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How To Fix Nail Holes In Your Walls

Work hand tool wall using plastering tool for unfinishing wall

When you think about how much trouble it is to fix those holes in the wall from nails or picture hangers, it’s enough to make you forgo the pleasure of decorating the walls of your home in the first place. Well, not really — but almost. Yes, patching holes can be a chore, but sometimes knowing the right way to do it can eliminate concerns for hammering holes in newly painted, pristine walls. 

Generally, fixing holes in the wall is a task that happens for a special occasion, such as when moving and you want your rent deposit back. Or, you’re trying to sell your home, and you need to diminish the number of wall decorations and patch up the holes where they were hung before potential home buyers appear. You might even get fed up with the look of your wall decorations and want to rearrange them, but you will have to patch up the nail holes when that happens.

Repairing Nail Holes

You’ll need something to fill the holes. Generally, that will be spackle, but if you don’t have any, you can use a few things you may have on hand, such as toothpaste. White toothpaste works fine, although it will be painted over. (Hint: You can also rub-a-dub-dub your youngster’s crayon off the walls with toothpaste). Other quick solutions for nail holes are baking soda and white glue, or rubbing a bar of soap over the hole,

But let’s say you’ve got spackling or some drywall joint compound such as 3M High Strength Small Hole Repair. This stuff actually works in holes as large as 3 inches in diameter and doesn’t shrink or crack. (Whereas we can’t guarantee how toothpaste will behave over time.) Use a small putty knife with a smooth edge and a good grip to apply the spackling evenly.

Put a small amount of spackling on the corner of the knife and press in the hole. Scrape the knife against the repair to make the spackling flush with the wall. Wipe off excess spackling. Let it dry for about 30 minutes. 

After the compound dries, you’ll need some fine-grit sandpaper (grit size between 180 to 320 is recommended) to smooth out the spackling. A sanding sponge (also made by 3M) is another way to go and will give a smooth finish. Sand with a light touch, keeping consistent pressure on the spackling. In case of an indentation, repeat the process, filling up the indentation with spackling. 

Your repair probably will need to be touched up with paint to make it the same color as the wall. Before painting, wipe the repair area with a dry rag or paper towel. Using a small paintbrush, go over the repair area. Let it dry to see if you need to go over it a second time. 

Got a larger hole to repair? Self-Adhesive Fiberglass Drywall Joint Tape (made by Duck Brand) is mesh fiberglass that comes in a roll and can join the two sides of the hole. Joint tape turns what can seem a daunting repair into a quick fix: cover the hole with the tape and proceed with spackling, as above. 

All the above instructions are of course for holes in drywall. If you have holes in wood paneling, use wood filler in the holes.

Repairing holes from nails or picture hangers may not be the most inspiring chore on your list, but once you master these easy techniques, the job will go quickly and smoothly, and you’ll be delighted with the results. 

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