Drywall repair: Arrrrghhhh

I needed a new bathroom electrical outlet. Everything came out perfectly except for one thing: the drywall surface.

I tapped into an existing wall outlet, which required me to pull the outlet box in order to fish the wire. I sawed through the nail that secured it to a stud, thinking I could just pull the box out. Well, I pulled it out, but in the process I damaged the drywall surrounding it.

No problem, I thought, I’ll just patch N paint.

Problem. I cannot get the gol-darned surface to look unblemished. I’ve been patching, lightly sanding, patching, sanding, painting, more patching, more sanding. This has been going on for 3 days. No matter what I do you can see that it was repaired.

Is there a secret or a technique that I don’t know about to accomplish this?

This is what I am using. Maybe there is a better product for this type of job?


It takes a deft hand, doesn’t it? Did you use any of the repair mesh or just straight compound?

Any patch will show if you look closely enough.

Drywall finishers apply a texture. Your patched area will be slick and shiny.

You can buy drywall texture in a spray can.

I’ve only used it for large patches. Like after removing a window and patching the hole with new drywall. Spray texture helps but perfectly matching the old texture pattern is almost impossible. Just match as closely as you can and walk away.

I go for traditional mud.
These days they sell it in small tubs at HD or your local paint store. The reason I like it is because it has an extremely fine finish and can be coaxed into almost perfection right off the knife.

Use a wide blade and feather the stuff out quite wide.
Sand everything lightly to take off the obvious marks.

It usually takes 3 passes, starting with heavy first coat, then one final super thin but very well spread coat.

Finally, as soon as you get flat paint on it, the blemish will disappear completely.
In a bathroom you are likely using eggshell, so it isn’t as perfect, but still there is a good chance the top coat will totally hide the blemishes.

Are you priming before painting? If you don’t prime, the drywall absorbs the paint and the sheen will be noticeably different from the rest of the wall. There’s also the matter of the texture. Often walls will have texture sprayed on and it’s difficult to match that on a repair, so the spot looks noticeably flatter. You can get cans of spray texture at the hardware store. Practice spraying it on scrap until you get the technique down so it looks the same as the rest of the wall.

But aside from all that, it’s pretty hard to paint over a spot on a wall without it standing out regardless of a drywall repair. You will likely have to paint the whole wall to have an actual invisible repair. So drywall, texture, and prime the spot, then repaint the whole wall.

Yeah, I’d say it’s that you’re using spackle. That’s not an application it’s really meant for.

I’d add to use progressively larger knives. Start with 3, shouldn’t have to sand that down much but do if you need. Use a 6 next and see if that will feather you out far enough. If not move up to a bigger knife. Might take a few times just if you use a long enough knife you can get it feathered out so that nobody but you will ever know.

Thanks for the responses.

To be clear, I am not so concerned about matching the texture; that is not the problem. What is happening is that I cannot “disappear” the margin where new spackle meets existing drywall.

I suspect I am either using the wrong product (may need mud, as advised above) and/or a bigger blade (and perhaps pulling the product further into the “old” existing area of the wall)(also as advised above). For the record I have been using a small (1-inch) blade.

So, should I try what I have with a larger blade? Or not even bother and go out and get some actual joint compound?

Am I making sense? Missing anything?

Also…WRT blade size - you start smaller and go bigger with each coat?

Generally…not sure how large the area you’re repairing is, but if you’re only using a 1" blade it’s going to be very, very hard to get that to blend. Even if it’s just an inch or so on the edge of the hole the box came out of, you’d want to use at least a 3" on your finish coat and maybe more to make it blend in to the rest of the wall.

I had the same issue with some boxes I got sloppy ripping out. I actually removed the paper/mud layer around the area I was patching and taped it back in.

This guy’s videos came up suggested on YouTube when I was looking at other stuff a while back. I ended up watching several of his videos because I think he does a pretty good job of explaining. I learned to mud by watching and talking to mudders, and by trail and error. I have a pretty good hand now, but I wish it would have been presented to me like this in the first place.

How big was the hole? I am thinking you might use a oversized outlet cover:

[I expect they would be much cheaper at eBay/Amazon…

Waitwaitwait…I just realized that somehow, I get to be the first in the thread to say:

You really should check with your local authorities to see if you need to pull a permit for that work.


Pull this.


Not true. I’m a DIY and can mud anything in so it’s a perfect match. Granted I’ll spend way more time than is necessary. A professional can do it blindfolded. There is a bit of skill but it’s not beyond the average Josephine.

Use regular mud that dries in 40 minutes. Use a blade wide enough to cover twice the area. Lightly block sand it smooth. Normal mudding material will fly off the wall with very little sanding.

The only way it would stick out is if you are blending into a high spot and not mudding the surrounding valleys.

If you’re trying to mud in a wall that is plaster then you have 2 dissimilar materials. Plaster is much harder and there is a tendency to over sand which takes out the new mud causing a valley. Very light block sanding with little or no pressure. Let the sander do the work.

To give a mental picture think about a 3 inch sized hole. You would want to lay enough mud to cover a 5 or 6 inch hole building it up so there is 1/8 inch material above the edge of the original hole feathering out to 5 or 6 inches.

Thanks, Magiver.

It is drywall, not plaster.

As for the area, picture a single outlet box. If you add about an inch around it - the perimeter - that is the damaged area.

When you say “regular mud”, is pre-mixed ok? Something like this?

How many coats should it take?

There is very likely a handy YouTube video clearly showing step by step how to do this with the product you have. I had a similar issue and found a video that worked for me!

Good Luck!

Pre-mixed is ok, but it’s just that, ok. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. It’s meh. Ok.

The reason that it’s not great is that it dries and shrinks a bit. It’s not that big of a deal, but it generally will take you a few passes of sanding and mudding and sanding and mudding to get it to smooth out.

There are mix types of drywall mud that don’t shrink, which makes it much easier to get a good finish.

For a little patch like what you are doing, I would probably just go ahead and use the pre-mix. It works well enough and it’s faster for a small job like this. Lay it on a bit thick so that after it dries you can sand down the irregularities caused by the shrinking.

This is one of those things that is conceptually easy to do, but takes a lot of practice to do well. Easy to learn, difficult to master. Worst case though, you just slap on a bit more mud and sand it down. Even if you don’t have any skill at it, eventually you’ll get it right. You’ll just need a few more mudding/sanding cycles.

Have you considered hanging a mirror or floral print over the area?

I use the stuff that can be smoothed with a wet sponge. (At Home Depot it comes in white buckets with red and green writing. That’s all I can remember about it.)

With a slightly damp sponge you can get a really fine edge without worrying about scuffing the drywall.

Russ Olinatz has a ton of videos on youtube covering all kinds of drywall issues. I like his videos because he’s pretty descriptive about what he’s doing to get a good finish.

As you’ve experienced, working with drywall is a bit of an art form. Trying to get educated through a forum would be like trying to learn how to paint landscapes from Bob Ross over email. Watch a view videos and see if that helps. And keep in mind that even if this is a huge hassle, you’ll gain a lot of experience and knowledge which will help you in future repairs. After doing it a few times, you’ll be able to make a near perfect repair without much effort.