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What Is a Drywall Nail?

Ring shank nails are often used in drywall.
Drywall is commonly hung using drywall nails.
Drywall nails are covered with mud and sanded so they blend seamlessly into the drywall when painted.
Drywall can be hung using either nails or screws.
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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2014
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A drywall nail is a nail used specifically for hanging drywall. Though there is some debate amongst drywall contractors as to whether nails or screws are best for hanging drywall, the drywall nail has been a preference for decades. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of fasteners.

A drywall nail typically has a cupped head and a ringed shank. The most common lengths are 1 3/8 inch (3.74 cm) and 1 ½ inches (3.8 cm). They are available in different gauges, which indicate the diameter of the shank. The most common is 13 gauge. The ringed shank helps the hold the nail in place after it is driven through the drywall and into the stud. The cupped head, which is concave, helps hide the nail for a smoother surface after mudding and sanding. Not every drywall nail has a concave, or cupped, head.

One of the biggest advantages to using drywall nails over screws is the speed at which the drywall is hung. Nails can be driven faster than screws and a hammer is typically less cumbersome than a screw gun. Drywall nails are slightly less expensive than screws, which can add up when installing drywall over a large area.

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The primary disadvantage to using a drywall nail over a screw is the inevitable "nail pop." This occurs over time and is a common blemish in older homes. Over time, the pressure gravity applies to the drywall causes the nail to work its way loose and the head becomes visible through the wall surface. This is far less likely to happen when drywall screws are used. Some contractors will use both types of fasteners, opting for screws when drywall is installed overhead for a ceiling and nails for walls.

When selecting the style of drywall nail, choose the proper gauge and length for the type of drywall being used. The thicker the drywall, the longer the drywall nail should be. If you’re a novice drywall hanger, ask the hardware or home improvement store retailer where you are buying supplies what is best. When using nails to install drywall, don’t skimp on the number of nails driven into each stud and space the nails evenly so each nail is bearing an evenly distributed amount of the drywall’s weight.

When repairing nail pops from a disengaged drywall nail, remove the nail completely, drive a new nail slightly above or below the old one and patch the area accordingly. If you have a home with nail pops in the ceiling, you might consider having the ceiling repaired by a drywall professional who will tighten the ceiling up completely by reattaching all overhead drywall, rather than spot repairing. This could avoid a complete collapse of the ceiling, especially in older homes — a repair that would be far more costly than repairing the ceiling.

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