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The Best Ways To Prevent Studs From Showing Through Drywall

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You just finished moving into a new home or recently spent your weekend livening up your walls with a fresh coat of paint, congratulations! But your ceilings and walls are already beginning to show streaks and look dirty.  What happened and why can you see the studs and joists showing through your drywall? 

This phenomenon is known as ghosting or thermal cracking.  Excessive particulates in the air combined with a lack of insulation and air circulation will cause your ceilings and walls to look rather ghostly and dirty.

Home improvements are time consuming and they can be disheartening when the finished product doesn’t turn out as expected. 

Let’s take a closer look at how you can ensure any of your future weekends won’t be spent fighting to keep the inside of your home looking beautiful.

Damaged, peeling paint with water and rust spots on the wall

What Is Ghosting?

These dark streaks that appear along the framing of your walls and ceilings are a buildup of dirt and other particulates in the air. 

When colder air from outside the wall meets the warmer air from inside of the house it can create moisture around studs, joists, and drywall screws.  These wet spots have a tendency to trap these airborne particles, causing dark streaks.

Not exactly sure if this is what you are experiencing?  Here is a short video to show you what ghosting looks like. 

Common Factors Contributing To Ghosting

While there are a myriad of external forces outside of our control that can lead to ghosting, there are three main contributing factors that can be manipulated to avoid this problem.

  • Insulation
  • Air circulation
  • Air quality

A failure to remedy shortcomings in any of these aspects will create the perfect storm that’s guaranteed to leave the interior of your home looking lackluster.


Room under construction with silver aluminum insulation foil and drywall on walls and ceiling

The insulation within your walls and ceilings is what shields you inside of your home from variable outdoor temperatures, acting as a buffer between your walls. 

Insufficient insulation allows an excess of heat transfer to take place within the wall.  When the temperature outside doesn’t match the temperature inside, the wall becomes susceptible to condensation.

Air Circulation

Professional HVAC Technician with Flashlight Overlooking Finished Air Ventilation System

Your home’s HVAC system is responsible for distributing conditioned hot and cold air as well as maintaining a steady level of humidity. 

A faulty HVAC system can cause hot and cold air to be unevenly distributed, allow humidity to build or fall outside a normal range, and pump in unclean air from the outdoors.

Air Quality

There are many elements, both indoor and outdoor, that affect the air quality within your home. 

For instance, the wind can carry pollutants from motor vehicle traffic through an open window.  Things like fireplaces and gas burning appliances can add unwanted particulates into the air as well.

Best Ways To Prevent Ghosting

Now we know what ghosting is and what causes it.  Let’s take a look at some ways to prevent it from ever happening in the first place so that you don’t have to deal with this inconvenience more than once.

Proper Insulation Installation

Young man in goggles fixing drywall suspended ceiling

Making sure that your home is properly insulated not only helps reduce heating and cooling costs, but keeps your walls looking fresh for longer. 

Ample supply and even distribution within walls and ceilings will reduce the possibility of any cold spots forming that will hold moisture and attract dust.

All energy and insulation companies will have a specific recommendation for the type of insulation you should use based upon the climate you live in.

Servicing Your HVAC System

HVAC Air Quality Technologies Technician Finishing Project

When it comes to your home’s HVAC system it is imperative to have things like furnaces and water heaters regularly serviced to guarantee they are operating correctly. 

Periodically cleaning ducts, fans, and filters will ensure that dirt, dust, and gaseous byproducts are not being vented directly into your home where they will build up on surfaces.

Most industry professionals and manufacturers recommend that your HVAC system should be serviced once a year.  Maintaining this service schedule can lower your energy costs and keep unwanted airborne particles out of your home.

How To Clean Your Air

Indoor air purifier with digital monitor screen bright living room.

Unless you have a mobile home and the desire to put it on a truck and search for greener pastures, you can’t really control the contributing outdoor factors that result in poor air quality.

Luckily there are plenty of practices that you can employ within your home that will result in cleaner air. 

Burning anything indoors will lead to harmful byproducts being released into the air.  Both wood and gas burning fireplaces create smoke and soot. 

These byproducts are inevitable, however they can be largely avoided by installing proper ventilation to divert these particulates outside. 

Burning candles is another common contributor to poor indoor air quality.  While they may be popular for adding a pleasant smell to the air, it is these fragrances that release soot when burned. 

Switching to a hard wax candle with a shorter wick can combat this if you prefer to not give up burning candles altogether.

Air purifying fans are an efficient and cost effective way to filter out the residual byproducts of these practices as well as keep the humidity at an acceptable level. 

A high relative humidity within your home provides the moisture that these particles will cling to, however a home that is too dry will be prone to static electricity which can also attract dirt and grime.

removing of mold from wall with spray and brush

Reversing The Signs Of Ghosting

What if your walls are already covered with those dreaded dark streaks, are they fated to look like this forever? 

Relax, a little TLC will be enough to restore your walls to their former glory. Most importantly, you must identify and eliminate the source of the problem before cleaning your walls. 

Simply applying a new coat of paint will only temporarily mask the problem, not fix it.

First you will want to clean the affected surfaces with a product that will remove adulterants.  Long term build up of these particles can penetrate the surface of the wall or paint, so sometimes a quick wipe down won’t suffice. 

If the walls are in exceptionally bad shape, consider sanding them to ensure a smooth and even surface that paint will adhere to correctly.

Next, make sure that the surfaces are completely dry.  If you previously used humidifiers within the room it will need sufficient time to dry out. 

This process can be accelerated using a dehumidifier or fans.  Attempting to paint on a wet surface will make it harder for the paint to evenly adhere and leave the final product looking subpar and patchy.

Finally, it’s time to paint! 

Applying multiple coats will make sure that the remnants of those nasty black streaks don’t show through, but make sure to follow the directions on the can and give it time to dry before adding a second coat. 

Congratulations, your ceilings and walls are pristine once again!


Ghosting is unpleasant to look at and can be frustrating as an ongoing problem that never seems to quit – until now. Now that you are equipped with the knowledge and techniques to identify and prevent this eye sore, you can feel much more confident in your future home improvement endeavors


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