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Repair Nail Pops and Holes in Sheetrock

Fast Fixes

As Seen On
by Jeff Patterson in Interior DIY Projects
Fix Popped Drywall Screws

Drywall repair can be a headache.

For me it’s the pain of waiting for the darn joint compound to dry.

I’ve got two active kids who play sports and attend more birthday parties than Ronald McDonald!

So I can’t be messing around with DIY projects all day (even though I could because of my HUGE to do list).

Last weekend I repaired a nail pop in our bathroom wall and I wanted to show you the 5 minute joint compound that made this a fast fix.

Nail Pop Supply List

We’ve been in our house for 7 years and this popped nail has been there for probably 8.

It’s like a pimple, annoying when you have to see it every day.

And unfortunately it won’t go away after using Clearasil zit cream, I only wish.

Repairing a nail pop is easy: you need to remove the old nail or screw and add a new one.

Here are all the supplies I used for this project

  • Putty Knife ($3)
  • 6 Inch Joint Compound Knife ($8)
  • Drywall Screws (coarse threaded 1 5/8 inch long screw) ($4)
  • Fiberglass Mesh Tape ($4)
  • Sheetrock 5 Minute Joint Compound (Setting Type) ($6)
  • Mud Pan for Joint Compound ($14)
  • Fine Grit Sanding Sponge ($3)
  • Kilz Primer ($8)
  • Latex Paint (FREE)
  • Paint Stirrer (FREE)
  • Weenie Roller ($10)
  • Paint Screen for 1 Gallon Paint Can ($4)
  • Towel (FREE)

Before you begin any drywall project make sure you’ve got leftover paint that matches your wall.

I made the mistake of not doing this and having to match the color and sheen of our orange dining room after installing the Nest thermostat (check out that tutorial here).

My wife was not happy.

Lesson learned, right.

Let me show you how I fixed this nail pop in no time  🙂

 

How to Remove and Patch a Nail Pop 

My 11 year old daughter could do this project, it’s that easy.

Of course she would refuse but that’s to expected from a pre-teen, haha.

The first step is to locate the center of the popped nail or screw. You’ll need to do this so that you can remove it.

Dig through the joint compound using a putty knife.

Pull a popped nail using pliers or if you’ve got a drywall screw just back it out using a drill. Add a Phillips head bit to your drill and set it to turn counterclockwise.

Remove Old Screw or Nail

In many cases the popped nail or screw was too short.

So a good fix is to add a new screw that’s longer.

I used a new coarse-threaded 1 5/8 inch drywall screw and placed it 1 1/2 inches above the location of of the old screw.

Add new screw 1.5 inches above old one

Wood studs require coarse-threaded drywall screws and metal studs need fine-threaded drywall screws.

This is a nuance of drywall work and nice to know 🙂

Tighten the new screw so that it barely makes a dimple in the drywall. The screw head should be slightly below the paper surface but not tear it.

Dimpled drywall screw

A slightly dimpled screw is easy to fill in with the 5 minute joint compound and sand down flush with the adjacent wall.

Fill holes with compound

Frankly, you could do this then prime and paint your wall.

However, if your wall is slightly damaged from removing the old nail or screw you should apply mesh tape.

Mesh drywall tape

I like to smear a thin layer of compound over the holes in the drywall then add the mesh tape. One side of the tape will be sticky and this is the side that goes on the wall.

Use the remaining 5 minute joint compound to cover the mesh tape. This will be your first coat of joint compound and it doesn’t need to be super thick.

Let the joint compound dry then apply a second layer with your 6 inch knife. It should look something like the picture below.

Apply second coat of joint compound

Allow this coat to dry and scrape off any joint compound ridges with your knife.

I like to use a sanding sponge for small jobs like this one.

Sanding sponge

Primarily because they’re easy to use and if you want to cut down on the dust you can wet the sponge.

Sand your drywall patch in a circular motion to taper the edges.

