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Get it done / Fixing a hole

Photos courtesy of author


I’ve had better mornings than the one of August 24, 2003. I’d spent the night camped out at my parents’ house after my mom had been in a car accident the previous afternoon. I suspected she had sustained injuries beyond the initial emergency room diagnosis (it turned out she had a fractured hip) and, with my dad in failing health, the day ahead looked uncertain. Barely into my first sip of coffee, I received a somewhat urgent phone call from my wife: Goldie, the goldfish our son had won in a twenty-five-cent carnival game, who had now lived five years past his promised life expectancy (at a cost of many hundreds of dollars in aquarium gear and maintenance), was floating lifelessly in his tank. And our dining room, where Goldie resided, was rapidly filling up with dozens upon dozens of wasps who were then spreading throughout the entire first floor of our house.  


I quickly drove home and discovered the problem.  Wasps had found a seam outside our house where brick meets aluminum siding and had burrowed in horizontally over a corner in our dining room, then drilled a hole through the ceiling from which they were dropping out rapid fire, like parachute troops over Normandy. I covered myself to avoid getting stung, sprayed some Raid in the general direction of the outside breach, then jumped on a step ladder and sealed the hole with gray duct tape. The wasps who had made it into the house soon left through open windows and doors, the outside entry for the wasps was further carpet bombed with Raid, the exterminator was called to finish the job, Goldie was fished out of his tank and placed in a shoebox appropriate for formal burial, and I headed back to my parents’ house.  


As in many homes, our formal dining room doesn’t get a lot of use. The duct-taped hole was in a far corner out of normal sight lines. And so, for seventeen years, during which every other room in our house was remodeled and painted, the duct tape remained in mute testimony to the day Goldie died and the wasps invaded. 


There is perhaps no greater kick-starter for home repairs than when it’s your spouse’s turn to host book club.  A recent minor leak from an upstairs bathroom had seeped down into the ceiling in our kitchen, leaving quite a noticeable and unsightly stain with a peeling surface. Knowing that a repair was in order to be up to book club snuff, it made sense to finally repair the hole in the dining room ceiling.  


I’m not a novice in drywall repair—I’d helped our contractor when we had undertaken a total kitchen remodel—but it had been a while, so I brushed up with blogs and YouTube videos on ceiling repair. Repairing a ceiling is a fairly simple task that requires only a good scraper or putty knife, drywall compound (often referred to as “mud”), adhesive screen patching if there’s a hole to be filled (as there was in this case), sandpaper, paint, and a paintbrush.


Ideally, the repair is done over two days: the first to scrape away the damage and apply the compound, and the second to sand the compound smooth before applying paint. To save time with painting, I used a combination white ceiling paint and primer, but, for a larger surface, it would be preferable to apply a coat of primer and then finish with paint. Everything went as planned with one hitch: over the years the white paint on the ceiling and crown molding had faded so the crisp white color of the repair is quite noticeable in contrast. Sometime in 2018, the wallpaper will be stripped, and the room repainted. Until then, it sure looks better than gray duct tape.  


Pro Tip: Don’t put off simple projects for so long that when you finally tackle them, the good feeling of accomplishment is undercut by that nagging feeling of “what took me so long?”  




Useful Info: Matching paint in drywall repairs

Saving paint to use for future wall repairs is always the best way to ensure a color match, but nobody can be blamed for not wanting a basement full of paint cans. And, of course, you may not have done the original paint job at all.


When starting a match from scratch, you’ll find that most stores like Home Depot or Sherwin-Williams can do color matching from fabrics, pillows, and, for your purposes, existing paint. (There are also videos online, natch.)


Cut a small sample from the damaged area, and take it to a home improvement or paint store, and let the experts help you match color, as well as finish. If you don’t know how the original paint was applied, ask the paint employee to give you a good guess. Matching drywall texture will also help achieve a seamless repair.


With the new paint, apply with the same type of brush or applicator as the original, and “feather” out beyond the actual repair with light strokes to try to blend with the existing paint. Even if the new spot looks obvious now, if the color and drywall are right, time (e.g., dirt, dust, and fading) will help it blend. So, for now, just congratulate yourself on getting it done!—DONNA HOKE


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