HomeHome OrganizationJoint Compound vs Spackle: What’s the Difference

Joint Compound vs Spackle: What’s the Difference

When it comes to achieving flawless walls and surfaces, two essential tools come to the rescue: joint compound and spackle. These versatile materials are a DIY enthusiast’s best friends, allowing you to mend cracks, holes, and imperfections with ease. In this guide, we’ll delve deep into the world of joint compound vs spackle, exploring their differences, applications, and expert tips to help you achieve seamless results that will leave your walls looking as good as new.

Joint Compound VS Spackle: A Quick Overview.

AspectsJoint CompoundSpackle
Composition                           Mixture of gypsum and additivesMixture of gypsum and binders
UsageUsed for taping and finishing drywall joints, covering seams, and embedding tapeUsed for small repairs, filling nail holes, and minor surface imperfections
ConsistencyThicker and smoother textureThicker and paste-like consistency
Drying timeLonger drying time, requires multiple coats and sandingQuick drying time, usually one coat is sufficient
ApplicationApplied with taping knives or joint knivesApplied with putty knives or spatulas
StrengthProvides strong, durable bondSuitable for lightweight repairs
Coverage AreaCovers larger surface areasSuitable for small, localized repairs
SandingRequires sanding for smooth finishGenerally requires minimal or no sanding
PrimingTypically requires primer before paintingMay or may not require primer before painting
ProjectsIdeal for larger drywall projectsSuitable for quick touch-ups and small projects
VersatilityUsed for both large and small projectsSuitable for quick touch-ups and small projects
CostGenerally more cost-effectiveRelatively inexpensive


What Is Joint Compound?

Joint Compound
Source: freepik.com

Joint compound, also known as drywall mud or simply mud, is primarily composed of gypsum and limestone. Alongside these, it incorporates various other constituents like clay, mica, perlite, and starch. 

Its consistency is akin to spreadable mud, from which it derives its common name. Nevertheless, the texture varies based on the specific formulation of joint compound.

Typically, this substance finds utility in extensive wall mending undertakings or during fresh drywall installations. Moreover, it serves to remedy minor perforations, even out blemishes in walls, and effectuate slight to moderate fixes in plastered walls. 

For substantial voids in plastered surfaces, however, the more likely recourse would be replastering, given that plaster sets rapidly and is generally more intricate to manipulate compared to joint compound or spackle.

Uses and Costs:

Uses and Costs of joint compound
Source: freepik.com

The primary application of joint compound lies in the seamless integration and refinement of newly installed drywall. It comes in two forms: pre-mixed within containers ranging from 1-quart to 5-gallon volumes or as a powdered variant that can be blended with water. 

While it can be employed to fill holes and tackle smaller assignments, it’s packaging typically leans towards larger quantities, indicating its intended use for covering expansive surfaces. 

Furthermore, joint compound demands a specific duration for drying, potentially spanning up to 24 hours before becoming amenable for sanding or painting. The combination can be categorized into four types:

  • All-purpose: Utilized throughout various phases of the patching process.
  • Topping: Employed for the ultimate coat, usually layered onto a wall following two dried coats of taping compound.
  • Taping: Applied over drywall tape to establish a seamless seam between drywall sections.
  • Quick-setting: Dries accelerated compared to other variants, making it suitable for mending substantial cracks and broad holes.

In terms of cost, joint compound is reasonably priced. Even with that, there may be more prudent choices than acquiring a sizable container of the substance for minor repair endeavors despite its initial affordability. Additionally, achieving a polished finish with a joint compound can prove challenging for sure homeowners due to its texture. 

A flawless result necessitates practice and patience, as it takes time to master the art of achieving a seamless surface.

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How to Use Joint Compounds?

