What’s The Difference? Joint Compound vs. Spackle

When talking about home repair, half the battle is in choosing the ideal product to use. Things get more challenging when the choice has to be between two products that do similar things but not the exactly same job.

For instance, when it comes to wall repair, the choice between joint compound or Spackle can become a real hurdle. But not again after reading this article! So, when should you go for a joint compound over Spackle and vice-versa?

Well, this comprehensive guide contains every iota of detail you probably want to know about the two products. We advise you to stick around as we delve into finding out more about each of these products.

What is Joint Compound?

Before we dig deep to see where to use joint compound, it’s good of us not to make any assumptions this early. First things first—what’s joint compound? Well, in simple terms, you can think of it as spreadable drywall.

In other words, joint compound is a name used for a combination of gypsum dust and water. Gypsum remains the main ingredient in drywall, and that’s why we began by saying that it’s safe to think of it as spreadable drywall. Another name for joint compound is drywall taping mud, although some professionals choose to refer to it as mud or gypsum mud.

When you want to use joint compound, mixing the gypsum dust with water might act as the starting point. That will depend on the product you choose. The creamy paste-like substance works for renovation and new build projects in place of the traditional plastering.

The consistency of gypsum mud compares to that of regular plaster. However, there are lots of differences that make joint compound a more attractive option for most professionals. For instance, gypsum mud is more forgiving than plaster. I mean, after application, joint compound provides a bigger room for rectification of mistakes.

Two Types of Joint Compound

When shopping for joint compound for your renovation projects, the store attendant will ask you a few questions to know the exact type of product you want. A case in point is the type of joint compound you want.

For that reason, it’s helpful that you know the exact product you want before you walk into that store. That aside—now, when buying joint compound, you will have to choose between two types—setting type joint compound and ready-mixed joint compound.

The setting-type joint compound

The setting-type joint compound comes in powder form like plaster. Therefore, you have to mix it with water to match your needs. This type of product comes with a variety of drying times. Some will dry in about just 20 minutes. Others may take 90 minutes or longer. If you don’t want to wait for long, go for one that’s going to set more quickly.

This type of joint compound doesn’t shrink easily. That means you necessarily don’t need several layers of it when filling deep voids. Also, this reality means that there are minimal chances of cracks.

When buying a setting-type joint compound, ensure that you choose the “lightweight” option. The regular joint compound becomes rock-hard when dry. That makes things harder for you when sanding.

On the downsides, a setting-type joint compound requires more work than the other type. That’s because you have to mix it with water yourself. Other shortcomings are that it’s more troublesome to clean up and that it doesn’t come with those nifty buckets.

Ready-Mixed Joint Compound

The second type of joint compound is as the name says. In other words, this joint compound comes as a ready-made product in a bucket. Therefore, you don’t have to face the hassle of having to mix the two. That saves you a step, meaning that using this product will save you time.

Also, since it doesn’t need water, it’s a well-suited option for new builds where the water supply is yet to be functional. The ready-mixed joint compound is also easier to apply compared to the other type.

However, before you buy this type, you should be aware of the shortcomings. For instance, since it comes pre-mixed, it can develop mold when kept for long. Therefore, unless you are planning to use the whole amount, go for the powder form.

The other downside about the pre-mixed version is that it takes longer to dry. That means you shouldn’t go for it unless you can be patient with it. However, more time means that you can manipulate it long after applying.

Where To Use Joint Compound

Now that you understand what a joint compound is and the two types, next is to know where you can use it. Joint compound serves as the best option for hanging drywall. It works ideally well to tape and finish drywall seams.

Therefore, if you are dealing with a big drywall renovation project, think about the joint compound. The product is for use in jobs that need larger quantities. That’s why it costs less than Spackle.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for smaller projects like patching holes. However, for such products, Spackle works ideally. That’s because it resists shrinkage better than the joint compound.

Advantages of Joint Compound

  • Ideal for large projects
  • Easy to use
  • Budget-friendly

Disadvantages of Joint Compound

  • Usually needs more time to dry

What is Spackle?

After joint compound, the next product we want to examine deeply is Spackle. It shares lots of similarities with the joint compound. For instance, you may have a difficult time distinguishing between the two by looking. However, with continuous interaction with either of the products, you will find it pretty easy to differentiate between the two products.

Like with joint compound, Spackle contains gypsum powder as the main ingredient. Also, it’s paste-like but feels thicker than the joint compound. While it may not come in handy when doing heavy renovation projects, you will appreciate how helpful it turns in some situations.

If you’ve been keen enough, you might have noticed that I have been using a capital “S” when writing Spackle. That’s because Spackle is simply a trademark name.

Like compound joint, you will have to choose between two forms when buying Spackle. Although personal preference may play a part here, the nature of your project should be the one to dictate the product to choose. Depending on your project, you can opt for either of the two forms—powdered or pre-mixed.

