Holes in a drywall ceiling are unsightly and a potential hazard. A hole that is not patched early on can quickly develop into a gaping mess. With standard drywall tools, you will be able to mend most holes in your ceiling on your own.
For small holes of about 1/4 inch or less, spackling compound and a drywall knife are all that is needed to repair the hole. For a smoother finish, a small piece of drywall tape can also be applied to the hole. First, fill the hole with a spackling compound with the drywall knife, then smooth it over with the knife.
Place a small piece of tape over the wet compound, smooth and apply a thin layer of compound over the tape. Allow the compound to dry. Sand the area with a sanding sponge and reapply another layer. After drying, give a final light sanding. The area should now be ready for painting to match the rest of the ceiling.
For larger holes up top about twelve inches, a plastic mesh patch can be applied. Apply a small amount of spackling compound to the area surrounding the hole with a drywall knife. Cut a piece of the plastic repair patch to fit the hole, leaving about an inch overlap. Place the patch over the hole, pressing firmly into the spackling compound. Using the knife, spread compound over the patch. Let dry, sand, and reapply.
Holes larger than twelve inches are more tricky. Check the area around the hole for wires. If there are no wires present, use a drywall knife to cut a larger square out of the hole. Place a larger piece of drywall into the hole, and glue this piece onto the backside of the drywall. This piece will support the filler piece.
Cut out a filler piece, using a utility knife, from a larger piece of drywall, in the shape of the new hole which you have created, leaving about 1/8 inch of leeway. Glue this piece against the support piece. Use spackling compound and tape to fill in the gaps. Let dry, sand, and reapply the compound.
An alternative to using a support piece is to cut the drywall back until you reach a support beam on both sides of the hole. Measure out a replacement piece of drywall and mount this piece onto the support beams using drywall screws. Spackle and sand as in the previous example.
For holes that are very large, or for areas with much damage, you might have to strip down the entire sheet of drywall and install a new sheet.
When doing ceiling work always be conscious of ceiling fans, lighting fixtures and wiring. You do not want to cause any further damages.
If you are working on ceilings that do not have the smooth drywall texture, consult your hardware store salesperson for techniques about getting your patched-over hole to blend in with the rest of your ceiling. Some ceiling textures are easily reproduced with a sponge or special roller. There are also spray-on paints that will mimic certain textures as well.
Some ceiling damage can be indicative of larger problems. If there is much water damage around the hole in the ceiling, be sure to check your plumbing or your roof for leaks. Patching over a larger problem will only mask the problem momentarily, and you will be doing these repairs over again soon.