How to repair your drywall: Small holes, dings and nail pops

Whether you rent or own, holes, cracks and nail pops in your drywall can happen, but fixing them is easy. Here's how.

Julie Snyder Former Associate Producer
Julie Snyder was an associate multimedia producer for the CNET Smart Home team.
Julie Snyder
3 min read

Covering up unsightly holes and marks on your wall is easier than you might think.

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Are you renting an apartment and trying to fix those nail holes in the drywall to get your deposit back? Did someone in your home accidentally put a hole in the wall? Whatever the case may be, whether you're renting an apartment or own a house, drywall damage is common. 

Luckily, repairing typical damage to your drywall, like smaller holes and nail pops, is easy.

What you'll need to get started

Before you begin, here's what you'll need:

  • Drywall spackle (The DAB DryDex is a personal favorite) 
  • Flexible putty knife to spread the spackle or scrape off any loose edges of paint
  • Fine or medium piece of sandpaper
  • Hammer or screwdriver for fixing nail pops
  • Paint to cover the area after the spackle dries 
  • A paint brush or a roller brush to apply the paint 

Fixing small holes or dings

First, when dealing with small holes or dings, you'll want to brush off any loose pieces of drywall or paint so you can apply the drywall spackle evenly and efficiently. You can do this with the putty knife or the sandpaper to scratch off any loose pieces. 

Don't get rid of those paint pieces just yet, though. You might need them. If you're renting and don't have access to the exact paint color, you can take one of the chipped pieces of paint to a hardware store or a paint specialty store to get it color matched.

Now to cover up the hole, apply the spackle with the putty knife and try to fill it in as evenly as possible. It's OK if it's not perfect. You can always add another layer or two to get the surface area even. Next, you'll want to wait a few hours for the spackle to dry. Again, the DAB DryDex spackle is great because it dries from pink to white, so it takes the guesswork out of the drying time. 

Now, we wait...

After a few hours, inspect the spackled area. If the drywall surface area still seems uneven, you can add another coat the same way -- again, use the putty knife and spread the spackle over the area and let it dry for a few hours. You can repeat this as many times as necessary until you get a flush layer to the rest of the wall.

Once you've finished applying the spackle and it's dried, you can use the sandpaper to smooth out any bumps in the drywall before you paint over it. 

Now that the area is smoothed out, you can go over it with the paint. Using a paint brush or a paint roller, cover the surface area evenly with one coat of paint. Wait a few hours for the paint to dry, then add another coat. To ensure that the drywall spackle is completely covered and blends into the rest of the wall, you'll want to do at least two coats of paint. 

This process also works for old nail holes, or small cracks or openings in your drywall.


Does this look familiar? Follow these tips to make your wall look like new again.

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Let's talk about 'nail pops'

These are areas where, over time, either a nail or screw starts to jut out of the drywall, but isn't necessarily a hole. It's more like a paint-colored bump in your wall. 

First, you'll want to determine if it's a nail or a screw popping out.  

You can use the putty knife to scratch off the surface area to expose the nail or screw. If it's a nail, use a hammer to push the nail back into the drywall so that it's flush with the wall. If it's a screw, use the appropriate screwdriver to push the screw back into the drywall. 

Now that the nail or screw is pushed back into the drywall, you can use the drywall spackle over the spot to fill in the gaps.

Again, wait a few hours for the spackle to dry, then use the sandpaper to even out any bumps. Go over the area with a couple of layers of paint -- and that's it.

Final thoughts

Damage to your drywall can be an eyesore or a nuisance, but it doesn't have to be. Now, the next time a hole or a ding in your drywall happens, you don't have to break a sweat. Follow the steps above to achieve a clean, even surface on your wall. And, if you're interested in more easy home fixes, try our guide on how to clean your oven with ingredients you already have in your kitchen.