Home » Joint Compound Vs Spackle: What’s the Real Difference?

Joint Compound Vs Spackle: What’s the Real Difference?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy we may make a commission, at no additional charge to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more details.

For any DIY enthusiast wanting to fix minor flaws in walls, choosing between a joint compound and a spackle can be a real struggle. Both the products are used as patching compounds and may seem pretty similar. 

Despite the fact that both of them serve the same purpose, they are fundamentally different. On the basic standards of surface, finish, drying time, type of flow, and longevity, etc., they show performances that vary greatly from each other.

Even though it all boils down to your main purpose and personal choices, this detailed comparison will enable you to choose what’s right for your main goal.

Joint Compound Vs Spackle: Key features and Specifications

Here is a comparison table between a joint compound and a spackle. We have tried summarising all you need to know to make a quick decision:

Joint CompoundSpackle
Ease of applicationHard, requires some mixingEasy, ready-to-use
FinishRequires sanding and paintingUsually does not require sanding or painting
Drying timeTakes a few hours or even daysQuick-drying, within an hour
LongevityLasts several yearsMay come off after a certain period

Continue reading for a more in-depth analysis of the battle between a joint compound and a spackle.

Joint Compound

A joint compound, widely known as drywall mud or sheetrock mud, is a compound used for covering up larger patches in a wall. It has a complex composition, which mainly consists of gypsum packed in layers of paper. Remember, it is similar to traditional plaster in terms of consistency.

At your nearest store or Home Depot, joint compound may be sold as a powder, or in a pre-mixed form. You should buy the dry powder form, if you wish to spend less and save it for future use. Whereas, The pre-mixed form is best suited for people who want a ready-to-use option.

Keep in mind, buying a joint compound is highly recommended if you are going to work on a large-scale project.

Bonus read: For professional sanders, this product review and buyers’ guide will help you buy the best drywall sander!

All Purpose Joint Compound Ready Mixed

Types of Joint Compounds

It is easy to get puzzled by the huge variety of joint compounds available in the market. Here are some common types, with their designated purposes.

All-purpose joint compound 

Owing to its lightweight and durable material, this type can be used to smoothen wall textures, fill in holes, and cover cracks. Professionals often use all-purpose joint compounds in almost all steps of the drywall process because it is easy to spread and sand afterward.

Quick-setting joint compound 

As the name suggests, this one gets the job done quickly. This compound is used as the perfect solution to minor defects in walls and wood. It prevents further damage with its strong base coat. Note that you need to work it into the hole quickly and apply the coats right away.

Taping joint compound 

This type finds its primary use in drywall installations. It is designed to increase the bonding strength and crack resistance of drywalls. However, taping compounds are not recommended for use as finish coats or for simply fixing imperfections.

Taping joint compound

Topping joint compound

A topping joint compound is used for the application of final layers after repairs. This product is easy to sand and gives the desired smooth finish. It can also be saved and stored for future projects.

Pros 

  • Trouble-free application and sanding
  • Allows easy handling of large amounts
  • Ideal for hand railings and windowsills 
  • Effectively fills up large holes and cracks

Cons

  • Causes pockmarks on the walls
  • Health concerns due to potentially toxic ingredients

Spackle

To put it quite plainly, a spackle is a joint compound with added hardeners. It is more like a user-friendly version of a joint compound. Unlike joint compounds, spackles are also available in smaller tubs and pails. 

Spackles can dry off quickly, and the remaining process involving sanding and finishing can be done in less than thirty minutes. By and large, they are used in fixing minor nail holes, cracks, and in small household repairs. 

Spackle

Types of Spackles

Depending on the type of surface and the corresponding type of damage, spackles are mainly of four types. Here are their characteristics and uses:

Standard spackle 

Also known as the all-purpose spackle, it is best suited to objects and surfaces that are prone to frequent damage. Because it is tougher than other spackles, it may require sanding and painting later. 

Lightweight spackle

A lightweight spackling compound is considered the best for shallow holes, gaps, and minor scratches. In practice, it is used to fill in holes that have a width of less than an inch and a depth of about 1/4th inch. It dries fast, shrinks less, and gives a smooth finish. 

Vinyl spackle 

Vinyl spackles can be utilized to fix or polish many surfaces like plaster, wood, bricks, and stones. Another plus point is that it contains elastic polymers, which will firmly adhere to the surface upon hardening. 

Not to forget, the surface should be prepared before the application of vinyl spackling because it lasts for much longer than other similar compounds.

Epoxy spackle 

This kind of spackling is meant for restoring wooden surfaces. It has an oil-based composition. Consequently, it takes a long time to dry but it does mean that the spackle repair would last longer. 

After the epoxy is settled, it needs to be sanded and painted. Using an epoxy spackle requires effort and vigilance, but it gives you a perfect and permanent solution at the end.

Do you love creating DIY projects with the help of upcycled wood? Read our Woodworking 101 guide for fantastic woodworking tips!

Acrylic spackle 

Acrylic spackles are ideal for deep holes. The texture is flexible, allowing for clean application. Mostly, these have a water base, which makes the spot easy to clean. They also shrink a lot less than other types of spackles.

Pros

  • Ready-to-use formula
  • Available in tubes, small tubs, and cans
  • Time-saving
  • Effective for small, shallow holes

Cons

  • Not suitable for large-scale projects
  • Ineffective at sealing

Joint Compound Vs Spackle: Grounds of Comparison

Now that you are aware of the two patching compounds, their types, and their common uses, let’s compare them based on certain criteria. 

Surface

Your choice should always be influenced by the surface that you’re going to use it on. Remember that if a wooden object needs repair, you can never use a joint compound on it. Similarly, for drywalls, using spackle would be a terrible idea. 

