Happy Back-to-School season! Even though I finished school some time ago, I still get excited around this time of year. For me, September will always feel more like a new beginning than New Year’s Day. I don’t know if it’s like this where you live, but here in Boston September 1st also means that everyone and their mom is moving. Specifically, it means Allston Christmas and U-Haul trucks getting stuck on Storrow Drive and convincing friends to perform several hours worth of manual labor in exchange for beer and pizza.
If you’re moving this fall, one way to help ensure that you get a full security deposit back from your landlord or management company is to repair any obvious issues in the apartment. In this month’s This Queer House, I’m going to take you through one of the easiest cosmetic fixes — patching small holes in your walls — and talk about a few other ways to leave your apartment looking as un-beat up as possible.
What you’ll need:
- Spackle – I happen to just have Vinyl Spackling, but if you are either impatient or new to the process you might want to check out the kind that has Dry Time Indicator. It goes on pink and dries white, so you don’t have to worry if it’s ready to sand or paint. (I have some feelings about why they made the “easy version” spackling pink, but I’m not going to get into that right now.)
- Putty knife or similar tool – I used a 5-in-1 tool for this and it worked fine.
- Sandpaper – You definitely don’t want to use sandpaper that’s too rough – between 100-150 grade should be good. (I used 120, if you were wondering.)
- Painting supplies (optional) – If the wall wasn’t white (or close to it) to begin with, you’re going to want to paint over the patch.
What to do:
1. Assess the damage. I’m going to illustrate how to fix any hole or gash that is approximately half an inch or less in diameter (basically just about any kind of nail or screw hole). If you’re looking to patch something larger, skip down to #5 for some more information about that.
2. Apply spackle and let dry. If the hole is on the larger side, you might want to apply one layer of spackle to fill it up. Then let that dry and apply a second layer to make it is fully covered. If it’s just a small nail or thumbtack hole, one layer should be fine. Make sure to apply the spackle thick enough to cover the hole, but keep in mind that the thicker the bump the more you are going to need to sand it down to even the wall out. Don’t get too wild with it, is what I’m saying. Check the packaging for any exact specifications in terms of drying time and temperature/moisture restrictions.
3. Sand the surface down to match the wall. Be gentle and use your fingers often. (HEYO) But seriously, no need to apply a ton of pressure right off the bat because this stuff should sand really easily. As you’re sanding, run your fingertips across the wall to check for smoothness.
4. Paint patch to match wall color. (optional) There are a lot of variables for this step. If the walls are close enough to white, you can probably get away with not painting over the patch. If the walls are dark or vibrant and the patch is really obvious, I sure hope you have the exact paint (or at least know the exact brand/shade) that was used in the first place. If not you can try to match it, but that’s a real gamble and you might end up having to paint the whole room.
5. What do I do if I have larger holes in my walls? For anything bigger than about a half an inch or so, you’re going to want to add some extra stability before you spackle the hole. A ton of different brands sell kits with instructions that should have you covered up to about 6in or so in diameter. Basically, you just apply a self-adhesive fiberglass patch over the hole and then cover it all up with spackling (multiple layers, letting each layer dry between coats). In this case, you do want to use extra spackling and cover an area larger than the patch by a few inches. That way as you’re sanding, you can gradually feather the edges to meet the wall and make any slight bump less obvious.
If the hole is bigger than six inches, what are you even doing in your apartment? I am not equipped to help you with that.
Other staples for when you’re moving and you want your security deposit back:
- Magic Eraser – Listen I wanted to hate this product, but it actually is fucking magic. Use this on any aggressive stains in your apartment and no one will know how many parties you had.
- Wood stain pencils or markers – These can come in handy for any obvious scrapes or scratches on wood floors that you didn’t notice until you moved the furniture.
- Trim paint – If the paint matches (or is very close to matching), you can touch up any obvious scrapes or chips without re-painting everything.
Well there you have it, fellow queer renters. I hope these tips help you get back your full security deposit whenever a U-Haul is in your future.