How To Spot a Bad Drywall Job – And What To Do About It

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

There are tell-tale signs of a bad drywall job — and published standards that help you know when a job hasn’t made the grade. Fixing drywall problems takes time and know-how, but the best remedy for a bad drywall job is not to use drywall at all, and instead opt for a drywall alternative.

Nothing ruins the look of a finished room like a bad drywall job. Poorly installed drywall has a way of making a room look sloppy and uncared-for, instead of what you want — a room that is comfortable, welcoming, and smart-looking.

Most common signs of a bad drywall job

  • 1. Nails and screws showing

    These are often referred to as “nail pops,” and refers to nails or screws that aren’t flush with the drywall and are not hidden by drywall tape and/or joint compound.

    Bad Screws

  • 2. Visible seams

    A wall should look smooth and unified. It shouldn’t show seams, or places where one sheet of drywall meets another. If it does show seams, it’s a sign that the job was rushed or incomplete, or an inadequate job was done with drywall tape and/or drywall compound — a bad drywall mud job, in other words.

    Visible Seams

  • 3. Uneven corners

    Corners, particularly where a ceiling meets the walls, should be 90 degrees in each plane angle. There shouldn’t be gaps or creases, and each corner should look smooth and precise.

    Uneven corners

  • 4. Cracks

    Cracks usually aren’t the sign of a bad drywall job, but rather a result of contraction and expansion due to temperature swings, or a sign that the wall or foundation has shifted. But it goes without saying: Cracks shouldn’t be visible and if they are, a drywall repair is required. The reason the crack occurred should also be investigated.


  • 5. Sagging ceiling

    A sagging ceiling, sometimes referred to as pillowing, can be an indication of a couple of problems, both of them related to installation: The drywaller might have used product that is too thin; drywall comes in thicknesses of ½” and 5/8” and the thicker of the two should be used on a ceiling. It’s also possible the contractor used nails rather than screws into the ceiling joists. Screws hold more reliably. Note of caution: A sagging ceiling can result from a leak; be prudent and ensure there isn’t a water problem lurking under the drywall.

    Sagging Ceiling

  • 6. Rough surface

    A wall should be smooth. If drywall tape is showing through the paint, or showing a crease, it’s a sign of a bad drywall tape job and that not enough drywall compound was used over the tape. If the wall is noticeably bumpy, it’s possible the wall wasn’t thoroughly sanded after the compound was applied.

    Rough Surface

  • 7. Moisture damage

    Mold or mildew on the surface of drywall, or swelling of the drywall itself, is a sign that water has come into contact with the drywall. It’s possible that drywall was used in an area of a building that was unsuited to the product — damp basements or wet garages, for instance, or that ordinary drywall was used on a project instead of a moisture-resistant variety.

    Moisture Damage

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Rundown of drywall levels and finishes

With the above list as a rough guide, it’s important to consider that evaluating the quality of a drywall job isn’t as straightforward as it first appears. That’s because the drywall job needs to be measured against the intent of the project. 

What that means is that the drywall job you find in a factory warehouse, or a garage, isn’t going to be of the same quality as the one you find in your living room, and that’s on purpose. A factory warehouse doesn’t require the same level of finish and attention to detail that you require in your home. 

The Gypsum Association publishes a guide called “Recommended Levels of Gypsum Board Finish. There are five levels, with the lowest level having the most flaws.

Level 1 

A Level 1 drywall job is intended for spaces that are generally hidden from view. Think attics, service corridors, and the areas above ceilings. Drywall tape is used on seams, but the tape does not need to be covered by drywall compound. Tool marks are allowed. 

Level 2 

A Level 2 drywall job is the one you’ll typically find in garages, warehouses, or basements — areas where the final appearance isn’t a particular issue. Drywall compound covers fasteners and the tape over seams and is wiped to a thin layer with a knife or drywall tool. 

Level 3 

Level 3 finish is for interior area walls that will be treated with a heavy wallpaper or textured finish. Two coats of drywall compound are used over fasteners and seams. The joint compound must be smooth and free of tool marks or ridges. It is recommended that a coat of drywall primer be applied before the final wall covering. 

Level 4 

Level 4 is recommended for areas that will be covered with a flat paint, a light wallpaper, or a light texture. Three coats of drywall compound are required over fasteners. Interior angles (corners) rare required to be taped and covered with a separate layer of drywall compound. The walls must be smooth and free of all tool marks. 

Level 5 

A Level 5 finish is for an area due to receive a gloss or semi-gloss paint, or for an area subject to severe light. In addition to the requirements of Level 4, the entire wall must be coated with a thin “skim coat“ of drywall compound and properly sanded. 

If you decide the level of finish doesn’t meet your needs or conclude that the job was improperly done, the question becomes what to do about it. 

Holes and cracks will require remediation, which usually means cutting out the damaged drywall and replacing it. Rough surfaces may require drywall compound, sanding, and priming. Nail pops can be handled using a known technique. 

In an area like a garage, utility room or damp basement, the best solution might be to remove the drywall in its entirety and use a more suitable product, one that’s not susceptible to moisture. 

Trusscore to the rescue to replace bad drywall jobs

Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard is just such a product. It’s designed as a drywall alternative, and because it’s made from PVC, it’s particularly well suited in areas that are damp or wet. It will never swell or discolor, and it won’t support the growth of mold or mildew. 

In fact, using Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard allows you to avoid most of the common problems affiliated with drywall. With Wall&CeilingBoard, fasteners are hidden, so nail pops are eliminated. The finish is always smooth and uniform, and no painting is ever required. Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard is also very strong and durable. It is impact resistant. 

Bad drywall jobs are, unfortunately, all too common, a result haste, inexperience, or plain old poor workmanship. Once you’re familiar with the signs, you can take remediation steps – including using a product like Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard, one that will ensure your drywall headaches are a thing of the past. 

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