This post is picture heavy, so I am going to place a page break here so it won't freeze slow-loading computers. Right click to open in another window or tab if your computer does load slowly and let it load while you look at something else.
Please excuse the picture quality in this post. I had to take off the window covering so every daytime photo is with the camera pointed at the light, a photography no-no, but that's the way it is with windows. Every night photo is just as bad because there is only one light in the room right now.
Several years ago we had a professional fix several cracks over windows and doors. They didn't look great and within six months, they had all cracked again. Before putting in our new wood floors, we had someone examine the foundation to see if anything was shifting. No, he said, nothing more than normal settling. Fix the cracks, install your floors, and go on, he said. Before having anyone else come fix the cracks, I did a lot of research online, and consulted a forum where painting professionals hang out.
What I learned:
- Windows and doors are basically a square hole, creating a weak spot in the solid plane of the wall.
- Sheetrock should not have joints at corners of windows and doors, but should wrap the corners, meeting in the middle of the window.
- But many sheetrock installers put joints in the corners because it is easier and uses up sheetrock scraps.
- Paper tape is stronger than mesh tape.
- Setting type joint compound (aka hot mud) is stronger than all purpose drywall compound (aka mud) and should be used on all joints.
- But all purpose joint compound is less expensive, comes pre-mixed, is workable for a longer period of time, and because it can be used for all applications it is easier for the installer.
- When repairing cracks, the original mud and tape should be removed, both insuring good bond to the sheetrock, and lessening the thickness over the crack.
- But most contractors don't remove anything, they just tape over what is there.
- Contractors who hang out at professional forums and tell you the right way to do things are impossible to find in the local phone book or Angie's list!
After interviewing six contractors from the above sources, none of whom would remove all of the tape and mud that is currently on the joints, I decided the only way to get this done right was to do it myself. It wasn't super easy, but easier than I thought it would be, and my walls look great. Plus, it saved me several hundred dollars. (I had several cracks.) And, when I was fixing the cracks myself, I found that every one of those previous repairs was done using mesh tape on top of the old cracked mud and tape. No wonder they didn't hold.
Complete list of tools and materials needed:
Painter's plastic and tarp (if you need to protect existing floor)
Utility knife and blades
Setting type joint compound
All purpose drywall compound (if you need to add texture)
Roll of paper tape
2-3 inch putty knife
10-12 inch drywall taping blade
Drywall mud pan
Pole sander and sandpaper
Here's what you need to remove the existing tape:
Utility knife with new blade (trust me, you want it sharp).
To protect your flooring, put painter's plastic on the floor and pull the edge up so you can tape it to the baseboard. Then put a tarp on top of that. If you just use a tarp, dust and debris will sift down between the wall and the edge of the tarp. Been there, done that.
Hold the knife at an angle and cut a line about two inches on either side of the outside of the tape. The tape is two inches wide and I've found that the mud is applied just over six inches wide. If you see that your knife is cutting through sheetrock instead of mud, move your cutting line in. It's ok if you don't have a straight line; it might even be better.
Step 2. You are going to remove the mud between the two cuts. I have found it easier to remove the paint layer first and then the mud. Still holding the knife at an angle, score the area between the cuts. Then slide the knife blade under the paint and peel it off. If you have a problem, rub a wet cloth over the cuts, wait a minute and the paint will pull off the mud easier.
Step 3. Now that the paint is off, the mud is easy to remove by scoring at a shallow angle. It shatters off as you scrape, which is why you wear eye protection and have the eye wash. It goes everywhere.
Again, if you have a problem, rub a wet cloth over it, wait for it to absorb, and then continue to scrape with your blade. When the mud is wet, it's easier to scrape with the knife held perpendicularly. As you can see, the mud isn't very thick, about 1/8 inch thick. You don't have to remove every bit of mud there, just get as close to the sheetrock as you can. Then you won't have a big hump when you re-mud the joint.
