How to repair a hole in the plaster wall

How to repair a hole in the plaster wall

If you stroll through the rooms of my house, you’ll see that it’s an ordinary house in that many of the rooms are plastered walls, while a few of the others are wood paneling. The wood paneling is easy to maintain, and small nail holes can be easily filled in by using wood putty.

Fixing small holes in plaster wall

The plastered walls require a little more time and effort to fix. Usually, small holes occur in the wall from hanging family pictures, shelves, and other decorative items. Once the nails or other fasteners are removed, filling small holes in the plasterboard is easy with a tad of spackling compound. The same goes for how to fill screw holes in plaster walls.

The compound is easier to use than plaster powder for small things like these. It’s premixed and it dries quickly so you don’t need anything else than a putty knife and 100 grit sandpaper.

If you haven’t got any spackling compound handy, you can always improvise by using toothpaste for small holes. The white type works the best, I’ve found, and it usually blends in with the wall better (good old student times). But in a pinch, you can use the gel type of toothpaste for this type of minor repair.

Fixing small cracks in plaster wall

You can also cover up small cracks and dents in a plastered wall with spackling compound or toothpaste too. Make sure the damaged area is free from dirt, oil, grease, et cetera, so the repair compound will stick properly.

Then, use a putty knife, or even the tip of your finger, as an applicator. Wet the knife or your fingertip by dipping it in water throughout the application process. The water will help smooth the spackling compound or the toothpaste out better.

Be sure to fill in the damaged area completely by pushing the compound into the crack, hole, or dent. Then, smooth it out and allow it to dry undisturbed.

Larger holes in plaster wall with lathe behind it

Holes that are the size of a dime and larger should be repaired with spackling compound only.

And holes in the wall that are as large as, say the palm of your hand, will need to be repaired in one of two ways.

First, if the top layers of plaster are gone, but there is lathe wood in the hole, you can usually repair the hole with some spackling compound and a putty knife. If the hole is a half-inch deep, you’ll need to apply more than one coat of spackling compound.

Then, apply a second, and maybe even a third coat, if need be. The reason you can’t fill a deep hole at one time is that the spackling compound will take forever to dry. That, and once it dries, it will often crack and shrink.

When you’re doing the final coat, apply a little extra spackling compound so that the patch is a bit higher than the surrounding wall. That way you can sand it level with the rest of the wall.

Larger holes in plaster wall without lathe behind it

If the hole in the plastered wall doesn’t have a lathe behind it, you’ll need to patch it with a piece of drywall. Drywall is also known as “sheetrock” or “gypsum board.” The patching piece of drywall will need to be at least three inches or so larger than the hole that needs repair.

Then, take a piece of paper or thin cardboard and lay it over the hole. Use a pencil or pen to carefully draw an outline of the hole onto the paper. Place the paper outline in the middle of the drywall patching piece. Use a pencil or pen and press down hard as you draw around the outline again. Lift the paper, and you should see an indentation in the sheetrock.

You can use a sharp utility knife, a keyhole saw, or a table saw to cut the outline out. The utility knife is the hardest to use, but if you have nothing else, then it can work.

You’re also going to need a back piece to hold the patch in place. A scrap piece of thin wood, such as plywood or pressed wood, works well. The wood will need to fit inside the hole in the plastered wall. But, it will need to be about three or four inches longer than the hole so that you can screw it without cracking the edges of the hole.

Place a wood screw just far enough into the middle of the wood piece so it holds the screw firmly. The screw will allow you to hold onto the wood while you secure it to the plastered wall.

You can attach the back piece to the inside of the wall in one of two ways. Either you can glue it into place, or, you can hold it in place while you place two or three drywall screws into the front of the wall. I prefer the “drywall screw method” myself. It’s more secure than most glues.

Once the back piece is attached to the inside of the plastered wall, remove the screw from the middle.

Finally, place the patch in the hole and use some spackling compound and a putty knife to apply layers to completely repair the hole.

If you have a drywall patch tape, you can use that on top so the edges won’t crack with time. Just put some spackling compound over the patched hole, then lay the tape on top of that and press it tightly with a putty knife.

After that put a layer of spackling compound on top of the tape and try to get it level with the rest of the wall. You might have to use spackling compound on a wider surface this way, but it will be a stronger fix.

After the final layer has been applied, and is thoroughly dry, you’ll need to lightly sand the area around the repair.


This how to repair a hole in the plaster wall guide should be able to handle most holes and cracks that you will see in your house. It’s a quite simple process and big holes without any support behind them are the most difficult problem. But even those holes can be dealt with in this guide.

Remember that the bigger the hole, the more support you need behind it. When it gets near the size that you can almost see the wooden frame where the drywall is attached, it’s pretty much the same to remove some of the drywall and replace a piece and attach it to the frame.

If you’re interested in knockdown texture or making your own plaster ceiling medallion, check out these two links as well.

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