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How to cover up damaged walls with paint

Updated April 12, 2019

Damaged walls in a home have the same effect as broken windows or graffiti on buildings or trash in streets. They contribute to an air of neglect that makes additional damage even more likely. For the tenant, damaged walls mean you will not get your deposit back without photos and a signed move-in inspection to prove that they were already there. Damaged walls can drive away potential tenants unless you repair or paint them.

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  1. Remove breakable items from the room and cover furniture and floors with dust sheets.

  2. Remove any damaged wallpaper or peeling paint. Apply paint remover and scrape the area clean. Use a spray bottle filled with water to loosen wallpaper, or apply wallpaper remover and scrape until you reach clean drywall or plaster.

  3. Apply painter's tape to all baseboards, chair rails, window ledges and mantel edges to protect your woodwork from drips.

  4. Fill any cracks or holes with putty or joint compound. Putty is the consistency of room-temperature cream cheese, while joint compound is usually a little thicker than sour cream. Load your 2-inch-wide knife near the end of the blade. Push the putty into the hole as you scrape across it in a single direction.

  5. Load a 4-inch-wide putty knife with joint compound. Begin at the top or to the right of a crack or hole and work downward or to the left, scraping across the hole as if buttering a piece of toast. Leave some joint compound on the wall around the hole rather than attempting to scrape away the excess.

  6. Allow the joint compound or putty to dry until it begins turning white. Wet a large kitchen sponge and wring it almost dry. Wipe the sponge across the filled hole to remove excess joint compound, without removing any from the hole.

  7. Apply joint tape over any seams between drywall sheets, using joint compound as glue. Wipe with a damp sponge after 30 minutes to remove any excess joint compound and allow to dry overnight. Reapply a coat of joint compound over the tape, feathering the edges as you go and allow to dry overnight again before wiping with a damp sponge.

  8. Allow all putty to dry for three to five days, depending on humidity. Refill cracks and holes if the putty shrinks, then allow it to dry again.

  9. Apply a base coat of flat latex or enamel paint, using a cross-hatch or "X" stroke. Cross-hatching ensures the best coverage on damaged surfaces. Allow the paint to dry overnight.

  10. Apply a second coat of paint using a cross-hatch stroke and allow to dry overnight. Apply a third coat, if needed.

  11. Carefully remove all painter's tape and discard.

  12. Tip

    Use flat paint rather than semigloss or high-gloss. The reflective sheen of the semigloss and high-gloss paint will make any remaining dips, cracks or bumps in your walls more noticeable.


    Do not apply latex paint over enamel, or it will bubble and peel away in no time.

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Things You'll Need

  • Dust sheets
  • Paint remover
  • Spray bottle
  • Wallpaper remover
  • 2- and 4-inch putty knives
  • Spackle or joint compound
  • Large kitchen sponge
  • Joint tape
  • Painter's tape
  • Flat latex or enamel paint

About the Author

Jane Smith

Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.

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