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Pop Goes the Nailhead

Q: "Why do nails push through our ceiling?"

Ask This Old House Crew
Photo by Matt Kalinowski

We're having a problem with our ceilings. Our home is 10 years old, and nails periodically protrude through the second-floor ceilings. Two different people have tried to solve the problem, but nothing seems to help. Within a month or so of the repair, the nails push through the ceiling and pop off quarter-size disks of patching compound. Can you help us?
— Gerry, Auburn, NY


Tom Silva replies: I now use screws when installing drywall because they dramatically reduce the problem you're describing. Nails simply don't hold as well, and they can work loose as framing shrinks and expands over time. Once loose, it's loose forever. Pounding it back in is pointless; it's lost its holding power.
The next time that a nail pops loose, take it out and drive a 15/8-inch drywall screw (for 5/8-inch drywall) into the ceiling joist about 2 inches away from each side of the hole. Then cover the new screwheads and the original nail hole with spackle. As you continue to replace each nail that pops loose, the problem will eventually go away.


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