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I want to pull a section of drywall down, but then put it back up again later. I'm having a hard time deciding where to cut.

I think ideally, I could cut exactly down the center of a stud so that I could screw it back in. But there will already be screws down the center of the stud and it may be hard to find the exact center. Also a lot harder to make the actual cut since the stud is behind it.

It might be easier to cut along the edge of the stud, but then when putting it back in, there's nothing to screw into, unless I add some additional backing.

Last idea was to cut significantly in from the studs and just put it back in place kind of like a hole, hoping the mud will hold it in place.

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    Last idea was to cut significantly in from the studs and just put it back in place kind of like a hole, hoping the mud will hold it in place. No way. If you have that situation (can happen for a lot of reasons), you put in some wood as backing and screw it to two sides (top & bottom or left & right) of the existing wall and to the middle of the replacement piece. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Feb 24 at 19:25
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    Your second approach is what I would do. Cut back to the edge of the stud. Then fasten a strip of 3/4" thick wood (1x3 or 1x4 board; ripped strip of 3/4" plywood) to the stud and screw the replacement drywall to the added wood. – SteveSh Feb 24 at 19:32
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    How big of a section of drywall are you talking about? – SteveSh Feb 24 at 19:33
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    Is this a once in a lifetime idea or something done repeatedly(once or trice a year)? Probably can think of better places if hiding a body. – crip659 Feb 24 at 20:13
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    The real question here is, what are you really trying to do? The more you cut, the more you have to patch up. Patching a small hole of let's say 6 inches is a lot easier than a 14 inch hole, and requires cutting in a different place, etc. – Steve Sether Feb 24 at 20:22
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I'll deviate from the other suggestions. I prefer to cut in open space and float new backing.

  • It's more difficult to cut down a stud. The knife or saw can't penetrate cleanly through, and you tend to hit fasteners.
  • If you're too far off the stud center you'll have a hard time putting screws back into the skinny overlap.
  • New, floated backing can be wider than a stud. This makes re-fastening both the patch and the edge of the existing drywall easier. 2-3" wide strips of 1/2" plywood are great. So is scrap 1x4 or whatever you have on hand thick enough to hold a screw.
  • The new backing doesn't need to be mounted to framing. Fastening blocks to framing and keeping them flush is often a challenge, especially with small openings. Floated backing is automatically flush with the framing.
  • New backing can be floated beyond the patch and screwed into the existing drywall. This can provide needed support in some situations.
  • It provides flexibility of location. I don't always want to cut on a stud because of where the taping patch needs to be.
  • The cutout can be whatever size or shape I like. If I'm reusing the piece, it's easy to float random backing behind the edges of an oddly-shaped cutout. If I'm installing a new patch, I cut that first, trace it on the wall, and cut the trace. Perfect fit every time.
  • New backing can be installed over insulation, often making the job easier.
  • Patch size doesn't matter. If it's large enough you'll have some studs to use as well, but this method is great for the edges of the repair.

Of course, one solution doesn't apply to every case. Use what make sense.

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    Of course, one solution doesn't apply to every case. Use what make sense. Words to live by. Not just drywall. Not just DIY. Life. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Feb 24 at 19:44
  • So you are saying add plywood strips behind the drywall to act as backing? I have done this and basically stopped because of the inherent risk that when screwing into the backing that isn't secure the screw does not catch right and you end up pushing the backing which can cause the drywall to bulge or crease. I think its something that I might tend to move towards if the hole is smaller AND has insulation (support) behind it. I can't see how this would be easier or better for a larger hole - it takes literally 30 seconds to pop in support to a stud. – DMoore Feb 24 at 20:52
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    I don't understand. You're holding the backing with your hand until a couple screws are holding the backing to the existing drywall. I've done this hundreds of times with no more issues than you see with drywalling in general. – isherwood Feb 24 at 20:54
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    You sink the screws successively like you're tightening a drum head or lug nuts. The first screw you run backwards after it pushes the block away; the same trick that you'd do with screwing down blocking : you back it out after a thread is started, squeeze them back together and drive it back in. – Mazura Feb 25 at 4:04
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    @CoryKlein: Like this – isherwood Feb 26 at 20:57
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The easiest way is to cut on edge of studs on each side. Just use utility knife to make a hole then a drywall saw and make your way over to the stud in question. Then cut down, back over and repeat.

