How Do I Repair Drywall Nail Pops?


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Nail Pops and screw pops are a common issue in many homes. They are those little round circles that protrude from the flat surface of a wall or ceiling.

It’s a common misconception that nail pops are a result of cheap materials or shoddy drywall, in fact the real culprit is often a little deeper in the wall… it’s the lumber! When the structure was built chances are the lumber used had more moisture because it was new. Over time that moisture dries and the lumber literally shrinks and pulls or pushes anything attached to it in the direction it shrinks. This is why you may see more nail pops show up in winter months when the air in your home is typically the driest.

Other reasons that nail pops occur can include:

  • Poorly hung drywall from overdriven screws or loosely hung boards.
  • Poorly framed walls where the lumber used was twisted or slightly bowed at the time of install.
  • Incorrect screw or nail length can also often result in pops. Screws should never go deeper than 5/8 in. (16 mm) and nails should not exceed 7/8 in. (22 mm) into the studs.
  • Even excessive vibration from children and pets jumping and running and playing in the home can in time loosen things up enough to cause a pop.

All of this is natural and there is little you can do to prevent nail pops from showing up, however they are easy to repair.

Before you begin:

  • It is best to wait until spring to make your repairs when the humidity increases again.
  • If you have a fire rated wall (any area where the drywall is 5/8” thick), it’s a necessity to maintain the fire rating (consult your local building codes for more information).

Getting Started:

  1. To fix a nail or screw pop first start with removing the offending screw or nail (remember to wear safety glasses when using tools).
  2. Next ensure the nail or screw you just removed is the proper length. If it’s too long or too short you’ll need to grab a new fastener. If the fastener looks to be in good condition locate a spot a small distance away (1/2” -3/4”) from where it was removed and drive it to the proper depth (the head should be just below the surface) and into the stud. When driving the fastener ensure the drywall is pushed tightly to the stud or it will likely pop again.
  3. The final step is to apply joint compound, spackle, or a mix-to-use setting compound over the fastener and the hole where the pop was removed. This may take more than one coat as guess what, joint compound shrinks too! Once dry, sand the area smooth then you are ready for paint. Pro tip: Want to paint the same day? 5 minute setting compounds can be painted in hours after application.

That’s it. You could have probably fixed a nail pop in the time it took to read this article.

Plus: Installing drywall in a bath or laundry room? You may find this tip helpful.


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