Poor installation is the most common reason for air bubbles appearing under drywall tape. This also means if you do not apply enough joint compound before applying the tape, it creates bubbles and a weaker bond due to which the taping can easily be pulled away.
Additionally, if the surface is not smooth and level it will also cause the tape to lift and get pulled away easily from the joint.
In the article below, I will discuss some of these strategies to fix the ripples in the tape and the ways to prevent them from happening in the future. So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
Fixing Bubbles in Drywall Tape
In most cases, it’s best to fix the air bubbles in the drywall before you finish the joint.
Because if you leave the bubbles as is and add the joint compound on top, the bubbles will reappear once the joint compound dries and the wall is painted, making your overall paint job look terrible.
Here are a few ways to fix the problem…
1- Make a Cut and Repair the Tape
The most common and effective method is to cut out the bubbled section of the tape with a utility knife and remove the tape to check the bubbles.
If there are bubbles throughout, remove the entire tape. Then apply a new layer of joint compound (mixed with water to a creamy consistency) using a 6-inch knife and use the 10-inch knife to flatten and smooth it out.
Ensure that you apply the layer below the removed taping and the layer is slightly wider than the removed tape to avoid weak bonds.
Finally, apply a new piece of tape while overlapping the cut edges by about 1/2 inch. Apply a coat of mud to new tape that can help it adhere better; let the mud dry before adding any additional coats.
2- Spread Some Mud Under the Drywall Taping
If a part of your tape has lifted and created a bubble, spread more joint compound mud underneath that section to help create a stronger bond and prevent the bubble from reappearing.
If you notice the bubbles closer to the edges of the tape, consider fixing them by lifting the tape slightly and adding more mud underneath it. To make the tape adhere better, scrape it into fresh mud and re-coat it.
It can be tricky to fix if you notice the bubbles straddling the seam. In this case, removing the entire tape and starting from scratch is best.
Or, if you want to fix it, start by making two vertical cuts that should lie on either side of the bubble. The cut should be longer than the bubble’s width but should not reach the edges of the tape you need to fix.
Then make an additional cut along the seam. This time the third cut should be extended to the two vertical lines folding back the two halves of the tape.
Finally, apply the coat of fresh joint compound to the seam. Lay the two halves of the tape back in place and apply pressure to secure it. Once secured, do not forget to apply a coat of mud over them.
3- Fixing the Bubbles After the Compound has Dried
Sometimes the bubbles don’t appear until after the joint compound has dried. Or maybe you haven’t noticed them before, and the mud has started to crack after a while due to the movement of the air bubble.
Worry not – there are still chances that you can fix them.
While it can be somewhat tricky, the only way is to cut and remove the entire section of the tape to lay the new taping.
- Start by using a small putty knife or a razor blade to scrape off the old, dried, and cracked joint compound.
- Be careful not to damage the drywall paper – the goal is to create a clean surface for the new tape to adhere to.
- If any small pieces of dry mud are left, wipe them away with a damp cloth.
- Once the surface is clean, apply a new layer of joint compound mixed with water, making sure you spread the mud nicely over the entire cut-out section.
- Lay new taping on it while overlapping the old existing tape by 1/2 inch or slightly more.
- Scrape and secure the new tape with a coat of joint compound. And as always, let it dry before adding any additional coats.
- Once the problem is fixed, you may finish it if needed.
To finish, gently sand the repaired area with fine-grit sandpaper until it matches the surrounding area.
Vacuum or sweep up the debris created by sanding, apply a coat of drywall primer and then paint over the area in the color of your choice.
Preventing the Air Bubbles Under the Drywall Tape
While fixing bubbled drywall can be tricky and time-consuming, preventing the taping bubbles in the first place (before the installation) is much easier.
The easiest way to avoid bubbling problems is to use fiberglass mesh instead of paper tape. But if you do not have fiberglass mesh tape available or do not want to invest in it, there are still a few tips that can help.
1- Start by ensuring that the surface you’re about to tape is as smooth as possible.
2- Scrape off any rough edges, remove any old paint or wallpaper, and sand the area until it’s nice and smooth.
3- Apply a layer of premixed joint compound to the surface and let it dry completely.
4- When applying the taping, use a wider piece and always start in the middle of the seam and then work your way out to avoid any pockets of air that might get trapped under the tape.
5- As you apply pressure to the tape, be sure to work out any air bubbles that might have gotten trapped. Also, use a putty knife or your finger to gently press the tape into the mud and work out any air pockets.
6- Next, apply a thin layer of joint compound over the tape to help it blend in with the rest of the wall.
7- Let the mud dry, then sand the area until it’s smooth. You can then go ahead and apply a second layer of joint compound, if needed, and then paint over the area.
Besides the above steps and tips it also helps if you have moistened the tape before applying it.
You can moisten the tape by either spraying it lightly with water or running it under a faucet for a few seconds. The moisture helps the tape adhere better and prevents it from drying out too quickly.
The bottom line
Preventing air bubbles under the drywall tape is much easier than fixing them. You can avoid them altogether by taking some precautionary measures and being careful during the installation process.
But if you end up with some tape bulge, don’t panic. There are still ways you can get bubbles out of drywall tape. By following the steps above, you should be able to repair the bubbling drywall and have your wall looking good as new in no time.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.