cracked nails? Fix your drywall with these tips

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Q: I have just bought a house and am planning to paint the existing green interior walls with a fresh coat of Rustic White. However, I am concerned that the handful of small circular bulges I spotted on the walls will still be visible after the repaint. My neighbor told me the bumps were broken nails – spots where nails have come loose. What can I do to get rid of them?

ONE: Congratulations on your new home! You’re right about those bulges: if they’re not repaired, they’ll be visible after repainting. Luckily, broken nails (also known as “nail pops”) aren’t too difficult to fix and aren’t usually serious — although there are a few exceptions. Read on to understand what causes nail pops, the problems they could pose, and how to achieve perfectly smooth walls.

RELATED: The Dos and Don’ts of Drywall Repair

Nail pops are largely due to wood or drywall movement and often occur within a year of construction.

Lumber used to build homes can contain moisture, which is often absorbed from the moisture in the air while the lumber is stored in open air storage. If the wood dries slowly after construction, the studs can easily shift or twist. This can cause individual nails to move, and when a nail holding drywall moves, the joint compound covering the nail comes loose. The result is a tiny bulge on the wall surface, or in some cases a visible nailhead as the drywall loosens and falls off. This is the most common cause of nail popping and is purely cosmetic. There aren’t any structural issues to worry about and it’s pretty easy to fix.

Repair cracked nails?  Follow these 4 tips

Photo: istockphoto.com

Fix cracked nails with screws.

Simply hitting the nail back down with a hammer will solve the immediate problem, but eventually the nail will likely work its way back out. A better solution is to tap the nail back down and then insert two drywall screws into the stud, one about an inch above the nail and one about an inch below the nail. The screws attach the drywall sheet securely to the stud.

Repair cracked nails?  Follow these 4 tips

Photo: istockphoto.com

Choose the right screw length to reinforce a broken nail.

Short screws that barely penetrate the stud under the drywall can work loose in the future, leaving you with more pops on the wall surface. The general rule is to use screws that penetrate the stud at least ¾ inch. For example, if you have ½ inch thick drywall, you will need a screw that is at least 1¼ inch long.

Add more screws if you suspect skimping.

If the installer did not use enough fasteners, the sheet of drywall may not be securely fastened to the studs, resulting in movement and broken nails. When hanging drywall, a fastener (preferably a screw) should be placed every 8 inches along the edges of the drywall and every 12 to 16 inches in the center of the panel above each stud. If you suspect this happened when your house was built, you can put extra screws (one every 10 to 16 inches) across the studs to reduce the risk of future pops.

Get a professional to do it for you

Get free, no-obligation project estimates from licensed drywall installation and repair professionals in your area.

HomeAdvisor logo+ BobVila.com logo Repair cracked nails?  Follow these 4 tips

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Fill indentations with drywall joint compound.

Drywall screws have trumpet-shaped heads that allow you to insert them just below the surface of the drywall, but they leave a small indentation. Smooth out any indentations with some joint compound – a quarter-sized dab should fill most nail and screw indentations. Apply with a spatula, then smooth out excess material. Leave the compound to dry for at least 24 hours and then apply another thin layer of joint compound with the spatula. Once dry, sand over the compound with a drywall sanding sponge, then apply a new coat of paint.

Inspect trusses where buoyancy can pop nails.

If you’ve noticed broken nails in the walls of your home, you might want to do a little searching for similar bumps in the ceiling – which may indicate a more serious problem. Today’s builders often use manufactured trusses to construct a roof rather than building the roof with rafters. Some wood elements in a truss kit are designed to move slightly with humidity and temperature fluctuations in the attic, and so many modern drywall installers use a special fastening technique when suspending drywall from a truss ceiling. However, if you attach the drywall directly to the underside of the trusses, you may experience nail pops in the ceiling drywall when you lift the trusses. Depending on how much the truss moves, you may find a horizontal crack between the ceiling and wall in addition to nail pops. To fix this problem, a contractor should remove the sheets of drywall and attach new ones to clips or blocks, but not to the trusses themselves.

Cracking nails combined with other problems signal a bigger problem.

Normal setting of the house can cause the framing timber to move a bit, resulting in broken nails. As the house continues to settle down, additional nail pops may appear over time. Foundation issues can also cause movement that leads to nail popping, but in both cases they are accompanied by additional issues, including:

  • Doors that stick or don’t close properly.
  • Cracks in the drywall around windows and doors.
  • Cracks in the corners of the ceiling.
  • Visible cracks in the foundation.

If your home has one or more of these problems, it’s a good idea to have a contractor or structural engineer take a look. Structural issues should be addressed prior to repairing broken nails.

Get a professional to do it for you

Get free, no-obligation project estimates from licensed drywall installation and repair professionals in your area.

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