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Common Home Defects and What to Do About Them

As your home ages you will start to notice certain minor defects that can be unsightly. So I thought I would spend some time talking about the more common defects and how to fix them.

We have all seen the circular bulge along a wall or ceiling in a seemingly random fashion.  The not so technical name for this is nail pops.  Nail pops occur when the nails that are used to fasten the drywall to the studs are pushed out of the wooden framing members or in some cases the installer simply missed the studs altogether when installing the drywall.   Nail pops are often a sign that the wood used to frame the home is drying out.  When your home was built, the wood used to frame the home was “green,” meaning it was new and contained a lot of moisture.  As the wood ages, it begins to dry and shrink thus forcing nails and screws out.  Fortunately, you can easily and inexpensively fix nail pops.  First, use a nail set or small punch and hammer to drive the nail back into its original position.  Then, cover the depression with a thin coating of plaster, joint compound, or even caulk depending on your wall covering material.  Sand and paint as necessary.  If your home is new I would advise you to wait at least a year before fixing as this will give the rest of the house time to season so that you can fix all of the nail pops at one time.

Does your home have small cracks in the ceiling and walls?  Most aging homes do.  Shrinkage cracks most commonly occur in the drywall above windows and doors; however, it is important to know the difference between shrinkage cracks and cracks caused by structural movement.  Generally, shrinkage cracks will be either vertical or horizontal following the joints in the drywall.  They are most often hairline in thickness and the edges are parallel to each other.  If your home has a crack that is wider than hairline and the two sides are not parallel, you may have a more serious structural issue.  Your home’s foundation may have shifted.  I strongly recommend consulting with a certified home inspector or structural engineer to determine the extent of the problem.  Repairing shrinkage cracks is a simple process that anyone can do.  Just fill the crack with a flexible, paintable caulk.  Stay away from caulks with silicone as you cannot paint to match, look for painters’ caulk that is paintable and is usually the least expensive.  You can also use joint compound but it takes more time and skill to apply and is prone to future shrinkage.

Doors that won’t close because they rub the frame are a common issue and generally are seasonal.  This is most likely to occur during the summer here in the south because of the increased humidity.  In most cases a little sandpaper is all that is needed to fix the problem.  Sometimes in more severe cases the door will need to be planed, again it’s fairly easy to do but if you don’t own a planer then call a reputable local handyman.  Don’t forget to seal any freshly exposed wood or your door could continue to swell and cause issues.  Sometimes doors rubbing the frame can be a sign of structural movement a more serious condition that requires a qualified professional to diagnose and fix.  Often in this situation you will see a diagonal crack in the wall radiating from one or both of the upper corners of the door opening.

Squeaking floors are another sign of your home maturing, typically caused by the subfloor moving over top of the floor joists when someone walks across the floor.  This is most noticeable in older homes because newer constructed homes use nails and construction adhesive to secure the subfloor to the floor joists.  Fixing this annoying issue varies with the type of floor covering.  For hardwoods, carefully placed wood screws (I prefer trim head screws, it’s like a finishing nail) followed by a little wood putty.  Make sure that you are driving the screws into the floor joists and not just into the subflooring.  If you have carpet or some other floor covering the most practical fix is to wait until it’s time to change the floor covering then drive screws in the affected area and of course re-cover the subfloor.