What’s the Difference Between Spackle and Joint Compound?

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Spackles and joint compounds are essential items for anyone working with drywall. Many people use the terms interchangeably when talking about home projects. However, both spackle and joint compound have specific uses. The kind of work you’re doing should dictate which product suits your needs. Here’s a breakdown of how the two products’ joint compound vs spackle differs. 

Joint CompoundSpackle
Made with gypsum and limestoneMade with gypsum powder and binders
Good for large-scale wall projectsGood for smaller wall repairs
Sold in large quantitiesSold in smaller amounts
Drying causes high shrinkageDrying causes low shrinkage
Harder to apply smoothlyEasier to apply smoothly

What is Joint Compound?

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Also known as drywall mud, joint compound is an easily spreadable mixture. The most common uses for joint compound include installing new drywall or fixing large sections of previously installed walls. It is also good for patching holes or indentations in walls. Certain kinds of joint compounds will have different consistencies, depending on their intended usage. 

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What is Spackle?

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Spackle is thicker than joint compound, with a consistency resembling toothpaste. Most spackles are designed for small repairs, such as filling in nail holes or other small areas of imperfection. However, other forms of spackle can be used on different materials such as brick, wood or plaster. 

Ingredients

Both joint compound and spackle contain gypsum, the same mineral that drywall is made from. Gypsum is not harmful to humans unless it is handled improperly. Along with gypsum, joint compound includes limestone, mica, clay, starch and perlite. Spackle is made with gypsum powder and various binders. 

Usage

Because of its thinner consistency, joint compound is meant to be spread over a larger area. In combination with mesh or fiber tape, drywall hangers use the compound to connect big pieces of drywall. After the mud dries, it can be sanded down with a fine-grit sandpaper. Sanding the compound down will give the wall a finished look and give painters a smooth area in which to work. 

Spackle is best for small repairs. Once applied to the wall, spackle dries within a range of 30 minutes to six hours. You’ll know the spackle is dry if the patch is not tacky to the touch. A fine grit sandpaper is also recommended for use on spackles. With proper patching and painting, no one will ever realize the wall has been damaged. 

Quantity

Because it is used on larger areas, joint compound comes in bigger containers. Depending on the size of the job, you can purchase as little as a quart or as much as a five-gallon container. You can also buy a powdered form of the compound and mix it yourself. 

Spackles are sold in smaller containers, like tubs.. Since it is primarily used for spot repairs, people typically do not need to use much of the material. As long as it is properly covered and stored, a small container of spackle will last a long time. 

Shrinkage

Drywall mud can take up to 24 hours to dry completely. As the compound cures, the exposure to air causes it to shrink. This high rate of shrinkage provides a solid seal between sections of drywall. However, visible cracks can sometimes occur as the material dries. 

With its lower rate of shrinkage, spackle makes smaller wall repairs quick and easy. The binding materials in the spackle give it an elastic quality which helps it almost seamlessly fill holes in the drywall. Reapplication of the material is generally unnecessary.. 

Ease of Use

The thin consistency of joint compound makes it easy to spread on drywall. However, the proper application of joint compound takes time and patience. More than one coat of compound is necessary to do a proper and complete job. It can be difficult to apply the compound smoothly on the walls and, because of its high shrinkage rate, the mud could very well crack. 

Spackle is thicker than the joint compound and more difficult to apply. However, since spackle is used primarily for smaller repairs, you won’t be using as much of it. You may not notice the extra effort required to use spackle.

Which One Should I Buy? 

Both joint compound and spackle are great tools for work around the house. Most homeowners will not see the need in keeping a large container of joint compound around the house, as it is designed for major projects. Spackle is an excellent thing to have in your toolbox for small fixes, such as filling thumbtack holes or covering up accidental drywall rips. Remember to use the right tool for the right job. By knowing how to use both joint compound and spackle, you’ll be prepared for any necessary wall repairs, regardless of their scope.

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