Using joint compound effectively involves several steps to achieve a smooth and seamless finish on your drywall or repair project. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Joint compound (pre-mixed or powdered)
  • Putty knife or taping knife
  • Drywall tape (if applicable)
  • Sandpaper or sanding block
  • Clean water and a bucket (if using powdered joint compound)
  • Drop cloths or plastic sheeting
  • Safety gear (gloves, goggles, dust mask)


  1. Clear workspace; use drop cloths or plastic to catch mess. Ensure drywall is clean, dry, and free from debris.
  2. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing with water. Achieve smooth, creamy consistency.
  3. Load putty/taping knife with joint compound. For seams, apply a thin layer, and press into the seam; for holes, slightly overfill. For drywall tape, press into the wet compound.
  4. Use a knife to feather edges, and create a gradual transition. Apply thin layers, and avoid thick layers to prevent cracking.
  5. Allow thorough drying; it can take up to 24 hours. Wet grayish color changes to a dry white color.
  6. When fully dry, gently sand with fine-grit paper/block. Achieve a smooth, level surface with surrounding drywall. Wear a dust mask for safety.
  7. Apply more layers and sand between for desired finish. Build up until the surface is flawless and seamless.
  8. Clean tools promptly to prevent compound hardening.
  9. Prime and paint once the sanded surface is clean. Match wall’s overall appearance.

Pros and Cons of Joint Compound:

Pros Cons 

Suitable for various drywall applications, from repairs to installations.

Drying Time: 

Joint compound can take a while (up to 24 hours or more) to fully dry and be ready for sanding or painting.

Seamless Finish: 

Can be used to achieve a smooth and seamless surface when properly applied and sanded.

Practice Needed: 

Achieving a professional finish requires practice and skill, especially for beginners.

Easy to Apply:

Spreadable consistency allows for easy application and feathering.


Joint compound can shrink as it dries, leading to the need for additional layers or touch-ups.

Variety of Types: 

Different types (all-purpose, topping, taping, quick-setting) cater to specific needs in the drywall process.

Sanding Dust:

Sanding joint compound generates a significant amount of fine dust, necessitating protective gear and cleanup.

Repair Capabilities:

Ideal for filling holes, cracks, and smoothing imperfections in walls.

Not Suitable for Load-Bearing: 

Should not be used as a structural element or for load-bearing applications.

What is Spackle?

What is Spackle paste
Source: freepik.com

Drywall spackle compound is composed of gypsum powder and binding agents. Its consistency, resembling toothpaste, is thicker compared to joint compound (drywall mud). Sold in pre-mixed tubs, spackle comes in various grades tailored for specific uses.

Spackle is employed to repair minor wall imperfections such as dents, nail holes, and small damages. It boasts a quicker drying time than joint compound, often within 30 minutes. 

Types of Spackles:

Different types of spackling compounds exist, with some suitable for various surfaces or outdoor applications.

  • Lightweight Spackling Compound:

Contains fine aggregate with sodium silicate and adhesive. Designed for small repairs like dings, holes, and cracks. Not ideal for sanding; meant for quick, minor fixes.

  • Standard/All-Purpose Spackling Compound:

Gypsum-based, similar to joint compound. Suitable for repairing larger holes, gouges, and cracks in drywall.

  • Vinyl Spackling Compound:

Fills holes and cracks up to 3/4-inch deep. Applied in layers. Doesn’t dry out or crumble. Sands well. Can be used outdoors.

  • Acrylic Spackling Compound:

Flexible like vinyl. Applicable on drywall, stone, brick, wood, or plaster. Usable outdoors.

  • Epoxy Spackling Compound:

Oil-based filler. Repairs holes, gouges, cracks, or imperfections in wood. Can be used outdoors.

Uses and Cost

Spackle is designed for minor repairs, featuring a thicker consistency than joint compound, which can make spreading more challenging. 

Due to its blend of binding agents and gypsum powder, it possesses elasticity and reduced susceptibility to cracking or shrinking when drying. While spackle tends to be slightly pricier than joint compound, it’s not a direct comparison.

Joint compound is intended for larger surface areas, leading to greater consumption in drywall projects. While spackle might come in modest containers, its usage involves mere ounces at a time, allowing a single tub to remain viable for months, if not years.

