Drywall Techniques: California Patch

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There are, of course, many ways to patch holes in drywall, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages.  The “California Patch” or “Butterfly Patch” is a nice technique if you don’t have any drywall tape or if you are trying to minimize the thickness of the finished repair.  Adding layers of seam-tape and compound can be undesirable in certain applications, especially well-lit ceilings…This is where the California patch can be a very handy solution.

Tool List

Keyhole Saw

Utility (Razor) Knife

Carpenter’s Square


Drywall Knives (size depends on area being repaired)

Sanding Sponge

Surform Tool

Dust Mask

Clean Cloth

Vacuum Cleaner


Drywall Compound

Drywall Screws

Lumber (scrap)

Drywall (scrap)


I. Prepare the Damaged Area

· Shine a flashlight into the hole to check for any studs, electrical wires, or plumbing that could be damaged with a saw

· Use a square to draw a rectangle around the damaged area

· Cut out the rectangle with a keyhole saw

· Locate any nearby studs or joists – If there is a stud/joist nearby it may be convenient to widen the hole and use the existing wood as a support

· If no stud/joist is near the hole, create a brace by using a piece of 1×2 or scrap lumber.

· Clean up the edges of the new hole with a surform tool and a sanding sponge

· Wipe down the surface with a damp cloth to remove excess dust

II. Making the Patch

· Measure the new hole

· Transfer the measurements to the back side of a scrap piece of drywall and add a two inch border around the perimeter.

· Score along the lines and into the drywall gypsum – do not cut through the paper on the front side

· Snap the outside pieces off that surround the center rectangle and gently peel them away from the paper on the front side.

· You should be left with the center rectangle with a 2″ flap of paper around the perimeter

· Clean up the edges of the patch with a surform tool and a sanding sponge

· Test fit the center rectangle into the hole that was cut earlier

III. Apply the Patch

· While holding the patch in the hole, trace around the outside of the 2″ flap onto the existing drywall

· Remove the patch and score along the lines made in the previous step (just deep enough to cut through the paper facing)

· Remove the paper surrounding the hole by slowly peeling away from the gypsum

· Test fit to see if the flap lays flush without overlapping

· If using a brace, install it now – If you place the screws inside the area where the tape is removed, it will be easier to conceal

· With everything fitting nicely, go ahead and apply mud to the perimeter of the patch, under the flap

· Apply a bit of mud around the perimeter of the hole where the face-paper was removed

· Place the patch into the hole and secure with drywall screws

· Use a drywall knife to set the flap and to squeeze out excess compound

· Wait until the compound is dry and knock down any high spots with the drywall knife by scraping over the surface at a low angle

· Thin down a bit of compound with water (spray bottle works well) and skim the entire surface to blend the repair with the existing drywall

· Lightly sand when dry and repeat if necessary

· Thats it! Now it is ready to paint.

Category(s): How-To
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