Now you have a big hole. Add an extra 2x4 on each side the height of your hole. and then reinstall your drywall.

Any other way you do it your mud build up on the exterior studs will have to be higher. Meaning you can do it and make it look nice if you go down the center but it will be noticeable as the "hump" would end at two corners on each side.

When you install drywall your mud lines are over long periods so they are less noticeable unless you get right next to wall with the right lighting. Also when reinstalling cut a half inch off the width so that you have gaps on each side. This will allow you to tape "lower" and won't have as much buildup.

And for what its worth... yea I will cut down the middle but if I do that I understand the risk and I want to keep all of the screws in tact so I am not adding work on. I know that if my lines are straight I might have to add a block or have angles on my screws. I would never remove a screw when going down the middle because putting in a new screw on the other side will create broken drywall edge that will bulge. So if you want to do the middle its fine but you are probably going to end up with the blocking anyways (or like I said have a huge bulge).

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This answer is a general overview of the points you are asking about.

I do not know the size and scope of your project so i can not tailor my answer to your specific situation.

I think ideally, I could cut exactly down the center of a stud so that I could screw it back in.

Yes, that is what i do, i am practiced and can do it well if i take the time to find the stud and determine if it is not plumb. You can use small drill bit to find each side of the stud so you can find center. I use an oscillating saw for this and it is great , you may encounter some screws or nails, just go around/over them. You are going to be covering this seam up with tape and mud. (Taping and muding a but joint requires the mud to be tapered/feathered out quite a way from the the seam, it is a skill that takes much practice so you will not notice it.)

It might be easier to cut along the edge of the stud, but then when putting it back in, there's nothing to screw into, unless I add some additional backing.

I do not want to take the time to find the stud and determine if it is not plumb then i cut on the edge of the stud with A Rotozip (rotary cutting tool) and then sister in another piece of wood to the stud for attaching the drywall to.

Last idea was to cut significantly in from the studs and just put it back in place kind of like a hole, hoping the mud will hold it in place.

Mud alone is not sufficient for that for patches over a certain size (there are specific techniques for doing small patches that utilize the paper of the patch to aid in the strength of the patch).

If i cut a hole in place where there is no structure to support the patch piece i take some 1x4 and screw it to the backside of the drywall, i hold it in place so it is partially behind the drywall edge and partially exposed, then drive some screws through the drywall into the wood. Now the new piece can rest against it and i can screw the patch piece to it.

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  1. Find the screws with a magnet.
  2. Chip out the drywall compound in the screw-heads with a pick/nail/pointy-tool.
  3. Remove the screws.
  4. Cut the drywall down the middle of the stud.
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  • I don't get this. If you remove the screws then the other side that is not being cut out isn't secured there. Also this is assuming that the screws are in the middle of the stud... that is a really bad assumption. – DMoore Feb 24 at 19:36
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    There is no assumption about where the screws are. I did not say to follow the screws with the cut, but to cut down the middle. As for "the other side" you can put new screws to hold that in before you cut if you're that worried about it. It's unlikely to move if not cut free, though. – Ecnerwal Feb 24 at 19:42
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    So if this was a 6 foot section height wise you would take out 10 screws and chip out all of the mud? I remove lots of drywall - lots. My eyebrows would be raised in full force if I saw anyone working for me do this. Messier, takes longer, greater chance to make the whole thing a lot harder... Example... when chipping out you take a little drywall from the non-cut side... You want to screw that back in but you have lost space so you screw at an angle (bulge) or you pop the edge (weak and a bulge). I don't see this at all. – DMoore Feb 24 at 19:51
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    @DMoore - When i cut down the center of the stud i try to stay just to the side of the center, on the hole side, so i minimize weakening the connection of the non hole side. If i do have to add screws at an angle i wait till the patch is back in place to minimize blowout on that edge. Tape and mud, all is good. There really is no way of knowing if the fasteners are on center of the stud until you are cutting. – Alaska Man Feb 24 at 19:57
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    Your technique is especially useful/vital for removing a section more than one stud bay wide. After finding a screw with the magnet I just put the phillips driver tip to the wall there and let it chew off the mud. (@DMoore: don't chip out all the mud! Just enough to wind the screw out.) Sometimes the tip digs into the drywall a little, but soon enough the tip bites and out comes the screw. When it's time for re-assembly I install new screws on both sides of the cut in different locations than the spot that's been chewed up a little by the removal process. – Greg Hill Feb 25 at 17:18
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The easiest hole to repair is the SMALLEST hole that will let you do your task.

