DEAR MIKE: I had a small hole in my drywall, which I patched. My problem is that I just can't seem to closely match the texture of the surrounding drywall, and consequently my patch stands out. What can I do to make it blend in? -- Lou S.
DEAR LOU: My career of blending in damaged surfaces started when I was about 10 years old. In one of his fits of unprovoked rage, my brother chased me with my sister's baton.
Well, I narrowly escaped by hurling myself into my room and locking the door. My brother dug in and -- reminiscent of a major leaguer -- put the baton through the cheap hollow door. My parents were due home shortly and we knew we would be in big trouble if they saw the hole.
I stuffed the hole full of newspaper and slid a piece of cardboard inside to hold it all together. A couple of pieces of masking tape finished the primitive patch. Fortunately, the color of the tape matched the door.
It was 10 years before my parents realized that the door was damaged. By that time the statute of limitations had expired and my brother and I had a good laugh. The point is that even if the patch job is excellent, you will likely notice it because you know where it is. Someone walking through the house would probably not.
I doubt there is a home repair person around that has not wrestled with the challenge of matching texture. Short of reshooting the entire wall, you will have to experiment with different techniques and mixtures to get the right look.
You first want to make sure your wall patch is dry and then sand it. Use fine sandpaper and a sanding block to level the patch. Use a swirling motion with your hand to get rid of the high spots.
You're going to see a flat patch in the middle of the textured wall. Before you start texturing the patch, feather the patch into the surrounding texture. Use warm water and either a sponge or a soft-bristled toothbrush. Dip the sponge or toothbrush into the warm water and swirl the border of the patch away (if you use a sponge, wring it out first). You want to erase the outline of the patch.
There are two main types of texture: orange peel and knockdown. Orange peel uses a thinner material, higher pressure and a smaller orifice than knockdown, which is leveled with a wide trowel to create larger flat areas. Between these options, you can get a lot of variety in the finished look.
You can buy spray texture in a can that does a pretty decent job. It sells for about $12 and will cover up to 100 square feet, depending on the splatter size. For this option, I recommend the Homax brand. It comes with three straws of varying diameter to shoot different sized splatters. It's also oil-based and will dry in about 30 minutes. The downside is that it stinks and will stain carpet and clothing, so cover everything up.
You can adjust the nozzle pressure by changing the temperature of the can. If the pressure is too low, stick the can in warm water for a few minutes. If the pressure is too high, stick it in cool water.
Practice on a piece of cardboard first. You want to hold the can 1 or 2 feet from the surface and use a quick sweeping motion. Don't hold the button down for too long.
If you have knockdown texture, instead of using a trowel to flatten the texture while it is drying, wait until it has completely dried and use fine sandpaper on a sanding block to flatten it. You will have more control.
You can also try to match the texture using a sponge. Choose one that has various sized holes. Use a flat pan (like a pie pan) and mix some joint compound with water. The mixture shouldn't be too soupy or too thick. Practice on scrap before you move to the wall.
Get the sponge damp and push it gently into the mixture. Touch the wall with it and pull it off. Peeling the sponge off will give a different look. You will be left with little spikes that you will have to knockdown.
Along the same lines is to mix up some joint compound and water and use a turkey baster. This technique is good for small patches. Just don't load up the baster so much that it just squirts a big blob on the wall. The tip should have a space so that as you squeeze the baster, the rushing air picks up the texture and throws it on the wall.
Probably the most important part of the job is the paint. You can make most patches go away by repainting the entire wall and not just the patch.