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I've recently been introduced to drywall repair methods that depend on substrates such as tape and metallic mesh. One technique I've seen for the mesh was to score (i.e., make a surface cut with a utility knife) the drywall around the area and rip off a layer of paper and paint, with the goal of making an indention that can be filled flush with joint compound. Makes sense.

Now, for drywall tape alone, I've seen a few videos on YouTube where they don't make a recess on the drywall. I guess the drywall repair tape is pretty thin. Also, a friend told me that drywall gets most of its structural strength from the paper and that ripping it is not a good idea.

So my question is, if you're just using paper tape to fix a drywall problem, should you create an indention by scoring, or just use the tape alone?

  • Are you taping a joint between two pieces of drywall, or patching a crack, fixing a hole etc.? – Tester101 Oct 25 '15 at 19:18
  • Good question. I'm all over the place. At this exact moment, it's taping joints between two pieces of drywall. Some of the joints have factory recessed edges and others do not (due to having been cut). However, the very first time I saw this technique was on a foundation lifting job where settlement had caused long cracks near the ceiling. That's when I saw an experienced worker cut and rip pieces of drywall paper and put tape underneath. Later, I went to a Home Depot "workshop" (it was just me) and a guy told me to score and remove paper around a hole when using metal mesh. – Ben Ogorek Oct 26 '15 at 4:42
  • Think of paper like a low-strength version of the glass (fiber) in fiberglass. You can easily wad it up by itself, but when you laminate it onto things it can complement the material and add substantial strength. – Nick T Oct 26 '15 at 5:07
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It is best not to damage the drywall skin in any way. Even when you are securing the panel with fasteners you should only be dimpling the paper and not puncturing the surface. Drywall tape, fiberglass or paper, is applied to seams because they increase the strength of the joint compound and decreases the chance of the joint splitting or cracking if there is any movement in the framing. I would guess the video you viewed may have been one showing how to speed installation. Most tape jobs you will apply a minimum of two layers of compound (if you are good), but three is the norm. The idea is to progressively feather the next coat so as to make the slightly proud taped joint less noticeable. Quality jobs don't take shortcuts.

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Tape alone; no cutting the paper. Your friend is correct that much of the strength comes from the paper facing.

Check out the videos that have you feathering out the joint with a 10 or 12 inch knife.

  • I like 4", then 6" or 8", then 10" or 12" (successive coats, letting each one dry) – Ecnerwal Oct 25 '15 at 19:21
  • +1 Just make sure the cut edge is clean - no ragged edges sticking up. If there are, you could shave those off, but no more. – bib Oct 25 '15 at 19:47
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    I agree. No scoring and just feather. But I usually use the fiberglass tape that sticks by itself for repairs. It's thin so it doesn't take as much feathering. – BrianK Oct 26 '15 at 3:57
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As you can easily feel if you play with some drywall scraps, the paper is the strength - so don't cut it unless you are cutting the drywall.

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