Q: Our home is two years old, and we have recently noticed round holes in
the wallboard, usually in the ceiling near a wall. Upon inspection we noticed
that the wallboard nails are working out. Is it sufficient to simply pound them
back in and recover the surface, or are more elaborate measures called for?
--Malcolm M., via e-mail
A: What you're seeing are known as "nail pops," and are fairly common in new
homes. Much of the lumber that is available to builders today has a higher
moisture content than the lumber of years past, and is often fairly damp when
it's installed. Over time, the heat in the house dries out and shrinks the wood,
and nails can work loose. This is especially common in drywall ceilings, where
the weight of the drywall and the relatively small size of the nails make it
easier for them to pull out slightly.
Nail pops can be hammered back in. Use a hammer with a crowned (convex) face
so that as you tap the nail back in, you create a small "dimple" in the face of
the drywall. However, since you are tapping the nail back into its original hole
in the wood and its holding power is diminished, at each nail pop you need to
install another nail next to the original one, about an inch or two away (make
sure you nail it into the ceiling joist). This will help secure the drywall and
greatly increases the chances that the nail pops will not reappear.
After that, use drywall joint compound to fill in the dimples. For best
results, do this twice, allowing the compound to dry between coats. Finally,
retexture the areas as needed to blend them in, using the patching texture in a
spray can that's now available from most paint stores and home