When you buy powdered Spackle, the product will come in a powder form, just as the name suggests. The powdered Spackle will require you to mix the correct amount you want to use with water. Since it doesn’t contain water, powdered Spackle has a longer shelf life than the pre-mixed form.

The pre-mixed comes in a paste-like form. Therefore, it’s a product that’s ready for use right off the bat. However, since it’s pre-mixed, it may not last for a very long time. With that said, opt for it if you know you aren’t going to store the product for long.

Types of Spackle

We can come up with different types of Spackle depending on the criteria we use for classification. When we group them based on consistency, we have two types: lightweight Spackle and heavy Spackle.

Lightweight Spackle

This type of compound is from vinyl. As the name hints, it’s lightweight and dries almost instantaneously once you apply it. It works ideally for filling small holes, such as those left by nails and pins. Basically, lightweight Spackle works ideally for holes that are no larger than 1/4-inch wide.

Heavy Spackle

At times this type is also called an all-purpose variety. Unlike the former that’s of vinyl, heavy Spackle is from acrylic. That means it will take more time to dry compared to the lightweight Spackle. In terms of use, heavy Spackle works incredibly well for larger voids. The word “large” in this case means more than 1/4-inch in diameter.

How To Use Spackle

Even with the correct product, you can’t make the most out of it if you don’t use it appropriately. These steps will guide you when spackling a wall.

Step 1: Choose the product

You know that you need Spackle and not joint compound. What you should do next is choose the type to buy. This decision should come from the nature of projects. Choose between heavy and lightweight Spackle depending on your needs. You also have to decide on whether to go with a pre-mixed version or a powdered Spackle.

Step 2: Prepare the wall

This involves creating a favorable ground for the Spackle to stick. Here, consider removing any debris inside and around the perimeter of the wall. You can achieve this using fine-grit sandpaper or a putty knife.

Step 3: Mix the product and apply

If you chose to go with a powdered product, mix it with water. Ensure that you add small amounts until you achieve a consistency that’s easy to spread. If you went for a pre-mixed product, you don’t need this step. What you may need to do is stir it if you had previously opened the container. Once the product is in a ready-to-use state, apply it to the hole using a putty knife.

Step 4: Remove the excess

Once you apply the product, use the putty knife to remove any excess amount. Here, you have to be gentle to avoid pulling the putty from the hole. For areas surrounding the repair site, use a sponge or damp cloth to clean any compound before it dries.

Step 5: Review

After you apply, come back after an hour or two to see the results. If you were dealing with a deep hole, say more than 1/4-inch deep, you will more often need to apply the product several times. Where re-application is necessary, repeat all the previous steps.

Step 6: Sanding

The last step is to sand the place. Once the Spackle dries and doesn’t need any re-application, you will need to use fine-grit sandpaper. Using the sandpaper, work on the place gently until it becomes level with the surrounding surface.

Advantages of Spackle

  • Perfect for filling holes.
  • It barely shrinks.
  • Takes less time to dry

Disadvantages of Spackle

  • It costs more

­Joint Compound Vs Spackle—What Should You Choose?

Although they work the same way, these products aren’t the same. So, which is better than the other? Well, as we’ve seen so far, all these products work incredibly well when used for the right purpose.

If you want one for heavy projects, joint compound should serve you well. It costs way less, making it a cheaper option where larger amounts are needed. However, for smaller projects like hole filling, Spackle works ideally.

At times, you will need the two products. If you can grab them both, that’s good of you. However, where you don’t have money to buy the two putties, we advise that you choose the compound joint. That’s because you can use it for applications that need Spackle. Nevertheless, you can’t use Spackle in place of joint compound.

With that said, for DIY applications, we see joint compound as the better option of the two. That’s because joint compound outshines Spackle in areas of versatility, cost efficiency, durability, and more.

For professional applications or projects that need a professional-grade outcome, the two products are equally important. That’s because none performs better than the other for applications made for the other.

Differences Between Joint Compound and Spackle

We know that we’ve discussed a lot. But can you tell the difference between the two? If you are still puzzled, this table summarizes the differences between the two products. Examine it keenly to see the product that you need for your applications.

Differences Between Joint Compound and Spackle

Comparison CriteriaJoint CompoundSpackle
Main IngredientGypsum dustGypsum powder
DurabilityMore durableLess durable
Drying TimeTakes more timeFast
ShrinkageIt shrinks moreIt may not shrink
Scope of workLarge projects like drywall hanging projectsSmall renovation projects like filling small holes
CostUsually cheaperUsually more expensive
VersatilityCan be used in place of SpackleYou can’t use it as an alternative product to joint compound

Final Word

The difference between joint compound and Spackle is little that most people use them interchangeably. While one is a close substitute for the other, the vice-versa isn’t true. Still, you can’t go with versatility since no product outshines the other in its specific area of use.

That’s why you have to know when to use each. Over the years, distinguishing the two has been a major hurdle. However, after examining each product from head to toe, I believe that you can now know when to use what product.

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