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Question DetailsAsked on 10/10/2016

Is there any way to cover regular nail heads on bead board paneling?

I can't imagine why, but someone put white bead board (paneling) in the bathroom of a rental house I recently purchased and they used regular 1inch nails. Not finish nails and not white nails. Now every nail head is exposed and can't be counter sunk. Is there any way (besides tearing it all out) to cover the nails so that they won't rust and show through?

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My guess on the regular nails (normally about 8d or 10d box I would guess) is there is no drywall under the beadboard, so it had to be nailed as structural wall covering, not an architectural product. In that case, finish nails would generally not meet code. So after removing the nails, easiest replacement would probably be structural self-countersinking screw (they have countersink burrs on the back that recess them when driving - or if rough-brushed beadboard just overdrive to countersink it, though that will cause surface grain breakage and burring around the screw. Or drill a countersink recess and renail with normal nail.

You could try dabbing each one with paint or an antiquing metallic finish (I would recommend Rustoleum paint to minimize the rust potential) using an artist's paintbrush, but a time-consuming process and likely to look like measles because you will never get a perfect color match. In qauntity you could cut some sort of round rubber or such and "rubber stamp" them with the paint to make it neater - hitting only the head, not the wood - but that does not avoid the rusting issue because the edges of the nail head would not be painted then. To minimize rusting potential (especially if these are box rather than galvanized framing nails) you need to encapsulate the nail head in rust-preventative paint.

Easier solution, assuming the nails are in the grooves - just Rustoleum the nails, then after thoroughly dry repaint the grooves only with a thin tapered trim brush - either in the closest color match you can find, or maybe in an accent color to make matching not an issue.

Another solution I don't like (some fire hazard) but I have seen and even done once or twice - use large capacity dremel tool or die grinder with abrasive cutoff wheel and rapidly (to minimize duration of heating) cut through the center of the head down to the nail shaft (till the head falls off), soak that spot with water (a wet rag) to cool the cut-off nail shaft and put out any smoldering in the wood, then drive in in the nail shaft a bit until countersunk, and put another new finish nail near it to replace the cut off nail. Do NOT do this in plastic beadboard - invitation for a fire - though I guess you could center-punch each nail and then drill the center of the head slightly larger diameter than the nail shaft till the bit goes through the head into the shaft and the head pops off (or more likely comes off the shaft but is impaled on the drill bit - remove with pliers, twisting to spiral it off the bit after 10-20 pile up on the bit). Then wood dough the hole to fill it, and repaint the grooves (color matching or not as you desire).

Another alternative - would require careful artist's paintbrush work - paint all the nails a contracting color as decor, or buy a large package of small decorative medallions and glue them to the nails with an epoxy glue. They do make cover medallions (also called escutcheons or screw cover caps) for this sort of work, but note the peel-and-stick ones typically only stick some years, not forever. I would use a good glue instead. Might even find some screw cover caps you can cut the prongs off and put over the nails as is - look up "screw cover caps" on Amazon for many samples.

Either way a bit tedious, but a few hours should do the nail/screw work at very little cost, versus tearing the beadboard off and replacing it.

One after-thought - in a bathroom environment, especially if it gets even cool in the winter in your area and there is an outside wall, any exposed (painted or medallioned or whatever) metal is going to potentiallyu frost up or condense moisture more readily than the rest of the surface - so any exposed (not fully painted over) nail or cover runs the risk of rusting more readily for that reason - plus may form a water spot or "shadow" around the fastener if not fully recessed, wood dough covered, and painted. So cutting off old nails and using new screws or nails (recessed) is best way to avoid that potential.

One other thing on the beadboard - if wood (as opposed to vinyl or vinly-coated) it is prone to soaking up moisture in bathrooms (whoever thought beadboard is an attractive bathroom surface must have been raised in a tenement in Brooklyn), so you need good paint covering on it to repel condensation from showers.

BTW - pay attention and use a detector so you don't drive nail/screws into pipes or wiring.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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