What causes drywall cracks, nail pops and screw pops?

Inevitably, at some point in time all homes develop cracks in the drywall, nail and screw pops as well as caulk separation. So what causes drywall screw pops, cracks, and nail pops and will it ever stop? The two main reasons these happen are due to temperature fluctuation and structural settling.

drywall screw pops and cracks

As the seasons change so do the temperatures inside and outside the home. Depending on when your new home is completed, the inside temperatures between summer and winter can vary as much as 30+ degrees. So as you regulate the temperatures in your home, the materials expand and contract. Cooling the home causes materials to contract while heating the home causes the materials to expand. This will often show up in the form of cracks in drywall accompanied by nail and screw pops and caulk separation. Most of these drywall problems occur within the first 30 days from the time the temperature is regulated.

Here in North Carolina, the temperatures can vary from single digits in the winter to triple digits in the summer. Those major temperature changes contribute to the expanding and contracting of the materials as the outside materials are connected to the inside materials of your home.

The second factor is fairly simple. Your new house will settle. It takes a period of time for a house to settle completely. Usually, the majority of the settling will happen within the first year. The materials used to build your home will give a little here and there resulting in drywall cracks, nail and screw pops and caulk separation. If you are asking yourself, will it ever stop? It will lessen over time, but unfortunately it won’t go away entirely as homes never stop moving.

What can you do to help minimize these drywall cracks and nail and screw pops? Keeping the temperature regulated in your house is the most important way to minimize drywall problems. It’s best to keep the inside temperature somewhere between 60° and 80° F (15° and 27° C), to avoid temperature extremes inside the home.

While drywall cracks, nail and screw pops and cracked caulking are frustrating, it doesn’t mean that your home was poorly built. Repairing them is part of routine homeowner maintenance which will be covered in another article.

Edited and posted by

McKee Homes online marketing manager

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6 thoughts on “What causes drywall cracks, nail pops and screw pops?

  1. We have an old house and recently renovated two rooms into one. All of the walls and the ceiling were beefed up with new framing as the original work was not square. We hired out for the drywall. But, not even two months later you can see and feel where every screw is and each seam is as well as some seams cracking. The calk all needs to be redone as well. Bad contractor?

  2. we suddenly saw drywall screw pops on one of our 2nd floor walls at the corner, on the other side of which where there is a large 2 story wall with large windows. Can this sudden appearance of the drywall screw pops at that corner be an indication of some stress or weakening of the structure and the stress on the 2 story wall, in the 20 year old house?

    • Sylvia, it’s possible that high winds or rapid change in temp and humidity could have caused the drywall fastener pops on walls with large windows as there is less structural framing to prevent stress on the wall. A 20 year old house should have settled out for the most part unless the ground under the foundation is no longer solid or has been eroded due to water damage. Or if you live in an area where there are earthquakes, this can happen from time to time.

  3. I’m seeing this occur in my home that’s almost 20 years old. We’ve been keeping the temperature around 70 – 75 degrees since we bought it 2 months ago. We have had a lot of rain, wind and thunder this summer. Could that also have an effect?

    • Yes absolutely Ian! Temperature and humidity changes cause the wood framing to expand and contract which in turn can lead to drywall cracks and nail/screw pops.

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