It is more common today in new installation to use drywall screws, but it’s still a practice in areas to use nails instead. Here’s what to do for repair drywall in a spot where a nail has worked loose and ‘popped’ through the surface.
Some popped nails you find may be around the edge of ceilings on external walls where temperature extremes have had different effects on the metal and the surrounding wood. The heads of the nails may get a small amount of condensation, which can lead to rust discoloring the attached spackling or drywall material. That material on the head of the nail may fall off entirely.
Other nails may pop if the house has settled somewhat over time. If you suspect that your house has settled too much or too quickly, contact a home inspector to help determine the cause. If something structural needs repair, there’s no use repairing drywall and addressing the cosmetic issues of popped nails first.
You cannot fix a popped nail by merely tapping it back in the wood. Whatever caused the nail hole to be slightly oversize will not be fixed, and the nail will move again some time later. You need to find a way to hold the nail securely, and the simplest way is with another nail.
Repairing drywall requires making sure your new nail will go into the wood behind, drive a drywall nail next to the popped nail so that the new nail’s head overlaps on top. Then, drive the nails to a slight dimple. Test that the nails are driven in far enough by dragging a metal putty knife across. If you feel the nail heads dragging, drive them in a bit more. If your dimpled area around the nails is fairly large, dragging a plastic putty knife across may fool you. It could actually bend into the whole and scrape, making you think your dimple is too shallow.
Filling the dimple that you made is much easier with today’s color-changing filler. One popular choice is bright pink when wet and changes to white as it dries. You should be able to finish the job with two or three coats, with a light sanding between applications.
If you should choose to pursue repairing drywall by driving a drywall screw next to the popped nail, countersink the screw enough to place the nail below the drywall surface. The rest of the steps for repairing drywall the same.