Skip to main content

Joint compound vs. spackle: The differences explained

Yes, spackle and joint compound are different. Here's how to know which to use for your project

Person with putty knife patching drywall
onajourney / Shutterstock

As you embark on your next DIY project or home renovation, you may be scratching your head about the difference between spackle and joint compound. You can use both for patching or correcting drywall blemishes, but how do you know which will best suit the needs of your project? There is a difference between joint compound vs. spackle. So, we’re here to help you decide which is best for your next renovation.

What’s joint compound?

Person using drywall tape to repair drywall
schankz / Shutterstock

Joint compound, also called drywall mud, is a spreadable material made of gypsum, limestone, and other minerals. It’s often sold in 5-gallon containers or in powder form that mixes with water to reach the desired consistency.

Recommended Videos

There are several types of joint compound and all can suit your project needs. Here are the types of joint compound:

  • All-purpose. As the name suggests, it can be used in various home improvement projects.
  • Setting compound. This is also called quick-setting compound and can hasten DIY projects and quick wall fixes.
  • Taping. This compound is specifically made to cover joint tape and create a seamless look with your existing drywall.
  • Topping. This joint compound is used as a top coat for a smooth finish.

When to use joint compound

Joint compound is great for patching larger holes or cracks in the wall or repairing gouges. DIYers often use it to replace or patch broken or destroyed drywall with mesh or tape. Joint compound is great for smoothing or evening out surfaces to eradicate dents, dips, or other blemishes.

What joint compound is used for:

  • Minor drywall repairs that require smoothing or evening out the surface
  • Small to medium drywall repairs by using and covering drywall mesh
  • Designed to cover larger areas, so it’s best suited for bigger projects rather than small dents, holes, or cracks

Joint compound isn’t the most suitable for smaller projects because it is often sold in larger quantities. Additionally, joint compound can take some time to dry, often requiring 24 hours before sanding or painting. However, setting compound can have faster drying times.

What is spackle?

Person spackling yellow wall
Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH / Shutterstock

If you’re looking to fill in small cracks or holes in the wall, you’ve likely been told to use spackle. Spackle is made of gypsum powder and other binders to create a thick paste, perfect for filling holes and grooves. It’s thicker than drywall mud, making it trickier to smooth out. It also doesn’t sand as well as joint compound, depending on the type of spackle you choose. The different types of spackle include:

  • Lightweight. This spackle is meant for small fixes like nail-sized holes or small cracks. It doesn’t sand well, meaning a smoother finish on a bigger project will be difficult.
  • Standard/all-purpose. A gypsum-based compound similar to joint compound. This is best for larger holes and repairs in drywall.
  • Vinyl. This compound is great for outdoor use. It can also fill holes or deep cracks when applied in layers.
  • Acrylic. Similar to vinyl, this spackle is ideal for the outdoors and on a variety of materials.
  • Epoxy. This oil-based filler is meant for wood repairs like holes, cracks, or other imperfections.

When to use spackle

As mentioned above, spackle is best used on small projects.

Some examples of when to use spackle include:

  • Smaller cracks, nail holes, and wall imperfections
  • Deeper holes and gouges in drywall or other materials
  • Best for small repair jobs

Which should you choose?

Person sanding down uneven walls
Sergiy1975 / Shutterstock

The scope of your project will play a major role in deciding whether to use spackle or joint compound.

Based on project

For larger fixes, drywall repairs, or for smoothing out your drywall, you’ll want to opt for joint compound. It’s more spreadable than spackle and is perfect for making a seamless transition between your repair and your existing drywall.

Alternatively, spackle will be the better choice for smaller fixes, filling holes, or sealing cracks. Spackle is thick but doesn’t warp once it sets. It’s less likely to shrink or crack over time. Additionally, it sets much faster than joint compound, which can help you save time on your DIY or home renovation.

Based on cost

While you’re likely to base your decision on the scale and scope of your project, choosing joint compound vs. spackle may require you to consider pricing.

Both are relatively affordable. The difference is that joint compound is often sold in larger containers, while spackle is sold in smaller quantities. This makes joint compound best for larger projects. Spackle is sold in small containers. Most projects requiring spackle only need a few ounces at a time.

Before purchasing joint compound or spackle, consider your project needs. If you’re patching drywall or smoothing large cracks or dents, joint compound will be your go-to. Just keep in mind that a perfect, flat finish takes patience.

If you’re filling small holes in the wall or correcting a few tiny blemishes, spackle will be your tool of choice. Keep in mind that not all spackle sands easily, and you may have to work quickly to prevent it from drying before you’re satisfied with the results.

Editors' Recommendations

Amelia Wilson
Amelia Wilson (author pen name Amelia J. Wilson) is a content writer in Greenwood, IN. She often enjoys topics on…
How to install a wall heater in your garage
how to install a wall heater shutterstock 1395135974

If you live in a chilly climate, you know there are certain areas of the house that reach uncomfortably cold temperatures in the winter. Basements, attics, and garages are all popular spaces to install convection or radiant heaters. When you go with a mountable heater, installation is obviously a bit trickier than just using a portable space heater. That's why we're going to walk you through how to install a wall heater in one of the most crucial work areas of your home: the garage.

How much does it cost to install a wall heater?
The price of electrical wall heaters varies between $100 and $400, depending on wattage and overall quality. These can typically be self-installed to save on labor costs, but if you decide to hire an HVAC specialist to install it, this will add between $200 and $300 for a couple of hours of labor.
Do wall heaters use a lot of electricity?
Electric wall heaters tend to cost a lot less to operate than propane heaters since they're more energy-efficient. They will still increase your energy bill every month, though. During cold months when you're heating the garage regularly, you should plan for an additional $100 per month on your electric bill with a wall heater.
Can I install a wall heater myself?
Installing your own wall heater takes a good amount of time and some DIY skill with running electrical wiring. Typically, most simple installations take less than a day to complete, but that time lengthens if the job is more complicated. There are some factors that could require a professional installation due to safety risks or complexity:

Read more
This is how much paint you will actually need for your next DIY project
how much paint do i need shutterstock 425530825

There are few home renovation projects that are as simple and rewarding as a new coat of paint. Even though the process of painting is fairly straightforward, there are some questions that often have DIYers scratching their heads: Do I need primer? What type of paint should I use? How do I decide on a color?

Of course, one of the most common questions would-be painters ask is: How much paint do I need for my project? We'll walk you through how to calculate the amount of paint you need so that you don't waste money.

Read more
How to install a kitchen faucet (and save a ton of money)
how to replace kitchen faucet shutterstock 404421880

Making updates to your house is a great way to both increase the value of your home and improve your quality of life. Kitchen remodels are among the most rewarding, and one great place to start is the kitchen faucet. Replacing that old faucet can really give the space a simple and effective facelift, but can you install a faucet yourself? With a little elbow grease and a splash of DIY skill, you certainly can, and we're going to walk you through how to do it.

Is installing a kitchen faucet hard?
Installing a new faucet is among the easiest of DIY home projects, and it could take as little as an hour to complete. Challenges with this project, which can lengthen the project's time and increase the level of difficulty, typically arise when the old faucet is being removed. Common problems include corroded pipes as well as nuts and fittings that are difficult to reach or tough to remove due to corrosion or rust. With some extra tools, you should be able to remove difficult nuts and fittings, but corroded pipes may require the services of a plumber.
Preparing for kitchen faucet replacement
Prior to settling on a model for your new faucet, check under your sink and see how many holes are currently there. There could be holes for the spout as well as separate holes for the hot and cold handles. Some sinks also have holes for sink sprayers or soap dispensers.

Read more