Repair Unsightly Drywall Nail Pops

By James Dulley

June 21, 2018 4 min read

Dear James: My house seems to be well-built, but the heads on the drywall nails are popping out and they look terrible. How can I fix them and avoid them in a new room addition I am planning? — Rick H.

Dear Rick: Nail pops can be particularly noticeable at night when lamps are on near a wall. The light rays nearly parallel to the wall will cast shadows from even a slightly raised nail head. It is a common problem in most homes, so you should not be alarmed by just a few of them. Your ceiling or walls will not fall down.

It is not difficult to fix existing nail pops. If the nail head it sticking out far enough to get a grip on it with a pry bar or pliers, pull it out. If you cannot get a hold on it, drive it back into the drywall, just slightly below the surface. Try not to drive it in so far that it breaks through the drywall paper skin.

Buy some drywall screws. Drill the proper size starter hole, next to the old nail hole, through the drywall and into the supporting lumber. Screw in the drywall screw to a depth of only about 1/32 of an inch below the surface. Don't let its head break through the paper skin. The screw will hold it securely.

Spread some spackling compound over the heads of the nail and the screw. Drywall tape compound called "mud" is sometimes easier to use than spackling, and it has better adhesive properties. Sand it smooth and paint the area with primer. If you put the finish coat of paint over the patch without primer, the surface texture will look different and the spot may be noticeable when the paint dries.

While you are at it, if there is an area of several nail pops, consider installing additional drywall screws in spots where the nails have not popped through yet. It won't take a lot longer once you have the tools and spackling already out.

The key to eliminating drywall nail pops in your future room addition is to make sure the lumber used it not overly moist. Even though the lumber was properly dried at the mill, it may have picked up moisture from being stored outdoors. If you suspect the lumber may be damp, keep it protected indoors for a week for the moisture content to stabilize to that of your home.

If the drywall is nailed to damp lumber and the lumber dries out later and shrinks slightly, a small gap can form between the drywall and the lumber. If the drywall gets pushed against the lumber for any reason, the head of the nail pops out.

Be certain to have the builder use special drywall nails, not ordinary nails. Drywall nails have a special head design to reduce the possibility of tearing the drywall paper skin when they are hammered in. Screws take longer to install, but they are the best fastener to use.

The nails or screws through the drywall should be spaced properly so the drywall is adequately supported. One foot apart is the maximum spacing when attaching drywall for a ceiling. Installing them closer together is not going to increase the building costs much and this will reduce the chances of nail pops.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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