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How to Handle Drywall Nail Pops

Many homeowners see drywall nail pops at some point. What can you do to make it easier to find and deal with your home’s drywall nail pops?

Nail pop in drywall.

If you think nail pops are just a cosmetic problem, think again. Nails popping out of drywall are a clear sign of foundation issues.

So, what do we need to do about them?

While nail pops are often brushed off as mere cosmetic issues, and are subsequently spackled and painted over, you need to cut the issue off at the root. And that means foundation repair.

If you don’t call a foundation repair expert about your nail pops, they will only get worse as your foundation gets worse—and other issues like wall cracks and musty smells are sure to show up too.

So, let’s start with the basics…

Is it Normal for Nails to Pop Out of Drywall?

No, while it is common, it’s not normal.

Nail pops happen all the time to homes with underlying foundation issues. These issues are further caused by variances of moisture in the soil surrounding your home.

Too much moisture and the soil around your home expands; too little moisture and it contracts. This expanding and contracting motion slowly shifts and settles your foundation at odd levels which is what’s causing your drywall to shift around on its studs. At a certain point, the nail “pops” through the surface of the drywall.

That’s how you get nail pops.

If You See Nail Pops, Look for Other Signs of Foundation Failure

The first things to consider are various warning signs of foundational and structural damage. It’s common for drywall nail pops to show because of foundation concerns. That’s why you should be on the lookout for these signs of foundation failure before you start to look for nail pops:

  • Chimney cracks
  • Drywall cracks
  • Gaps between walls and floors
  • Stuck windows and doors
  • Uneven floors

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Cracked foundation

Many of these problems are not only more obvious than drywall nail pops, but also more indicative of a serious problem. While you’re unlikely to notice nail pops until you have a serious problem with them, you’re likely to start seeing sticking windows and doors almost as soon as they start to stick. From there, you can call in an expert to get more help.

Inspect Your Foundation

Whether your home is set on a crawl space, slab, or over a basement, you need to inspect it if you see nail pops.

While some homeowners may feel like yearly inspections “aren’t that important,” we know it is. It’s very important that you get regular inspections for you foundation (you can get a free inspection from us!).

Do some inspecting on your own. You’re in your home every day, which means you’re more likely to see signs and symptoms that could mean it’s time to call a professional earlier.

This may mean checking through your home for nail pops every month or every few months. If you have areas with exposed drywall, you can quickly take a look every so often to see whether it seems like nails are pushing through the drywall. It’s also just a good idea to keep your eyes open for these problems when you’re going around your home on a day-to-day basis.

Why Should I Fix Drywall Nail Pops?

Are drywall nail pops a problem? Some people just chalk these problems up to cosmetic concerns and don’t pursue further help. Here are a few of the reasons you might want to fix them as early as possible.

  • Foundation Problems

The basic reason for proactively handling drywall nail pops is because they can be caused by foundation problems. If the nail pops aren’t cosmetic, and they typically aren’t, they’re almost always going to come from foundation settling or other foundation problems. Because foundation problems typically only get worse over time, your drywall nail pops won’t get better on their own.

Additionally, if these nail pops are indicative of foundation problems, you’re going to notice a lot more symptoms. This can get pretty severe over time. If you leave these nail pops for long enough, you can develop other foundation problems. They may range from small foundation cracks to bowed basement walls that can even cause a cave-in.

  • Problems Throughout Your Home Structure
drywall crack

It’s also important to look through the rest of your home. Nail pops showcase home structural problems for the most part, which means that they are giving you information about a deeper underlying problem. These foundation problems don’t just stay in your crawl space or basement, either. Foundation problems can impact the entire structure, which includes the rest of your home.

Nail pops that showcase structural concerns can seriously impact your home as a whole. It’s important to consider how. For example, you may see chimney cracking or even drywall cracks, especially around doors and windows. These can be even more of an eyesore than nail pops, especially because they’re more obvious and indicative of something seriously wrong with your home.

  • Problems Outside the Home Structure 

Your actual home structure isn’t the only thing that could end up with serious problems due to these foundational concerns. The entire property can have problems because of the underlying causes. Foundation concerns don’t happen for no reason. Most of the time, you’ll see foundational problems because of an issue with the soil or with construction.

That means these foundational problems can hurt the entire property, especially if you have concrete slabs in your front or back yard. For example, your driveway or patio may sink or showcase cracks. At its worst, you may have serious structural issues inside and outside your home, which is why it’s a good idea to get to the bottom of this problem early on.

FAQs About Drywall Nail Pops

Drywall nail pops can be difficult to catch if you don’t know what they look like. Conversely, you might see these things on your walls but not realize that they’re drywall nail pops. Here are a couple of common signs to look out for when it comes to drywall nail pops.

  • Small Round Imprint

If you see a small round imprint in the drywall, it’s probably a drywall nail pop. This occurs when the nail presses up against the drywall and pushes through the drywall very slightly. The metal nail pressing against the soft drywall can sometimes leave a very distinctive round mark on the outside of the drywall.

Remember, this imprint doesn’t have to be extremely obvious for it to be a nail pop. It’s common for the symptoms of drywall problems to be surprisingly subtle, especially when it comes to nail pops and similar issues. If you see small round imprints in your walls, you might want to have an expert check it out for a bigger issue that’s causing it.