Figure out where you need to work, and take out one rectangle cut in the drywall/gib. Avoid making a hole, and then enlarging it. That takeout patch will be the jigsaw-piece that goes back in because it is exactly the right thickness as the rest of the wall lining, so save it.


When your task in the wall is finished, feed some pre-glued backing board through the hole, rotate 90 degrees and then pull it toward you. Secure with a zip tie through two small holes in the board, and a suitable length of scrap wood on your side. Leave overnight to set.

Next day, cut the zip tie, and use more construction adhesive to put the initial patch back into the same hole it came from. You will probably have to dress the edges a little to allow plaster to form a nice flat surface. Then plaster firmly into the saw blade kerf. From there its just plaster and sanding and painting. For a smaller hole, you wouldn't need paper/mesh tape under the plaster though it wouldn't hurt. Most of the support is being done by the backing board.

If the task inside the wall requires a lot of work or repalcement, a big hole or several medium holes might be your minimum. At some point its no longer just an access hole and you're looking at a fresh sheet of drywall cladding instead.

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    When doing this technique (I used small squares of drywall compound on them) I have secured the backing patches using drywall screws, as well; the small holes they make are easily addressed when the final patch is mudded in then sanded. – X Goodrich Feb 25 at 11:58
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    Yup, I agree with @XGoodrich - simply use drywall screws to hold the backer board in place. No need for glue. No need to wait overnight. Only one screw head to fill with mud instead of two zip tie holes to fill. No need to struggle to get the zip-tie to wrap around the backer board inside the wall. Then, use screws to attach the patch piece to the backer board - no need for construction adhesive behind it. You're going to have to tape/mud the joints anyway, may as well use the mud to hide the screws, just like it was a brand new installation. – FreeMan Feb 25 at 13:56
  • "The easiest hole to repair is the SMALLEST hole that will let you do your task." Just from my own DIY experience, I started out like this fearinf the mud work, but I found this philosophy has gotten me into more trouble and eventually more work. I find it easier to remember the size of the tape knife (12in...14in) and cut as much as you need to do the work comfortably. I can't tell you how many "Mondrian" style openings I've cut...! Still, +1 for pushing for "a big hole" and "fresh sheet" – P2000 Feb 25 at 18:29
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To add a few more general points to the other answers:

  • Where possible avoid cutting near any corners of the wall (inside, outside, ceiling, etc.) If you are too close to a corner it will almost always result in more work to patch it back up, because finishing a corner is (in general) harder than finishing a section of flat wall. This goes for mudding as well as multiple paint colors to be dealt with, etc.

  • To a lesser extent it can help to avoid cutting around 4' up from the floor, because that's often where a seam between drywall sheets is located and it can be a little harder to patch that up. The portion of seam in the cutoff piece will tend to crack or break.

  • I agree with advice not to cut along or on a stud. Sometimes it is actually better to cut a single larger piece that crosses one or more studs - such as for running a wire horizontally - because the single large piece will be easy to re-attach to those studs, and in general less total perimeter of the patch is less work to fix than more smaller patches having a greater total perimeter.

  • If you do need to cut along a stud, I would do it along one side, not in the middle. This leaves the non-cut portion firmly attached, and I think will be easier and more secure later when you reattach the cutoff with blocking. If you use blocking along the stud which is taller than the hole, it will self-align by going behind the drywall.

  • Related to the last point, if you do end up with a bunch of patches near each other I would consider them to be one big patch for mudding purposes. Mudding the whole area flat will probably be quicker and produce a better result than trying to think of each small patch as a separate area to fix.

  • On rare occasions I have been able to make do with small openings that I located behind some baseboard / skirting board. In these cases, essentially no mudding was even needed.

  • If you need to get a backer into a small hole (like 2-3 inches) put one screw in it partway to use as a handle, then screw through the wall into the backer. Then remove the handle screw and reuse it for the patch.

All of this is really "in an ideal world" advice, obviously.