Are both the products similar? Yes. Can you use them interchangeably? No.

As a rule of thumb, 

  • For wooden surfaces, always use spackle (preferably, use epoxy spackle).
  • For plaster walls, both can work but using joint compound is recommended.
  • For drywall, use joint compound only. 

Type & Depth of the Flaw

In the joint compound vs spackle discussion, one deciding factor should be the flaw itself. For comparatively larger holes or dents, always make sure to use joint compound. It would do a long-lasting job with a superior finish. 

If there are several visible nail pinholes or dints that need covering, a spackle would be a convenient and labor-saving solution. Even though joint compound may seem like a sturdier solution, it is not effective for smaller gaps. Joint compound will shrink and crack, leaving the spot to look like a mess. 

Remember: The smaller the flaw you are trying to fix, the lighter the patching compound you will need.

Drying time

Are you looking for a product that would provide a cheap and quick solution? Spackles are the way to go.

Are you willing to spend a day or two repairing that huge hole in the wall? Go ahead and buy a joint compound. 

As simple as that. 

Most spackles would harden within an hour. Then, you may want to use a topcoat and a layer of paint, but you will be done soon. On the contrary, a joint compound may take hours or days to dry off. It will then take you even longer to get the job done.

Longevity

Naturally, spackles look like a great option till now because you do not need to work hard to achieve the seemingly perfect solution. Just apply it evenly and you are done! 

But consider this, you bump into the same spot and the same crack is out in the open again. 

Nobody would want that, right? 

Yes, spackles are great but they can rarely be the permanent solution. They are not durable and hence, start crumbling and shrinking after some time. Therefore, joint compounds are the better options in this context and would last a long time. 

Pro tip: Use a spackle if the job requires less than 30 minutes.

Finish and Paintability

While you are already on the search for the right product, you might as well want to consider the aftereffects of using it. It is just as necessary to pay attention to this aspect because no one wants a shabby job done. 

Spackles are usually better than joint compounds when it comes to the finish. There are spackles available in the market, which do not require any sanding or final coats if used properly. On the other hand, while working with joint compounds, you will almost always have to go the extra mile. That is primarily because joint compounds tend to have a heavier grainy texture. 

Likewise, the patching compound is “paintable” if after drying off, it can be directly painted. Spackles would usually win again in this respect. But it is suggested to check the label of the product before buying to be sure.

Want to paint your kitchen walls, but don’t want to put up with the cumbersome task of sanding? This guide is for you!

Pricing

Usually, a standard joint compound pail will cost less than a tub of spackle. You may make a choice based on your budget, but it is equally important to consider all the specifications of both products. Both of them have varying constituents and diverse uses. 

It might not be the best idea to buy a spackle just because it came in a smaller pack. Likewise, buying a joint compound only because it was cheaper may be the wrong decision as well. 

Hence, choose wisely!

How to Fix Small Holes and Patches? – In Simple Steps

Fixing holes, filling up cracks, and smoothening the blemishes in walls are simple procedures that anyone can carry out with the right tools, a suitable patching medium, and some prior experience. 

The following are a few simple and easy techniques:

  1. Gather the right tools: Fixing small holes and dents requires some basic tools including a drywall knife, a mud knife, a spatula, a scraper tool, a mud trough, sandpaper, and a mini-roller.
  2. Prepare the surrounding area: Chip off the paint with a scraper tool. This would open up the holes a bit and clean the area.
  3. Wet the holes: Use a wet rag to clean the holes. This would ensure that paint flakes and dust particles are not sticking out.
  4. Press onto the holes: Use the back of your tools to lightly tap on the holes and damaged areas. This is to direct the indentation of the holes inwards.
  5. Mix the patching medium

    * If you use a pre-made mixture, then you can simply take out a small quantity with a spatula and work it in the mud trough to get the right consistency. 

    * Whereas, with a dry powder, you will need to add water and create the right texture.
  1. Apply the first coat:  Using the drywall knife, apply the first coat on the hole. Make sure it is even and consistent. Let it dry for some time.
  2. Sand:  Just when the first coat is about to set and is almost dry, even it with sandpaper.
  3. Go in with the second layer: Using the same tools and technique, apply the second coat and leave it to dry off completely. 
  4. Sand it again: Sand the area again. Ensure the surface is not grainy and is free of any bumps. 
  5. Primer: Use the mini-roller to apply a water-based primer to the area. Let it dry.
  6. Paint: The last step in the process is painting. 

And you are done!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I paint right over the joint compound?

You can paint right over it, but it is not recommended. Moisture seeps through the compound and causes pockmarks. Hence, you should use a primer before going in with a layer of paint.

What is the difference between putty and spackle?

Putty is available in many versions and strengths. It finds applications as a sealant, filler, and construction. Spackle, unlike putty, is not versatile and is used mainly to fill in holes.

Can I use spackle on plywood?

No. Ordinary spackling compound cannot be used as an alternative to wood filler. This is because plywood cannot absorb the spackling compound.

Joint Compound Vs Spackle: The Final Review

Let’s summarize:

Where to Use Spackle

  • Wooden surfaces
  • Visible nail holes or dents
  • Holes or crevices no more than ¼ inch in depth
  • Minor cracks

Where to Use Joint Compound

  • Large holes
  • Plaster walls
  • Drywall installations
  • Objects and places that will probably get damaged again

To conclude, what choice you make comes down to just a few deciding factors. Make the right choice after deliberating and comparing them on all possible grounds. 

In the end, it is you who gets to decide which patching compound wins the ongoing joint compound vs spackle debate.

Bonus Read: Finally learn how to waterproof wood for bathrooms, outdoors, and a bunch of other regions!