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Nail Pops In Drywall Ceiling Or Walls – What To Do?

When a nail pops in your drywall, it can be both shocking and confusing. What causes this? And more so, how do you fix it? We've researched this common household issue, and in and in this post, we will discuss how to fix the issue when it occurs.

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Drywall screw pops and nail pops are a fairly common household issue. Here are the steps to fix it:

  1. Determine whether a nail or screw has popped
  2. Scrape off the paint around the nail
  3. Hammer in a new nail or re-nail the popped nail
  4. Secure the nail
  5. Cover any dents with spackle
  6. Sand and prime the drywall

Fortunately, fixing a nail that has popped out of the drywall isn't complicated at all, especially if the nail is on the wall. It can present more challenges if the nail is located on the ceiling, but it's still fixable nonetheless. Continue reading to learn about the simplest and quickest way to fix a nail popped out of a wall or ceiling.

man hammeling nail unto drywall panel. Nail Pops In Drywall Ceiling Or Walls - What To Do

What Causes Nail Pops?

There are a few different reasons why nails may pop out of the ceiling or the wall. Let's look at the most common ones.

hammer and nails on top of a wooden table

Wood shrinkage

As wood begins to shrink, the nailhead can pop out of the drywall surface if the shrinkage is significant. You may notice this if there is a sudden bump on the ceiling or the wall.

Roof Truss Uplift

Another common reason why nails may pop out of the ceilings is cracking or tearing between the ceiling and the wall. This is especially true for buildings where the wall is located beneath the center of roof trusses. When temperature and moisture differences between the upper and bottom trusses occur, this can cause the truss to arch, resulting in the nails popping out of the wood.

Bad Drywall Installation

Sometimes nail pops can be the result of careless or low-quality drywall installation. This can occur if a contractor used an insufficient number of nails or screws, failed to install sufficient joists or stud support, used screws that were too short for the wall studs, or failed to properly space the fasteners within the drywall at the correct intervals. This is why it's important to use licensed contractors. Keep in mind that some of these types of issues can also create hazardous conditions.

Too Many Screws

If drywall studs contain too many screws, this will cause the drywall to shift slightly, resulting in nail pops and, in some instances, complete separation. For example, if building fasteners are placed too close to one another (for example, if they're only two inches apart), this can fracture the wall studs or drywall, weakening them and causing failure in the structure of the building. This can also cause your building tagged with code violations.

Bad Drywall Repair Job

It's important to repair damaged drywall as soon as possible to prevent building hazards. However, it's just as important to make sure that the job is done correctly. For example, if the contractor places too much joint compound over the drywall fasteners, this can cause the nails in the drywall to fail to set, making them more likely to pop out later.

Drywall Stress Points

Also, sometimes nail pops can result from simple shifts in the building's structure when a home settles on the foundation. Drywall will have natural stress points in areas such as corners and between ceilings and walls--you may often see hairline cracks in these areas. These are common places where you may find nail pops and small cracks.

Steps To Fix Popped Nails In Drywall Ceiling Or Walls

Now that we've gone over the main causes of the issue, come on, let's look at how to fix it!

Things you'll need:

  • Hammer
  • Drywall nails
  • Drywall screws
  • Joint compound
  • Drywall taping knife
  • Drywall tape
  • Sandpaper or sanding sponge
  • Safety goggles
  • Nail punch
  • Drill

1. Determine whether a nail or screw has popped

First, inspect the wall or ceiling to see if the fasteners are actually nails or screws. While popped nails are more common, this issue can occur with screws as well.

2. Scrape off the paint around the nail

Start by using a putty knife or other scraper tool to remove any paint covering the nail. Also, be sure to remove any plaster or tape.

3. Hammer in a new nail or re-nail the popped nail

If the nail is damaged, use a hammer to pull out the nail by the head. Next, add a brand new nail and a half-inch nail to the hole and hammer it in. However, if the nail is still good, hammer it back into the wall. Be sure to tap the nail gently to prevent creating any indentations in the surrounding drywall. It's best to use a smooth head hammer for this task instead of one with a grid or waffle-head.

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4. Secure the Nail

Now that the nail is back in the wall, secure it using a couple of drywall screws, placing one on both sides of the nail. Take your drill, and an appropriate size driver bit to drill the screws into the wall or ceiling. Be sure that the screws are being drilled into the stud beneath the drywall and not into drywall alone, as this will not hold over time. Both screws should be one to two inches apart from the sides of the nail.

5. Cover any dents with spackle

man mixing putty on putty knives.

Next, use your putty knife to place a small amount of drywall compound on the area. Be sure to cover the nail and both screws completely and then smooth the compound over with your putty knife until it is a flat surface. There should be no humps or mounds in the area.

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6. Sand & Prime The Drywall

Once the compound dries, take your sandpaper or sanding block and sand the compound down to flush with the wall or ceiling. Run your hand over it to ensure no hump or indentation that may show after the wall has been painted. Once the wall or ceiling is good to go, apply primer to the sanded area. Next, apply additional primer coats as needed and then apply a coat of paint. When the paint dries, apply additional coats as needed.

Learn more about this wall primer on Amazon.

How do you deal with nail pops in drywall?

The quickest way to deal with nail pops in drywall is to simply hammer the nail back into the drywall. However, you will soon discover that the nail will find its way back out of its position again. The long-term solution would be to insert a couple of screws into the drywall to hold the nail in place. If you find that this problem often occurs in different areas of the drywall, you may want to have a contractor inspect the wall to see what underlying issues may be causing this and how they can't be addressed, if at all.

Why do I have nail pops in my ceiling? 

The main reason why nails may pop out of the ceiling is the same reason why they may pop out of the drywall. The underlining cause typically boils down to shifting the drywall or the stud that actually holds the nail. These shifts can come from changes in temperature humidity, the natural shifting of the home, and low-quality building construction or repair.

Are nail pops a problem?

More often than not, nail pops are simply a nuisance. However, if you find that be a problem occurs frequently, it could be an underlying issue that may require immediate attention, as too many fasteners popping out of the same area can damage the integrity of the drywall and cause safety hazards.

Are nail pops normal in old houses?

Yes. Nail pops are common in old houses, especially ones that are over 100 years old or more.

How to prevent nail pops in drywall?

The best way to prevent nail pops is to use kiln-dried lumber for building framing and to use drywall screws and addition to nail screws. It's also important to ensure that any remodeling or repair work done on your home is done by a licensed professional and meets any building codes set by your locale.

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Wrapping Things Up

We hope that this post has helped provide you with details on preventing and fixing drywall nail pops. Remember, nail pops are a fairly common problem in many homes, especially older ones. The quickest way to fix this issue is simply hammering the nail back in place and adding drywall screws to ensure security.

Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:

How To Make Paint Dry Faster [3 Methods]

Should You Have Plants In The Bedroom? [With Guidance On Which To Choose]