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    Yes the handle screw: very handy! – P2000 Feb 25 at 18:24
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From all the other answers it's clear that whatever you decide is based on your mudding skills and the specific conditions at hand.

A few additional tips, from my DIY experience:

  1. If it's an inspection hole or a wiring hole I often cut a 3in or 4in round hole that fits my arm. If you have the hole saw for it, this is fast and convenient. Should you lose the cut-out piece, it's very easy to cut a new one without measuring.
  2. I have worried many times about the size and shape of the cutout, but really, when you are mudding, and troweling with a 12in or 14in, the precise fit and the gaps do not matter. And often I still (sigh) cut too small, leaving me with two or more pieces to re-install.
  3. If you cut on the stud center, you have to deal with screws, and cutting is a bit harder because you can't penetrate the saw past the drywall paper backing. Also screwing the new piece with only a half-stud width to screw on is hard, as you risk crumbling the drywall board's edge. To provide better support for screwing, sister the stud along the length of the cut.

If you are cutting near stud edges, be very careful with the depth of your saw: cables and piping / tubing are easily cut or scuffed since they are held by the stud and cannot move or wiggle with the saw's motion.

  1. Sometimes, when I cut holes that are smaller than one taping knife's length, I cut on a tapered angle. Hold the saw 45deg sideways from perpendicular, so as to cut an "unsinkable piece". This results in a larger surface on the outside and a smaller on the inside. That way I can re-insert the piece without screws or backing, and mud right over it. The re-inserted piece will be sunk by about 1/8in (because of the cut-away) but the mudding will clean it up perfectly, as the knife depth is guided by the surrounding wall board.
  2. Larger pieces need backing, and for this I use 1x4 or 2x4 lumber or 3 to 4in strips of plywood. It depends what I have on hand, and whether I need space for wires, pipes, insulation etc.. You don't have to back the entire cut, only enough sections / lengths to hold the insert strongly in place. After screwing the backing to the existing drywall board, place the insert over the support. You don't have to guess where to screw: if the support does not span the entire cut, use the existing screws as a hint: simply apply the insert's screws across from where you have already applied backing screws.
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I prefer to cut down the center of the stud whenever possible. While others have commented that it's not easy to cleanly cut the drywall out down the center of the stud, since I started using a flush-cut saw I have found it very easy to cut drywall exactly how I want. I first mark all my cut lines with a sharpie and straightedge and usually a level. The flush cut saw's fine blade all but stops cutting one I cut the inside paper layer on the wallboard and reach the stud. (For the parts of my cuts between studs, I am careful not to go any deeper than necessary, to avoid contacting any wire insulation which may be up against the wall board.)

Below is the cutter I use; I also wear a dust mask and use an old upright vacuum with a standard filter and I hold the hose a couple inches below where I'm cutting, and this grabs 98% of the dust instantly and leaves me extremely smooth cut lines. While finding the center of studs and removing any nails/screws which may be there is still an issue (as those screws/nails will dull my saw blade rapidly ;), I find the end repair or replacement result is excellent cutting out rectangular (or sometimes T-shaped) pieces this way.

https://www.acehardware.com/departments/tools/power-tools/oscillating-tools/2618098

Some of my larger holes (several feet wide) spanned drywall pieces which were about 50 years old so they broke at panel joints and elsewhere, and I found it most convenient to hire a drywall contractor to cut new replacements; in that case, the precise 90-degree corners and vertical/horizontal lines to all my cuts reduced his frustration and cost, I'm absolutely convinced.

Other people's answers about adding blocking to the sides of studs where you've cut are still applicable when cutting down the center of the stud, in case you cut a little close to the inside of the stud and need something extra to screw into.

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  • Since all the joints need to be taped/mudded, having a super precise fit at the edges/corners isn't vital. So long as the patch piece is securely fastened, the mud and tape will cover the sins of cutting. ;) – FreeMan Feb 25 at 13:58
  • @FreeMan and furniture covers the sins of mudding... – P2000 Feb 25 at 18:40
  • I agree precise fit is unnecessary; I like the square edges to simplify cutting replacements, I think. I've cut drywall holes for a lot of different reasons and I think my needs (and outcomes after I cut the hole) have mostly got jumbled together. :) – X Goodrich Feb 26 at 18:26

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