Drywall | Snap, Crackle, Pop

By Todd Fratzel on Maintanence, Painting and Finishing

Minor Drywall Problems

At work we warranty certain things on new homes for one year. By far the most common problem we see after a year are minor drywall problems. It’s not unusual at all during the first year or so of a new home to see and hear lots of minor drywall problems. In fact, I liken it to the “Snap, Crackle and Pop” theme from Rice Crispies!

As your new home dries out (framing lumber is always full of excess moisture) the framing members will shrink every so slightly causing stress and movement on drywall joints. The stresses are sufficient to cause some small cracks and “nail pops” at some of the screws. This is completely normal and expected with all new home construction. In fact, it’s so common that most house warranty programs only cover major cracks which are more likely related to structural performance.

Drywall Nail PopDrywall Nail Pops

Drywall nail pops (or screw pops more likely) are by far the most common drywall problem or defect. I challenge you to find me a newly built home that doesn’t have quite a few of these nail pops after a year or so after construction is complete. Nail pops are going to happen and there’s nothing you can do to prevent them.

Fortunately they are very easy to fix and not likely to reoccur after they’ve been fixed. As you can see in the photo this nail pop has actually caused the joint compound to crack and fall away from the screw head. Sometimes the screw or nail head doesn’t pop through completely but you can still see the round head bulging out.

To fix a nail (screw) pop you’ll want to use a putty knife to scrape off the excess joint compound that’s creating the bulge. Once you’ve removed the bulging joint compound then check to be sure the screw is tight. I recommend you use a hand screw driver for this and NOT a screw gun. Once the screw is tight then apply new joint compound to the screw head hole. This may take two coats to completely cover the hole. Then just sand it smooth, prime and paint. If you don’t prime it first the paint has NO chance of matching.

Drywall Crack Under WindowHairline Drywall Cracks

Another common drywall problem or defect are hairline cracks. In the photo you can see a hairline vertical crack in the drywall just below the window sill. This is one of the most common locations for hairline cracks to form (above the window is very common as well). Thermal stresses on the house are much higher at door and window openings for many reasons and this can cause hairline cracking of the drywall.

Just like the nail pops these hairline cracks are most likely to occur in the first year or so of the houses life. However, this is not something to lose sleep over and it’s extremely common in new construction. Again this is a very easy repair and one that any DIY veteran can handle.

Steps to repair hairline drywall cracks:

  1. Gouge out the crack with a utility knife to create a “V” groove, this makes room for additional joint compound. Be sure to clean out the groove and crack really well.
  2. Apply a layer of joint compound. Make sure to apply the mud 2 to 3 inches on either side of the crack.
  3. Apply a layer of paper or fiberglass joint tape.
  4. Use a wide putty knife (6″ minimum) to apply a 2nd layer of joint compound over the joint tape. Be sure to spread the joint compound on smooth and wife off any excess material. Let the joint compound dry.
  5. Apply another thin layer of joint compound over the tape and previous skim coat.
  6. Sand the patch smooth.
  7. Prime and paint.

Don’t Sweat the Drywall Problems

I hope you read this article and realize your house is not special. I hope you realize that drywall will “Snap, Crackle and Pop” and it’s perfectly normal. I also want you to realize that fixing those minor nail pops and cracks are easy to do and something that anyone with minimal DIY experience can handle. If you’re planning on painting a room anytime soon then that’s the best time to tackle these small repairs.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. jeff_williams says:

    What about textured surfaces? I would think a pop would be relatively easy to hide but a crack would need to be retextured right? How is that handled on warranty work?

    • Todd says:

      Jeff – Textured surfaces can also be repaired. Some guys can “free hand” the repairs, while some people end up using textured “templates” that help simulate the pattern. Most warranties use thresholds that examine crack width to determine what get repaired. Most of the warranty programs that I’m familiar with identify repairable cracks in the 1/8″ to 3/16″ wide range. It really depends on the specifics of the warranty program.

  2. Darell says:

    I have nail pops in my ceiling and would like to fix them. My problem is I have a textured ceiling and I’ve used compound from homedepot and it dried gray. How do I fix this without painting.

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Darell – Gotta love those textured ceilings. The only thing I can think of is painting the patch…trying to feather out the paint so the color difference isn’t too noticeable. Then cover it over the next time you paint the entire ceiling. Good luck.

  3. Darell says:

    Todd thanks for your advice, I my not of stated that my ceiling are not painted and if anyway possible I would like not to paint them.

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      What is the ceiling texture made from then?

      • Darell says:

        the ceilings in my house is just compound, the house was built in 2008. When it came time for my one year drywall repairs, the guys had it fix a large area and they just used drywall compound.

        • Todd Fratzel says:

          Well I’d say this, joint compound really isn’t meant to be a finished surface, it should be painted. At some point it really needs primer and a good quality paint. I’d fix all the small repairs and finish things off with paint.

  4. Gloria Rose says:

    Our home is 11 years old and has started showing wall cracks (2 arched doorways) from the inner edge of the top of the doorway to the ceiling. My husband has repaired both of those. Two windows developed hairline cracks under the middle of the windows to the top of the baseboard. Patched and painted. Then we have begun to see horizontal cracks–still very narrow–where the top of the wall meets the vaulted (not cathedral) ceiling. We’ve just started noticing those lately. Now we are trying to sell our house and want it in good repair. Would a certified inspector be able to tell us the cause of these issues?

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Most likely they are just the cause of drying/shrinking/settling of the house. I’ve rarely seen a house that didn’t have these type of cracks after 5-10 yrs

  5. Ashley says:

    Hi Todd,
    We bought a house that’s 20 years old. We’ve owned it for 2 years now. After a little while we noticed some nail pops which was fine but now they’re all over the walls in pretty much every room and there are a few on some ceilings. The stairways are especially bad and the drywall looks like it’s buckling in some areas. Any idea what the issue could be.

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Without being there it’s really hard to say. Has something changed recently in the home? extra humidity? exceptionally dry? any signs of foundation movement? earthquake? blasting near by? The possibilities are endless.

      • Ashley says:

        There’s nothing that we can think of. We had an air exchanger that we were running but have recently shut it off as we thought that might be the reason. We run air conditioning all summer and have a fire place on most of the winter.

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