Sep 12


How to Patch a Sheetrock Hole

Whether you’re a homeowner or a tenant, at some point in your life there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have to deal with a gaping hole in the sheetrock on a wall or ceiling. It may be from a water leak, a moment of carelessness during a move, or a multitude of other reasons, but sooner or later you’re sure to have the encounter. Keep in mind that a hole isn’t a gouge or ding that can be made to disappear with a bit of spackle and a putty knife – no, this is damage that can’t be described in any other way than as a hole.

So how do you repair it other than the obvious method of hanging a picture? It’s really not that difficult for a DIYer with a little gumption.

What You’ll Need

  • Sheetrock – available from your local home improvement store
  • Utility knife – make sure it has a sharp blade
  • Measure tape
  • Level or straight edge
  • Drywall or putty knife with at least a 4 inch blade
  • Drywall mud
  • Screw gun or drill
  • Framing stud
  • Drywall tape

A little note on sheetrock: most homes have ½ inch sheetrock installed on their ceilings and walls, but if the surface in question happens to be classified as a firewall, it may have 5/8 inch thick material. It’s important that the repair be done with sheetrock the same thickness as the existing material or it may end up looking worse than the hole.

Repairing the Hole

The sheetrock in your home is secured with nails or screws to framing members in the walls and ceiling so to repair a hole, the closest studs or joists to the damage must be located. In most cases, wall studs are on 16 inch centers and ceiling joists are spaced on 24 inch centers, but depending on the age of your home, your framing could be a little different. Once you’ve located the adjacent framing to your hole:

  • Trim the sheetrock – use your level or straight edge to mark a line along the center of both adjacent framing members so that it parallels the framing. The mark should be long enough to get past all damage in the sheetrock. Using your level as a guide, and being very careful with the sharp blade, cut the rectangle of sheetrock out with the utility knife – the damaged portion of the board should be centered, or close to it, in the section being removed.
  • Install nailers – once the board section has been removed, you should be left with a square or rectangular section of missing drywall. The opening will extend over so that half of the face of the adjacent framing members is exposed, but at the top and bottom of the cutout the sheetrock will be loose. Cut your spare framing stud to fit between the two framing members at the top and bottom of the hole – a little tight is better than too loose. Tap each nailer into place so half its face is exposed, just like at the sides of the opening, and the other half is covered by the sheetrock on the wall. Toe nail or screw the nailers into place.
  • Cover the hole – use your level and utility knife to cut a piece of sheetrock to fit in the framed opening you’ve created. Nail or screw the sheetrock into place in the adjacent framing members and nailers you’ve just installed.
  • Finish the drywall – use the drywall knife to place a thin coat of drywall compound or mud over the joints in your patch and then apply a layer of tape – this is called the tape coat. Two more thin coats of compound should be applied allowing time to dry between each layer – these are called the block and skim coats.

When the skim coat has dried, sand the repair and you’re ready to paint – the hole has disappeared and no one is the wiser.

Jun 12


Reviewing the Porter Cable 371 K Compact Belt Sander

There are very many good belt sanders on the market, but one quality they all seem to share is a bulky size and somewhat hefty weight. When used on a horizontal surface, a sander’s size and weight often go un-noticed and may even be beneficial depending on the project. However, with a major exterior paint project looming, I was looking for a smaller belt sander that packed plenty of oomph, but could be easily used while working off of a tall ladder. The result of my search was the Porter Cable 371 K compact belt sander.

Porter Cable Tools

While I have tools from many different manufacturers in my personal collection, those from Porter Cable, Milwaukee, and Bosch are my favorites and get the most use. They have high-quality construction and whether being used on a jobsite or around the home, seem to provide many years of dependable service. My initial opinion of the 371 K’s build quality is that it lives up to Porter Cable’s reputation.

The tool is sold with a handy carrying case which might seem like a minor point, but makes transporting the tool to jobsites a breeze. The 371 K has a recessed on/off switch to guard against accidents and a long power cord. There is a rubber grip that provides good control of the sander even when wearing gloves and an auxiliary second grip is also included in the case.

Using the Porter Cable 371 K Compact Belt Sander

I have several standard belt sanders so the 371 K’s small size and light weight were immediately noticeable when I first began using it. My project was removing old paint on the exterior of a wood clapboard house that hadn’t budged during pressure washing. I was able to sand while on a ladder and in many cases the 371 K could be controlled with just one hand – something that’s very difficult to do with a standard sized belt sander on a horizontal surface. After using the sander for several weeks, I consider these to be its strong points:

  • Build quality – the sander has primarily metal components and should last a long time with proper maintenance.
  • Design – the flush sides allowed me to get right up to the edges of the beveled siding and eliminated the need for any labor intensive hand sanding.
  • Size – as mentioned above, this sander feels much more compact than most standard sized belt sanders, but doesn’t seem to give up anything in the way of performance.
  • Versatility – sanding belts of all types of grits are available for the 371 K – I had good luck with belts from Mirka, but I’m sure other manufacturers’ products will work just as well.

Of course, no power tool is perfect so the 371 K does have a couple of minor flaws. Other reviewers have mentioned that the belt tracking on the sander needs to be adjusted fairly frequently while in use. In my experience, all belt sanders require tracking adjustment on occasion and maybe I got lucky, but my 371 K seemed normal in that regard.

However, I will agree with other reviewers that the sander can get very hot when used for long periods of time. I almost always wear leather work gloves when using a sander so it was never really an issue for me, but it’s something to keep in mind.

The Porter Cable 371 K compact belt sander turned out to be the perfect tool for my project. It took care of a lot of the rough sanding the siding required and I was able to finish up with a small orbital sander. The 371 K can be purchased for about $110 at Amazon, Acme Tools, and many other tool vendors.