Drywall ceiling cracks: when to worry? (and how to REPAIR!)

Drywall ceiling defects can be the result of various factors, starting with innocent accidents, installing lightning or fixtures, to more serious water leaks. These yield unsightly and dangerous ceiling spots. You should address these when you see them as they can indicate big problems that can get worse over time.


Of course, you can call a professional to do the job for you. However, if you know the necessary steps you can get your ceiling fixed faster and cheaper.

So, how to repair drywall ceiling?

Let’s see.

How to Repair Drywall Ceiling in Six Steps?

To repair your ceiling defect you need to have:

-Keyhole saw

-Utility knife

-Drywall screws


-Spackle or mudding compound

-Putty knife

-A new piece of drywall

-A few furring strips

Once you’ve arranged the necessary tools, start your ceiling job.

Step One: Identify the Cause of the Drywall Damage

Detecting a drywall ceiling defect after an accident or lightning/fixture installation is pretty straightforward. However, suspecting a water leak that’s a little tricky. Make sure to find the root cause of the issue.

Obvious signs of a water leak include water dripping from the ceiling, peeling paint, or sagging soft spots. You should also suspect a leak if you notice a brown stain that has been growing over time. Water leaks can result from damaged roof insulation or plumbing.

If it is indeed a water leak that’s causing the drywall ceiling defect you should call in the professionals for a thorough inspection. Ignoring such leaks can risk serious structural damage to the building.

The same is true if there is a structural issue with the house. A structural engineer can check what is going on.

Once you’ve fixed the cause of your ceiling damage you can finally start your restoration journey.

Step Two: Remove the Damaged Drywall

Before you start, protect your eyes and airways by wearing goggles and dirt masks respectively.

Climb onto a sturdy, anti-slip ladder and start poking and removing soft or broken drywall by hand. Keep picking at the edges of the damaged drywall ceiling till you reach the healthy hard areas.

Finally, use your utility knife to smooth out the drywall hole you just created. Don’t worry about cutting the hole into a perfect shape. You only need to remove any jagged edges.

Step Three: Repair Small Drywall Defects?

If you have a defect that is half an inch wide you can fill it up using spackle. This is a quick-dry gypsum powder that shrinks less than the joint compound as it dries.

Once dry, you can sand and then directly paint over the spackle.

Step Four: Repair Medium-Sized Drywall Defects?

If you have an inch size defect, you’re better off using a drywall patch. These are made up of tightly-woven mesh.

Cut off a piece of drywall mesh that is 1 inch longer and wider than the defect. Then remove the protective paper off the adhesive backside of the mesh and center it over the defect. Make sure you have at least half an inch of mesh attached to the ceiling edges around the hole.

Now add quick-dry spackle or compound mix on the drywall patch and feather it out.

Finally sand and paint the repaired drywall ceiling.

Step Five: Repair Large Drywall Defects?

If you have a drywall ceiling defect that is wider than a few inches, you’d have to place a new piece of drywall to fix it.

Prepare the Ceiling Defect

Measure the ceiling defect and cut a drywall piece that is two inches longer and wider than it. You can use a utility knife to cut the drywall to the desired size.

Have someone help you hold the plaster wall segment so you can trace its shape around the hole using a pencil. Make sure to make a mark both on the drywall section and the ceiling to know how to position it later on.

Use a keyhole saw to cut through the ceiling over the lines you’ve traced. This would create an opening the same size as the drywall segment you’re going to use.

Replace the Damaged Drywall

Remove any visible insulating material or nails.

Use your saw to cut a furring strip or timber at least four inches longer than the ceiling defect. Then position the strip into the hole so that two inches overlap with the remaining drywall on either side along its length.

Hold the furring strip flush with the drywall ceiling and fasten them together using drywall screws and a screwdriver.

Jam the new drywall patch into the ceiling hole and secure it to the underlying furring strip. Do this by placing screws in line with the ones securing the furring to the pre-existing ceiling.

Mud and Tape Your New Drywall Ceiling

Scoop your spackle or compound mix using a putty knife and swap it onto the new drywall segment edges to fill in any defects around it. Use the back of the knife to scrape off excess spackle or mud mix to avoid an uneven surface.

Measure and cut enough lengths of drywall tape. Stick it onto the wet spackle or mud mix over the joints then cover it with a layer of the compound again. Push the tape firmly on the joints using your putty knife. Start by pressing at the center then moving on to the edges of the tape.

Cover the new drywall section with the compound and feather it out to achieve a smooth transition to the rest of the ceiling. Then allow it to dry overnight.

Scrape off any ridges using the back of your putty knife to make sanding easier.

Finish Up

Sand the ceiling by moving a wet sanding sponge in a circular motion. The sanding sponge would allow you to gently sand the ceiling and avoid creating new dents in the drywall. Dampening the sponge would make tiny dust particles stick to it and minimize the dust liberated in the air as you work.

Finally prime and paint your ceiling section to match the rest of your room.

Step Six: Replace Damaged Insulation

If you had a roof defect you should check your attic for any damaged insulation. The most common insulation types are rock wool, fiberglass, and cellulose. You can safely scoop and set aside these insulation types until you clean the attic of any damaged insulating material.

However, watch out for pellet-shaped vermiculite insulation, as it might contain asbestos. If you find it in your attic, leave it undisturbed and hire a professional asbestos contractor to handle it.

Take care not to compress the insulating materials as you transport them. As this would make them useless for insulating your roof later on.

To Conclude

Promptly fixing a drywall ceiling defect can protect you from further accidents and health hazards. It would also keep your home looking neat and clean.

Start by inspecting and picking at the drywall to remove any damaged pieces. Then use a simple spackle filling, a drywall patch, or a new piece of drywall to repair ceiling defects.

Coat, sand, and paint over the defect, and you’ve got yourself a good-as-new drywall ceiling.

If you have a skylight, it is essential that you check around this to make sure that there are no ceiling cracks around this as this can result in water leaks.