Prime the patch using a good primer, Kilz is my preferred brand but there a ton of great options out there.

Prime the drywall patch

If you don’t prime the joint compound your latex paint won’t stick. This is super bad and not fun (unlike the movie Super Bad which is a funny story about friends getting into teenage shenanigans).

Check out my video to see how to make short order of a small drywall fix like a popped nail or screw. I added a little family video in the middle for some giggles. My daughters crack me up.

 

 

What’s Next

Nail pops and holes in sheetrock happen all the time. Now you have the skills to fix them.

Our tutorial on how to fix a large hole in the wall also comes in handy – and will save you some serious bucks!

Grab our free guide if you’re doing a DIY bathroom remodel – it shares how to remodel a bathroom in 10 days or less

Send Me The Guide

 

Thanks as always for reading, watching, and being part of our awesome community.

Ask your questions below and we’d be happy to help.

Cheers,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

 

P.S. Our online store has great supplies for homeowners doing a bathroom remodel. You’ll find shower systems, tiling tools, and more.

25 Comments
  1. Cynthia says:

    Great tutorial! And so easy! But my issue is the dreaded texture on the walls! I’ve tried numerous spray products that are supposed to match the texture, they never do.
    Makes me go nuts seeing a bad patch job!
    Hope you can do a tutorial on that someday.

    1. You and Mike have the same problem but a lot of us DIYers are in the same position.

      It’s not easy to match textures. I had to do this for our kitchen ceiling and still cringe every time I look at my wonky job. But then I remember that we probably saved a boat load of money doing the repair and it makes me feel better.

      Practicing the texture on a scrap piece of drywall and tinkering with the consistency of the joint compound is a great place to start.

      What kind of texture is on your wall Cynthia?

      1. Cynthia says:

        Hi Jeff,
        I guess it’s called “orange peel”
        Sprayed on and then knocked down.
        My next house: No texture! Lol!
        Cynthia

        1. Me too Cynthia.

          I’m not a lover of textured walls or ceilings.

          Orange peel isn’t too hard but getting it right is an art form.

  2. Mike Smith says:

    What about matching wall texture on drywall.

    1. For that Mike I like to mix up a few different small batches of joint compound and do experiments on scrap drywall.

      Usually texturing is done with either a 6 or 10 inch joint compound knife or with different texture brushes or texture paints. It’s more of an art to match and not easy in some cases.

      What kind of texture do you have?

  3. Pinkpig4 says:

    The tip about the dry wall coarse vs fine is awesome! I feel like I can talk smack now at the DIY stores. Only thing I would want to know is about clean up for the dust. I would probably lay some plastic down over my carpet and make a paper pocket out of a grocery bag to try to catch the dust before it hit. I hate that fine particles it floats on everything. Does wetting the sponge eliminate a lot of that?

    1. Wetting the sponge definitely cuts down on the dust. You can also fold a piece of painter’s tape into a V shape. Then apply the tape to the wall just underneath your patch. It will catch a lot of the dust.

      You could also tape small piece of cardboard (from a cereal box) to the wall to do the same thing.

      I laid down a towel under this job but the dust still made it onto the floor. It is a pain 🙂

    2. Rebecca Weeks says:

      A trick I use is a small spray bottle of water set on mist. This is a great trick when just sweeping or vacuuming too. Just walk through the area and give the room (or just area) a spray down by spraying as high in the room towards the ceiling so the water droplets will catch it all the way down to the floor. This is especially great for those in the family with allergies, works wonderful on pollen too.

      1. Good idea Rebecca. This explains why allergies get better when it rains. All the allergens are dropped from the air.

        Thanks for your tip because it will totally help a lot of people 🙂

  4. Susan says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Nice video! Quick question, instead of removing the offending screw, why not drive it into the wall a little deeper and put joint compound over the head? I understand the need to add another screw to secure the drywall but it seems like removing the old screw will leave a bigger hole to fill.
    Keep up the good work,
    Susan

    1. Good question Susan. My thought is that the screw came out once it will likely come out again.

      And it’s hard to see how much you need to dry the old screw back into the drywall without tearing the paper face.

