Drywall is relatively simple to install and easy to repair. It’s also easy to repair badly, which can leave a lumpy mess that declares “shoddy” to anyone who enters the room.

It’s best to do a repair with three or four thin coats of compound–if possible leaving sanding for just the last coat. Also, “the most important thing with a repair is to build the joint out wider than you would normally,” says drywall contractor Rick Schwartz, who serves as secretary treasurer of Marietta Drywall in Marietta, Ga. The key is to leave a wide and very shallow slope on all sides, he says.

A drywall repair toolkit is simple. It consists of flexible knives in 3-, 6- and 8-in. widths, an inside-corner knife, a utility knife, a hammer, a screwdriver, a drywall saw and a drill. Some repairs also may require a hand sander, a hacksaw, a nail bar and a level. Chances are good that you already own these. As for materials, drywall compound, mesh tape, paper tape, drywall nails and screws take care of most repairs.

Note that in some cases we show mesh tape with lightweight or all-purpose compound applied over it. Strictly speaking, for maximum strength mesh tape is best used with setting-type drywall compound. For small repairs, however, that’s impractical. If you’re really concerned about strength, use paper tape for all repairs. Be advised that it’s more difficult to work with in some of the repairs we show.