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Nail Pops In 20 Year Old Home – Causes And How To Fix Them

If you are seeing small circular bumps on the walls of your home then these are most likely nail pops. But what do nail pops in 20 year old homes mean? And should you be worried?

Nail Pops In 20 Year Old Home

We take a look at the causes of this issue and how you can deal with it.

In an older home the appearance of nail pops can be the result of a variety of things, but the most common cause is the movement of the framing timbers that the drywall is attached to.

The movement allows the nail to work loose and pop out.

Cause Of Nail Pops In A 20 Year Old Home

There can be several reasons for nail pops in a 20 year old home. They can look a bit alarming, and you’ll want to know the cause and how to rectify it.

Shrinking Timber

Timber will expand and contract over time, with changes in humidity and temperature and this can cause the nails in the stud work to loosen.

The problem is exacerbated if the person installing the drywall in your home used something like roofing nails to secure your drywall. This type of nail has little grip and when the timber shrinks the nail works loose.


The movement of the wood in the framing of a house can cause the drywall to move too. This allows the nails to protrude and cause bumps on the surface of the walls.

Moisture in drywall from damp or plumbing leaks causes the drywall to soften, and the nail heads to be exposed.

Wrong Spacing Of Nails

Sometimes poor construction is the culprit and the incorrect spacing of nails or screws when fixing drywall can cause unequal pressure on one particular fixing.

This may then pop through the surface of the drywall and split the surface of the paint on the wall. If the nails were angled instead of driven in straight this can also cause nail pops.

Too Short Nails

Nails that do not reach properly into the timber framing when attaching drywall will work loose with time. These will then manifest as nail pops on the surface of the drywall.

Using the incorrect number of nails or screws when installing drywall can cause uneven pressure on some fixings which may fail under the pressure of movement.

Missing The Stud During Fastening

Another consequence of poor construction is the nail or screw missing the stud work altogether when fitting drywall.

Occasionally over driving the screw or nail can cause it to penetrate the paper top layer of drywall. This makes the screw weaker and more likely to pop.

Are Nail Pops A Sign Of A Bigger Problem?

Nail Pops In 20 Year Old Home (1)

If you are noticing nail pops in a 20 year old house, perhaps one you’ve just purchased it can be a little disconcerting.

However, it doesn’t always mean that there is a serious problem. Taking an overview of the whole situation should give you a clear picture of the potential causes.

Foundation Movement

While it is true that nail pops can be a sign of foundation movement unless there is other evidence this is less likely than more mundane reasons such as those noted above.

Some of the most obvious signs of foundation movement are diagonal cracks around door and window frames, stepped cracks in external brick walls, and windows and doors that fail to close or latch properly.

If these problems are present in your home along with nail pops then there may be a settlement issue with the foundations.

Moisture & Humidity Levels

Timber is a living substance even when it’s been installed in your home. It continues to expand and contract with temperature and moisture levels.

Uninsulated or unfinished timber areas of the house will react to and adjust to ambient temperatures and humidity. With higher moisture content the wood expands and when it is drier the wood contracts.

This movement causes fixings such as nails and screws to come loose and cause nail pops.

Most of this type of movement happens in the first year of construction but extremes of humidity and temperature can create these conditions in a 20 year old home.

How To Fix Nail Pops?

So how do you go about fixing the nail pops in your 20 year old home? Well first you’ll need some tools and materials.

  • Scraping tool
  • Screwdriver/screw gun
  • Hammer
  • Drywall screws
  • Patching tools & materials
  • Sanding sponge

Clean Off The Nail Head

First scrape the excess drywall off the nail pop to find the screw or nail underneath. Use the scraping tool for this.

Reattach The Popped Nail

If it’s a screw, loosen it with the screwdriver or screw gun. Line it up again and screw back in. For a nail, hammer it back in without damaging the drywall.

Add Drywall Screws

To prevent the original nail or screw popping again you need to add an extra screw above and below the popped one. This adds more security to the frame and holds the drywall more firmly in place.

Patch The Holes

Once the nail pop is repaired add some filler material to the wall to seal the holes. Use the patching tool and material to fill the holes. Smooth it over as much as possible.

Sand The Area

When the filler is dry enough to sand, take your sanding sponge and lightly rub it down until you have a smooth surface which can be painted.

Check The Wall

Before painting over the repaired nail pops, run your hands over the wall to check for any other bumps. It is often easier to feel them than to see them.

Final Thoughts

Nail pops are one of those things that come with the joy and stress of home ownership. Most of the time they are simple to fix and not a cause for concern.

But at least now you know what to look out for and how to fix the problem if it happens in the future.

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