Problems with Drywall Nailhead Pops and Rust Stains on Walls and Ceilings

We can see nailhead marks and slight staining where the wall studs are on the interior side of the outside walls and on the ceiling joists of our 35-year-old modular home. Any idea why? -Linda

Hi Linda,

It’s not uncommon to have a few drywall nail pops on the walls or ceilings of a house over time, due to movement from seasonal fluctuations in temperature and humidity. But if you have lots of popped drywall nails, accompanied by rust stains on the nailheads, you probably have a problem with excessive humidity building up either in your house or inside the walls and attic.

While you can fix the drywall pops, you need to address the excessive humidity issue first to prevent the problem from recurring, and to keep mold and rot from forming in your home.

Start by purchasing an inexpensive hygrometer and monitor the relative humidity inside your home, in the attic, and under the house (if you have a basement or crawlspace) to see if it stays within the optimal range of 30% to 50% throughout the year.

If you find you have a problem with excessive humidity in your house:

  • Use vent fans vented to the outside in bathrooms during and for 10 to 15 minutes after bathing or showering (installing a timer switch or humidity sensing fan makes remembering simple).
  • Run the stove vent fan vented to the outside when cooking.
  • Check your clothes dryer to make sure it’s properly vented to the outside and the vent pipe is clean.
  • Vent any gas fireplaces or gas space heaters to the outside.
  • Run air conditioning during humid days in the summer.
  • Seal up any cracks or gaps on the outside of your home with caulk or expanding foam.
  • Check and repair weather stripping around doors and windows.
  • Cover the ground in the crawlspace under your home with plastic, and make sure all foundation vents are unblocked and open.
  • Check attic insulation for dampness, and make sure you have adequate ventilation in your attic through soffit vents, ridge vent, and/or gable vents. Power attic vents may be needed if humidity is too high in the attic.
  • As a last resort, install a dehumidifier.

Once you have the humidity in your house under control, repair the worst of the drywall nail pops, apply a stain blocking primer to the walls and ceilings to cover the rust stains, and topcoat with latex wall and ceiling paint.

Good luck with your project,


Further Information


  1. I just put up a piece of drywall in my new (1950s) home. Where the drywall mud came in contact with the old wall, there are rust spots coming through. It is not from nails. It’s from the bumps in the texture of the wall underneath. Do you know what is causing this? And more importantly, how do I fix it?

  2. My house was built in the 1950s. In the last two years since we bought the house I am starting to notice nail popping everywhere…but only in the original part of the home, not in the 90s permitted addition. Vertical tiny cracks at every door corner, and the paint on the ceiling and walls is pseudo wrinkling; like the step before cracking- micro cracks. But the nail pops are in every wall; interior and exterior…and every single nail is popping. The ceiling in one room slightly dips at every truss, but it was like that when we bought the house and has not changed. I also noticed there is small crown molding in that room as well as the adjacent eating area…perhaps covering a lifting issue?? We are on a slab and if it is a moisture issue what range of cost and what kind of contractor should we call? The original house is 1100 Sq ft and replacing all that drywall terrifies me, but the texture of those micro cracks on the walls shows through 3 layers of paint still :/ ps. Where the ceiling is smooth and not textured there is very minimal if any nail popping. I live in Savanah Ga, humidity galore but no real cold winters.

  3. Great tips! To handle with such type of difficulties. It’s important to make sure you seal any crack left in the attic and walls otherwise even a small gap in Insulation will allow cold air in.


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