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My house is two-story wood frame construction, built in 1979, with an addition that was put on some time in the (I think late) 1980s.

Recently I have noticed several blisters in the drywall, as shown in the images below. Four of them are on the ceiling in the original part of the house, all right along an interior wall, and four more are on the wall just below the ceiling in the addition (the wall they are next to used to be the exterior wall of the house). Their sizes range from 0.5 to 1.5 inches.

In the image below, the black box is the house and the blue box is the addition. The red dots indicate approximate locations of ceiling blisters, and the green dots indicate approximate locations of wall blisters.

Plan of problem locations

Here are some pictures of what they look like:

On the ceiling, taken from the side:

ceiling

On the ceiling, taken from below:

ceiling

On the wall:

wall

A few of them are much less well-defined than those pictures, almost just bumps in the wall/ceiling. I tried to get pictures of those too, but I couldn't get anything good enough to be able to tell what you are looking at.

What are these bumps? Are they a problem?

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Do the wall bumps occur in regular intervals? If that's the case, it could be popped nails. If there is a pattern to it, open up the drywall at one of these bumps to see if there is a nail.

Sometimes in older houses, especially if the drywall was nailed (instead of screwed) into the studs and the structure has been working a lot, the nails can "pop", which means they work themselves out beyond the surface of the wall. You can fix this easily by finding the studs, screwing the drywall onto the studs above and below the popped nail (like 2-3 inches away). Then, remove the bumpy material around the popped nail and drive the nail below the surface with a nail set. Finally, patch with joint compound and sand/paint to cover everything up.

Here is a good guide with pictures. This article gets all philosphical about it if you care. Google drywall popped nails to confirm via image search whether this is what you're seeing (scale is hard to tell from your pictures, so you'll be a better judge of it).

This could apply to the walls, and maybe the ceiling, but I've personally only encountered in walls in my place, so I can't say for sure whether your ceiling situation may have a different origin and requires a different fix.

In any case, drywall issues can usually be fixed easily, as long as you have a joint knife, drywall screws, joint compound, and sand paper handy.

  • That was my first thought, but, as I mentioned in the question, some of these are up to 1.5 inches wide, which seems very big to be a popped nail. Most of the Google image results are not much wider than the nail head would be. They are also not at regular intervals, though I have not yet measured exactly what the intervals are. – Moshe Katz Jun 30 at 23:39
  • I've had some bigger ones - depending on whether there is wallpaper and/or multiple layers of paint on it, I'd just open it up with a box cutter and/or a joint knife to know for sure. You'll have to fill it up either way. – J. Becker Jul 1 at 1:40
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    If the dimple from the hammer is big, from beating the crap out of a loose screw or nail, then the "pop" will be big too. I've seen sections much bigger than this fall off a wall, because they just kept beating it, then muddied over the damage. Your pictures look like you have movement too ... I'd follow J. Becker's instructions and just cut it open - you're going to have to do that to fix it anyway. – tahwos Jul 2 at 22:03
  • @tahwos makes a good point - if the sections are big from people banging up the drywall and damaging it in a larger area, it may be a good idea to add in some ultra-thin FibaTape to stabilize the area when you finish it (e.g. homedepot.com/p/…). Prevents future cracks and deformations. Make sure you keep it flat so it doesn't stick out and sands down to a flat surface again. – J. Becker Jul 4 at 2:52

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