Q: Our home is two years old, and we have recently noticed round holes in the wallboard, usually in the ceiling near a wall. Upon inspection we noticed that the wallboard nails are working out. Is it sufficient to simply pound them back in and recover the surface, or are more elaborate measures called for? –Malcolm M., via e-mail
A: What you’re seeing are known as “nail pops,” and are fairly common in new homes. Much of the lumber that is available to builders today has a higher moisture content than the lumber of years past, and is often fairly damp when it’s installed. Over time, the heat in the house dries out and shrinks the wood, and nails can work loose. This is especially common in drywall ceilings, where the weight of the drywall and the relatively small size of the nails make it easier for them to pull out slightly.
Nail pops can be hammered back in. Use a hammer with a crowned (convex) face so that as you tap the nail back in, you create a small “dimple” in the face of the drywall. However, since you are tapping the nail back into its original hole in the wood and its holding power is diminished, at each nail pop you need to install another nail next to the original one, about an inch or two away (make sure you nail it into the ceiling joist). This will help secure the drywall and greatly increases the chances that the nail pops will not reappear.
After that, use drywall joint compound to fill in the dimples. For best results, do this twice, allowing the compound to dry between coats. Finally, retexture the areas as needed to blend them in, using the patching texture in a spray can that’s now available from most paint stores and home centers.
Q: I have a 900-square-foot house that I’m about to have reroofed. It has two gable vents of about 4.5 square feet NFA (net free area, which is the actual open vent area after allowing for screening) combined. One contractor said this is fine; another said I need twice as much ventilation and suggested a ridge vent; and a third said that there are problems with “reverse airflow” potentially sucking rain or snow through ridge vents, and that I need to cut in five new roof vents instead. Have you heard of this, and do you have any suggestions? –Eric D., via e-mail
A: For a 900-square-foot attic, 4.5 square feet of NFA should be plenty. However, you mention only gable vents — remember that for attic ventilation to work, you need low vents in the eaves or soffits to provide a natural convection current of air. If you have only high vents, your contractor will need to install low vents as well, and provide insulation dams for them so that the vents do not get clogged up with insulation.
I’m a little concerned that two of the contractors want to add more roof vents, so I’m wondering if you have verified that the two existing gable vents are indeed 4.5 NFA (those would be fairly large vents). If the contractors are simply installing more ridge vents — continuous or otherwise — to try to make up for a lack of low vents, that is not a good solution.
I have heard of the reverse airflow phenomena in a couple of rare cases, and it is typically the result of very specific wind flow patterns around a particular home, in conjunction with the continuous ridge-vent/gable-vent combination. However, with gable vents of the size you have already in place, you shouldn’t even need to undertake the additional expense of adding more high venting.
Q: I am interested in incorporating some vinyl lattice panels with an existing wooden fence but can only find them in white. I wanted gray, and I was wondering if I can paint them? If so, do I need to treat them beforehand? –Fred H., via e-mail
A: You should be able to find vinyl lattice panels in several colors, including gray. I would check with one of the larger home centers or lumber yards in your area, and if they don’t stock them they should be able to special-order them for you. Precolored panels will hold up much better than painting them, and are a lot less work!
If you do decide to paint them, they will need to be cleaned and primed first. There are several exterior primers that will work well on vinyl, and I would suggest that you talk with an experienced local paint store to get their specific recommendations for both the primer and the finish paint. You will also find it easier to lay the panels out on sawhorses and spray them prior to installation, as opposed to using a brush after they are already incorporated into the fence.
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