Step 5. It off in one piece and the sheetrock under it should be pretty clean. If there is any mud left there, it will wipe off easily with your wet cloth.
Step 6. If there aren't any, or enough, nails or screws holding the edges of the sheetrock to the 2x4 behind it, now is time to add them. That will help keep your joint from recracking in a few years. On one joint I repaired, there was no stud behind the joint at all. No wonder it cracked.
On this joint, did you notice the way the crack went up, then across the tape and then up again? I was a little worried about that, but when I got the tape off, I see the reason. A sheetrock nail was hammered in so hard that it cracked the sheetrock and made a small bulge in the sheetrock. The only fix I could do was to shave off the bulge. There wasn't another place to put a sheetrock screw as there wasn't a 2x4 above the header. I peeled the corner tape down to see how far the crack went and luckily it stopped just under that tape. You normally don't have to touch the corner tape/bead. If you are only doing one crack, go on to the next step. If you have multiple cracks, repeat the above steps on all of them before going on.
Step 7. The directions on the bag are for mixing a large quantity. You don't need that much. It's basically a 2 part powder to 1 part water recipe. If you are only doing one crack about the size of the one I've shown, you can use 1/2 cup powder and have plenty. This stuff will harden even if you wrap it in plastic, so don't mix a lot more than you need. Since this is a small amount, you can easily mix it in the mud pan. It should be the consistency of frosting, the kind you spread with a knife. Add more powder or water as needed to get it right.
Step 9. Cut a length of tape a bit longer than you need, wet it, and butt one cut end against the cut edge of the original tape. In my joint, I put the cut edge against the crown molding. Hold that edge with your fingers and pull the 2-3 inch blade down its length firmly, pressing it into the mud base.
Step 10. Put another coat of mud over the tape, making sure the edges are covered so the tape is sealed. If an air pocket gets under the tape, the tape could come off, or crack and you'll have to do it all over again. Let that dry. It may need overnight. This is where I also taped my extra nail crack and folded the corner tape back over.
Step 11. After the joint is dry, knock off the ridges with a piece of sandpaper or putty knife. Then mix another batch of hot mud in your mud pan. Distribute it evenly along the width of the pan so you can scoop out an even amount along the width of your 10-12 inch drywall taping knife.
You can use just the sandpaper, but using a pole sander (aka idiot stick) is better because it sands flat and even.
Step 15. When it is dry, sand again and you are ready to texture. There are a lot of texture spraying products on the market, but the one I like for small areas is the Homax Touch up Sprayer. You can buy them or order them through Home Depot too. I like this one because it doesn't clog up like the spray cans and the texture is smoother. I also have an electric sprayer but won't use it in a room where I'm trying to protect the floor. This little Homax doesn't have a wide spray pattern so it's perfect for tight spots and rooms with carpet or furniture. The down side to that is that you have to hold it closer to the wall and pump it. You can see that the new model comes in a streamlined package where mine came in a box.
Step 18. Starting at the top, hold the 10-12 inch drywall taping knife at an angle and pull it lightly over the texture, but don't flatten completely. Sorry, I couldn't hold the camera and the blade at the same time. While the texture is still wet, wipe off any splatters that went down the wall, on the window, or other areas. If it's too close to the texture you want, like on the crown molding, leave it until after you've painted and wash it off. The paint will keep the texture on the wall from washing off.
That's it. You're done. I just have two last tips, and these concern cleaning your tools. Empty the leftover mud into the trash, not down the drain. When using hot mud, don't clean your tools in the sink; the mud will set up in your pipes. When cleaning the Homax reservoir, you can pull the plug out of the bottom and use a brush or cloth to clean inside. I can stick my pinky finger in that hole and bend it enough to clean out those corners.
I am linking to:
Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest #95
Be Inspired at Common Ground #33
The Charm of Home #20
Thrifty Things Friday at The Thrifty Groove #7