      In this example the screw was 1 1/4 inch long and I decided that a longer screw would hold better.

      You could always try your approach though and see if it holds. And if it does you’re good to go, if it doesn’t then you just have to remove the old screw 🙂

      1. Vincent McKeoun says:

        Hi guys.
        Most nail pops happen when a house settles over a year or 2. Knocking in the popped nail or screw fixes the problem almost every time.
        I’ve built and lived in several house and no matter how much I try to avoid the pops, they always appear. Once the settling stops, the pops stop.
        Cracks are a completely different animal. They usually accure because of different expansion and contraction rates between 2 materials. The tape or mesh technique usually solves that problem.
        Good luck and thanks.

  5. ALICE says:

    HOW ABOUT REPAINTING A DECK

    CAN I USE THAT SPREADING FOAM TO PATCH A HOLE IN THE STAIRS

    1. I’d use epoxy wood filler Alice. It will setup rock solid and stand up against water. You should be able to sand it down and get it looking pretty good.

  6. Jason says:

    Cool tutorial. When I fix nail pops I just use a nail set to recess the nail into the drywall then drive a drywall screw right above or below the nail so the screw head is partially covering the nail head. This keep the nail from coming out ever again and saves some time. Then I patch it up. Takes 5 minutes and is so ridiculously simple. I really like your tutorials, keep ’em coming!

    1. Thanks Jason, I like your method better than mine. Next time I have a similar fix I’m going to use your idea because simple and easy is what we all want 🙂

  7. I had no idea that there were so many little repairs you could make to drywall. I have a few dimpled screws so this was perfect. I’ll have to try that out to see if it helps. Thanks for sharing.

  8. sharon says:

    great advice with the nail poppers,,,thanks

  9. Vincent McKeoun says:

    Thanks for the info.
    I use that technique for stubborn cracks that keep reappearing (usually around window corners). The mesh tape stops future cracking.
    For nail or screw pops I found that if I knock it in further with a smooth head hammer and create a divit, the nail or screw will bite and hold. I patch the divit with joint compound 2 times (without the tape or mesh because the paper is still on the sheet rock). Once to fill the divit and another to smooth the area. I sand the area smooth. Then I add a spray texture out of a can (a little goes a long way) to match the existing texture. If you’re repairing a smooth wall, no spray texture is needed. Next, I prime the repaired area to seal it. If you skip this step the paint absorbs deeper and the color will look different even though it’s the same color. Also, if the paint on the wall is over a few months old, there may be some fading from UV light. You’ll may have to paint the entire wall or ceiling to the corners so it matches the rest of the room. Try painting the patch first and if your lucky, you’ll be done. If not, make sure you repair all the divits, dents, holes, etc… on the rest of the wall to get a clean professional look.
    I’ve used this process dozens of times and I’ve never had the pop reaccure. Jeff’s technique also works but I found that the thickness of the tape forces you to feather out the joint compound much further to make the patch look flat.
    Good luck and thanks for the article.
    Vince

  10. KP says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I have several nail pops in my vaulted ceiling, right at the top. They showed up after we had a new roof put on. I was following your instructions but when I went to screw in the 1 5/8″ drywall screws they just spin in place, like there isn’t anything behind the drywall (except there is, because I met resistance less than halfway through screwing the screw in). This has happened 3 times now and I’m completely stumped. I keep having to catch my nail under the head of the screw to back it out (otherwise it just turns in place endlessly). Any suggestions?

  11. Andrew Smith says:

    You need help with drywall repair in your home,call an experts to solve this kind of problems.

  12. Joan says:

    Thanks for this very clear and thorough video. I have never repaired nail pops before and I was going to hammer down the spot and just patch it. Now I can do it right!

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