There’s no shortcut to using the right products for your home repair project. Take joint compound vs spackle for instance. Both products have similar intended purposes, especially regarding wall repair or drywall installation. 

The tricky part is that both construction materials are similar – white and thick, with a paste-like consistency. However, there are differences between them. So, which one should you choose and for what purpose?

What is a joint compound? 

joint compound

A joint compound is nothing but just mud aka drywall mud. This mixture of primarily gypsum and limestone also has clay, mica, perlite, and starch in different proportions. Generally, it has the consistency and texture of mud.

You can use the mixture for wall repair projects or new drywall constructions. Or even to fix small holes in the wall, smooth out wall dents, or repair plaster walls. Large area damage will probably require wall replastering. 

Joint compound key features

A joint compound is primarily utilized to join and create a smooth surface on freshly installed drywall. It is available in pre-mixed containers ranging from 1 quart to 5 gallons or as a powder that can be mixed with water to cover extensive areas. It is important to note that a joint compound requires a considerable drying period of up to 24 hours before it can be sanded or painted.

Depending on the compound type, the cost may vary. Generally, it’s a reasonably priced material. 

Here are different types of joint compounds. These include

  • All-purpose joint compound for the wall patching process.
  • Topping joint compound for a final coat that’s spread onto a wall with two dried coats of taping compound.
  • Taping joint compound that is spread over drywall tape to set the seam between the drywall.
  • Quick-setting joint compound that patches deep wall cracks and wide holes.

What is a spackle? 


This mix of gypsum powder and binders is thicker than a joint compound. It’s available in a premixed tub container – in different grades, for different surfaces, different applications, and even outdoor repairs.

You can fill in dings and dents, nail holes, or any small damage on your wall. The best part is that this compound dries much faster than a joint compound. In fact, it dries within half an hour! 

Spackle key features

Spackle is designed specifically for minor repair tasks, characterized by its thicker consistency compared to joint compound, which makes it more difficult to apply evenly. Its unique composition includes a binding agent mixed with gypsum powder, enhancing its elasticity and reducing the risk of cracking or shrinking during the drying process. A spackle may be slightly pricier than a joint compound. 

Polyfilla, a multipurpose filler brand in the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and Canada is used as a spackling paste. However, it’s cellulose-based.

There are different types of spackling compounds. These include

  • Lightweight spackling compound that has a fine aggregate of sodium silicate and an adhesive. It’s perfect for repairing smaller wall cracks, dings, and holes. However, it doesn’t sand well and is best only for quick, small fixes in the wall. 
  • Standard/all-purpose spackling compound. This gypsum-based mixture helps to repair larger cracks, holes, and gouges in drywall.
  • Vinyl spackling compound is applied in layers to fill in holes and cracks that are up to 3/4-inch deep. It can be used for exterior wall repairs. It doesn’t dry out or crumble and sands well.
  • Acrylic spackling compound is flexible and can be used on drywalls, stone walls, brick walls, wood walls, or plaster walls. 
  • Epoxy spackling compound. This oil-based filler can effectively repair wall holes, gouges, and cracks in wood.

Joint compound vs spackle: Difference at a glance

Joint Compound Spackle 
Has gypsum dust and limestoneHas gypsum and adhesive agent 
Best for large-scale projects or wall repairsBest for small repairs 
Ideal for taping and finishing drywall seams, hanging drywall Ideal for filling in small to large holes, minor damages
Sold in large containersSold in smaller pre-mixed tubs
Thin, mud-like consistencyThick, toothpaste-like consistency
Longer drying timeQuick drying time
High shrinkage after dryingLess shrinkage on drying
Less difficult to smooth out wallsMore difficult to smooth out walls

How to use joint compound and spackling compound?


Ideal for smaller than a half-inch holes in drywall or plaster.

  • Prepare the area by taking out any loose drywall surrounding the hole.
  • Use a putty knife to apply the spackle. Hold the knife at a 45-degree angle and move it downwards until the hole is filled.
  • Get rid of any extra spackle using the putty knife.
  • Allow the spackle to dry. If needed, apply another layer.
  • Once completely dry, use sandpaper to make the surface smooth and remove any remaining dust.

Joint compound

Ideal for medium-sized holes or cracks in drywall or plaster. 

  • Use a joint compound with a reinforcing mesh made of aluminum to give the compound something to bind to and prevent crumbling over time.
  • Use mesh tape or a patch to the prepped surface.
  • Cover the hole completely.
  • Apply the joint compound and let it dry completely.
  • Sand and finish the wall. 

Joint compound vs spackle: Which one is more suitable?

spackle vs joint

The majority of homeowners will likely find spackle sufficient for their needs. However, both joint compound and spackle serve different purposes, and selecting the appropriate one for the task at hand is crucial.

The general rule of thumb is to utilize a spackling compound for small cracks or nail holes and a drywall compound and drywall tape for larger cracks or holes in the wall.

Read more: Tips to decorate a large wall

What to remember when using both joint compound and spackle?

Working efficiently is crucial when using joint compound and spackle. Both substances, when in contact with air, can begin to dry out. Spackle dries faster. Therefore, you must keep these materials covered when not in use. 

If you’re preparing your own spackle or joint compound by combining water and a powdered mixture, it is advisable to make only the required amount – not more.

In case you’re using a joint compound for a DIY project for a minor repair task, it may be impractical to buy a large quantity of it. 

Also, keep in mind that unless you’re an experienced DIYer, you may not achieve as smooth a texture or a flawless finish as a licensed professional.

Last thoughts

If you’re embarking on a do-it-yourself project at home, it’s crucial to select appropriate tools, methods, and strategies. One common inquiry among homeowners is whether to utilize joint compound or spackle. When choosing between joint compound and spackle, the decision primarily depends on the nature of your project. While both materials may seem similar, their chemical composition, texture, and purpose of use are distinct from one another.

A joint compound, also known as drywall mud, or just mud, is commonly employed on fresh, incomplete walls for the purpose of hiding joints, seaming tape, and screws. It is occasionally utilized for extensive repairs on walls previously finished. On the contrary, a spackle is used to fill nail holes and rectify the dents that occur in everyday life.

Joint compound vs spackle: Which one to use for your wall was last modified: August 25th, 2023 by Ramona Sinha
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