  • Cracking Drywall Around an Area

If the drywall is harder, you might not see a round imprint that’s relatively stable. Instead, you might see a few cracks radiating out from the drywall in a somewhat circular fashion. This will happen because the drywall can’t move as well with the nail, which means it will just create a fairly small drywall crack around the area it’s pressing onto the drywall.

Cracking drywall that stays in a very small area of the wall tends to be a nail pop. This can be true even if you can’t feel the nail underneath the drywall. The nail doesn’t have to push very far into the drywall for these cracks to be a sign of nail problems underneath the drywall.

As you start looking more into drywall nail pops, you might wonder whether they’re sometimes a cosmetic concern. Maybe the nail was just too close to the surface, creating a nail pop in an area with no foundational concern. Sometimes, this is genuinely the case, but not always.

  •  One or Two Nail Pops

When you see only one or two nail pops, it’s more likely to be a cosmetic concern. Indeed, the nail can sometimes just be too close to the surface, especially if there was a relatively small construction error in the placement of the drywall or hammering in the nail. These problems are cosmetic; you might need to fix them for a better aesthetic view, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong.

In these situations, you don’t necessarily have to fix anything because the problem is more likely to be surface level. In this case, a nail pop doesn’t inherently mean that you’re having structural problems. However, this is typically only the case when you’re dealing with one or two nail pops at once.

  • Many Nail Pops

The real problem comes in when you have more than just a few nail pops. If you’re seeing many nail pops, especially nail pops that are scattered across the entirety of your home, you should contact an expert. Multiple nail pops can be far more indicative of a genuine problem with the underlying causes of your nail pops.

When you start to see several nail pops, that means you need expert help. It’s important to remember that the number of nail pops you’re seeing can be indicative of either a problem or not a problem. However, the only way you’ll be able to know entirely will be to get an expert who can give you more information.

Structural or foundation damage is something that you need to tackle as early as possible. Nail pops can indicate structural damage, and it’s important to know the warning signs that nail pops are showcasing structural damage so you can get help. 

  • A Few Nail Pops vs. Many Nail Pops

When you have only a few nail pops in a contained area, they are probably indicating a cosmetic concern. This doesn’t have to be serious. In this case, the nail pops are likely a response to someone not hammering the nails in appropriately. You might want to have someone take a look at it, but it’s probably not a big deal.

However, if there are several cases, drywall nail pops will indicate structural damage. Multiple nail pops, especially in many areas of the home, can indicate that the walls are shifting or that you’re dealing with other structural issues. Once you’re reaching more than a handful or you’re seeing them in more than one area of your home, you’re dealing with an underlying problem that might escalate if it’s not addressed soon. Fixing that problem should be a top priority.

  • Getting Information from an Expert

At the end of the day, it’s a good idea to talk to an expert if you see more than one or two nail pops in your home. Multiple nail pops are much more likely to indicate a severe problem, but there’s no way to know on your own. It’s much better to talk to an expert and see whether your nail pops are showcasing an early warning sign.

These nail pops could be giving you clues to a problem with your home’s base structure, and you must catch those structural concerns as early as possible. That can help you avoid costly repairs to your floors, walls, foundation, or other parts of the home. Nail pops aren’t hard to repair, so an expert can handle this easily, while also assessing your home for root causes.

Fixing drywall nail pops aren’t exactly difficult, but they do need the input of a professional. Otherwise, you might overlook the root causes of these nail pops or repair them incorrectly, which can result in dangerous harm to your drywall and your waterproofing measures.

  • Short-Term DIY Fixes

The concept of a DIY fix is one that you might consider for your drywall nail pops. Sure, it’s helpful if you’re looking to do smaller fixes in your home, but you shouldn’t use DIY fixes any time there are issues with the overarching structure of your house. DIY fixes can create a serious problem with the drywall or the home’s load-bearing points.

If you’re looking for a DIY fix, you must think about the long-term effects. You may be able to fix the nail pops themselves, but you might also cause others damage while you do. Even worse, you could simply cover up the aesthetic damage, while leaving the root problem to escalate out of sight. This will only lead to more nail pops in the future or even long-term damage to your walls.

  • Permanent Expert Fixes

Applying plaster to the drywall won’t fix the problem. This is a common DIY fix that will only exacerbate the problem in general. Putting plaster over the cracks in the drywall will only make the obvious elements of the problem go away. It certainly won’t stop the foundation problems from causing chimney cracks and other concerns.

If you’re starting to see nail pops, you need to talk to an expert. An expert can not only tidy up the damage quickly, but they can also assess your home for worse conditions and help you apply long-term fixes, using the right gear and sealants. Schedule an appointment with an expert to get an initial assessment of the problem.

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Fix Your Drywall Nail Pops for Good with an Expert’s Help

If you just plaster over the area of a nail pop, it’s going to come back sooner or later. When drywall nail pops show up in your home, it’s much better to request help from an expert, even if they end up being just cosmetic. After all, when it comes to your home’s structural stability, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.

You need to talk to a Groundworks foundation repair expert before you dismiss drywall nail pops entirely. Even if you receive the information that they’re just cosmetic, you’ll be glad you checked. A Groundworks foundation repair expert can do a free inspection and let you know if you need to take action or if everything is fine.

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