Once I had my shape affixed, I used my jigsaw to cut it out. Notice how I’m not calling it a circle. I told you it didn’t have to be exact!
At this point, all you need to do is plug the hole and secure it in place. I used two drywall screws to hold my patch in place just so it wouldn’t spin or move while I was applying the spackling compound.
At this point, you just need to apply the spackling compound as normal. Make sure you apply just enough pressure around the cracks to get the spackling to flow into them. Also, it looks like I’m applying a lot here, but I actually like to apply very thin layers so that I don’t have to do much (if any) sanding.
After applying a few layers of spackling compound, this is what our patch job looked like. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s a textured ceiling. We’re about to mess it up, anyway. That said, if you’re a real neat freak, you can let the spackling dry a bit, then come back with a damp paper towel or cloth to smooth out any rough areas. It works great, and you don’t have to worry about drywall dust getting everywhere from sanding. For us, since our ceiling is pretty textured, I just left it as is.
Texturing is an art form that I’ve yet to master, but I think I do a reasonably good job for a semi-handy computer guy. The lynchpin of my process is watering down the spackling compound slightly before applying it. I added a few tablespoons of water to a few tablespoons of spackle and mixed them together in a small disposable plastic container. This part isn’t really an exact science, you just need to get it to the right consistency that it will stick to the ceiling and make little peaks. If it’s too watery, add some more spackle. If it’s too thick, add a tiny bit of water.
At that point, I put a bit on my trowel, push it up against the non-textured area, then pull it straight off (perpendicular to the ceiling). This should leave you with a nice, random pattern of peaks across the patched area. If the peaks are too tall, scrape off the spackling compound and water it down a bit more. I ended up using a paper towel to form smaller peaks to match the rest of the ceiling. It kind of reminded me of my mom sponge painting our living room when I was a kid. The step takes a bit of trial and error until you get the right look, but this method works really well.
I’m sure this needs little to no explanation, but you’ve got to paint the newly patched spot to match the ceiling. I suggest a small roller with a thick nap. If you use a brush or a roller with a light nap, it’ll be hard to get the entire textured area covered. Also, be sure to feather the edges with a dry brush so it blends well with the previously painted portion of the ceiling. And here’s our newly patched ceiling…
You can’t even tell where the old light was unless you look really closely. Hopefully this has been helpful to someone out there with a similar project going on. If you’ve got any additional tips or tricks to make this process easier, be sure to share them in the comments.