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How to use Spackle:

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Spackle compound
  • Putty knife or spackling knife
  • Sandpaper or sanding block
  • Clean, damp cloth
  • Safety gear (gloves, goggles, dust mask)
  • Drop cloths or plastic sheeting (optional)


Prepare the Area:

  1. Clear the workspace and protect surrounding surfaces with drop cloths or plastic sheeting if necessary. Ensure the area to be repaired is clean, dry, and free from dust or debris.
  2. Choose the appropriate type of spackle for your repair. Different types are designed for various applications and surfaces.
  3. Load a small amount of spackle onto the putty or spackling knife. Apply a thin layer of spackle over the damaged area. For larger holes or deeper cracks, apply in layers, allowing each layer to dry before adding more.
  4. Use the knife to spread the spackle evenly over the damaged area. Feather the edges to create a gradual transition between the repaired spot and the surrounding surface. This helps achieve a smoother finish.
  5. Let the spackle dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drying times vary but are usually shorter than joint compound, often around 30 minutes to an hour.
  6. Once the spackle is completely dry, gently sand the repaired area using fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding block. Sand until the surface is smooth and blends seamlessly with the surrounding wall.  Wear a dust mask to protect yourself from dust particles.
  7. Wipe the sanded area with a clean, damp cloth to remove any dust or residue.
  8. Inspect the repaired area. If it’s not perfectly smooth or level, you can apply another thin layer of spackle, repeating the process.
  9. Once satisfied with the repair, prime and paint the area to match the rest of the wall.

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Pros and Cons of Spackle:

Pros Cons
Easy Application: Spackle is thicker and easier to apply for smaller repairs.Limited Coverage: Spackle is best suited for small repairs and may not be ideal for covering larger areas.
Quick Drying: Spackle typically dries faster than joint compound, often within 30 minutes to an hour.Not Ideal for Large Areas: For significant repairs or whole-wall applications, joint compound is more appropriate.
Elasticity: The addition of binding agents makes spackle more flexible, reducing the likelihood of cracking or shrinking as it dries.Less Versatile: While it’s excellent for minor wall repairs, spackle might not be the best choice for all drywall-related tasks.
Precision: Spackle’s thicker consistency allows for more precise filling of small holes, dings, and cracks.Thicker Consistency: Its thicker texture can make it more challenging to spread and feather smoothly, especially for beginners.
Convenience: Spackle comes in small containers, and a little goes a long way, making it practical for occasional repairsHigher Cost: Spackle can be more expensive per unit compared to joint compound, but the usage quantities are different.

Expert Tips for Seamless Results

1- Layering Technique

When applying joint compound, use the layering technique. Start with a thin layer, followed by wider layers, feathering each one to achieve a smooth transition. This technique minimizes the need for excessive sanding.

2- Sanding Between Coats

For the best results, sand lightly between each coat of joint compound or spackle. This prevents uneven buildup and helps you achieve a seamless finish.

3- Feathering Edges

Whether you’re applying joint compound or spackle, feather the edges of the patch to blend it seamlessly with the surrounding surface. This technique ensures that the repair is virtually invisible.

4- Optimal Drying Time

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for drying times between coats and before sanding. Rushing this step can lead to subpar results.


In conclusion, the choice between joint compound and spackle depends on the specific needs of your project. With its versatile applications and strong bond, the joint compound is ideal for larger drywall projects but requires more time and skill to achieve a seamless finish. 

On the other hand, spackle is perfect for quick touch-ups and minor repairs, thanks to its easy application and short drying time. Both materials have strengths and weaknesses, and understanding their distinctions will empower you to choose the right tool for your DIY endeavors confidently. 

Remember to follow expert tips for optimal results, such as layering, sanding, feathering edges, and allowing proper drying time. Whether aiming for flawless walls or minor repairs, knowing the differences between joint compound and spackle will lead you to achieve professional-looking results.

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Gabriel, a skilled individual with a wealth of knowledge and expertise, he specializes in diagnosing and resolving various problems that arise with Smart TVs. Additionally, he offers valuable advice on how to maintain and prolong the optimal functioning of these devices.


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