Carport Ceiling Peeling Problem

My parent's house was built in '65. It has a carport. I looked at its interior ceiling yesterday to find that it was peeling about the size of a golfball over each nail. Upon closer looking at it, it appears the ceiling is either drywall or some kind of wall board. It is definitely not wood. My dad said the spackle came off each nail because it was not done 2-3 times with time for it set between new applications. My first idea was to scrape the whole ceiling, but he said you would only have to scrape around what has come off around the nails and build that area back up so it is flush with the rest of the ceiling. However, the whole ceiling has cracks and some losse pieces of paint throughout..not just over the nails. I am assuming that the area not over the nails is several layers of paint, but I am not sure at this point. I want to help him out as he is older and really needs it fixed. I've done drywall and painting before, so I do know a little, but I've never seen drywall outside where it is subject to dampness, water, etc. Any help would be appreciated.
Wade
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Maybe it is flexing, or maybe the nails are improper or spaced to far apart or it is moisture and heat from an undervented roof alowing heat and moisture to build up above. Scrape everything ,repair it and check venting, maybe screws will help a bit.
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Wade wrote:

Well, 35 years is a pretty good lifetime...it wasn't uncommon to use interior material for protected exterior application such as you're describing. I'd simply repair the damage and repaint and perhaps add a few drywall screws for some extra support if it seems to have sagged/loosened and it'll probably last another 25 years or so...at which time you probably will no longer need to worry... :)
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My folks live in central Florida (heart of the gray hairs). All the properties were done with porch and patio ceilings using conventional drywall. They had the tape joints redone about every 3 years after they failed from humidity. I pulled all the tape (not hard to do) and replaced with mesh and thermal set compound. We are approaching 10 years.
(top posted for your convenience) ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Keep the whole world singing . . . . DanG (remove the sevens) snipped-for-privacy@7cox.net

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My first thought is moisture above the ceiling. Check the nails. They may well be rusted. Check the upper surface of the ceiling, if possible. TB
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Even drywall that's hung with nails on the interiors of homes is subject to "nail pops" [which is what you're describing, with the spackle over the nail heads lifting off the surface]. You father has a point about doing spackle in layers, but those nails can't be set that deep -- if so, they're at least halfway through the drywall and are doing no good [and would need replaced because a) you'll always have nail pops, and b) if all the nails are like this, the drywall isn't very secure and there's a chance it could fall].
The cause of nail pops -- as mentioned previously, it's usually due to heat/moisture variations, which in effect work the nail out of the wood. The spackle has to pop out.
Also, it could be movement or vibration, like settling. A house built in the 60's is likely as settled as it'll ever be. Another cause could be that the wood the nails are set in has dried some over time, making the nail holes looser than they were originally. Any climate variation or vibration could work the nails loose.
I would go all the way and replace the nails with drywall screws -- they're much more secure. All you have to do is figure out which direction the framing underneath the drywall runs and set screws next to each nail. If the nails are easily accessible you could pull them out. If not, pound them in all the way [you'll need a punch or nailset for this]. Pounding them in should remove the load [the drywall] off them and they shouldn't be a problem. You have to spackle the screw heads.
An option, if you don't want to re-do the whole thing, is to replace a handful of the nails with screws in one area. Make note of where you set those screws, and see over time if they hold better than the nails.
As for the loose paint, you really need to scrape ALL of the loose stuff. And I would go over the entire surface just to be sure -- sometimes paint that simply looks cracked has actually separated from the surface. I've seen quarter-sized spots of peeling paint turn into spots the size of a garbage can lid.
Make sure you prime any bare surfaces -- I would use an oil primer. Yeah, I know it's more of a pain than latex, but an option I've had good results with is the spraycans of original Kilz [the white can]. Otherwise, use a brush or roller that you don't mind throwing away -- the cost of paint thinner usually makes it not worth the effort of cleaning the equipment.
Hopkins
Wade wrote:

its
of a

ceiling
wood.
2-3 times

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not
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little, but

water, etc.

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