Joint Compound vs Spackle: What the Difference Between Them

It’s notoriously a tough job to find out the differences between joint compound and spackle when it comes to repairing wall projects.

Why not would it be?

Where the similarities are many, narrowing down the distinctions become tight. But in reality, they do bear some differences which help us to choose them for their significant purposes.

I think these confusions won't end if we don’t portray the in-depth facts with precision.

So today, I am going to tell you what’s the difference between a joint compound and spackle.

Read on!

What is Joint Compound?

Basically, the joint compound is made of various compounds. It’s more like a recipe that contains different ingredients.

Here, the primary ingredient is gypsum. And, verily, it’s also called gypsum mud.

So, when you intend to apply joint compound on a damaged wall surface, you need to mix the gypsum dust with a convenient amount of water.

Here, you don’t need to care about the consistency as it blends effortlessly.

A paste-like mixture, which is more like a clay mask or cream, ensures effortless repairing and comprehensive maintenance.

The thing is that joint compound holds the same consistency as a regular plaster does. Also, plaster is one of the joint compound types. But they are a world apart when it comes to action.

Apparently, joint compounds work more effectively on renovation or any drywall projects.

When you’re working on drywall installations, you can attach the large gypsum sheet on the wall and finally coat them with joint compound. Just like you do the cake frosting.

For your convenience, it also arrives in pre-mixed containers. In fact, pre-mixed ones are universally cherished for easy and fast action.

Types of Joint Compound

You will witness a variety of joint compounds. The main types are pre-mix joint compound and hot mix joint compound, which is also called setting type.

Pre-Mix vs Setting Type

We have a pre-mix joint compound, which is air-dried. And on the flip side, we have a joint compound which isn’t pre-mix, comes as a powder and often called a hot mix.

In the pre-mix joint compound, you don’t require to mix it with water or any other substitute. It just needs to be applied to the broken wall blemishes. Undoubtedly, they are highly effective on damaged walls, and it completes the task with consistency.

Gladly, the big advantage of the pre-mix joint compound is you don’t need to race with the clock as it’s air-dried.

You wanna repair the whole wall or the entire house surfaces? No worries. Pre-mix joint compound will do the math.

Mostly if you make any mistake, you can redo the application as the mixture takes good enough time to get dried.

Now, about the powder type joint compound, which is also called the setting type, I would say it settles faster than the pre-mixed ones. Without hovering extra time and sweat, you can accomplish the task.

The core reason why it dries faster than pre-mixed ones is it settles due to chemical hardening, not air evaporation.

The disadvantage of the setting type joint compound is, you can’t redo the task once you’ve applied it as it dries very fast. But as it doesn’t appear pre-mixed, you need to make your own mixture with the proper amount of water.

If the consistency isn’t appropriate, you may need to add more setting powder and water, as well.

However, pre-mixed ones are water-soluble and take much time to get absorbed adequately.

As it’s water-soluble, you can water trowel it if you’ve made any fuss. Ironically, water solubleness is also its downside. Because if you are working in a place where much humidity exits, it can melt the whole putty and damage its essence as well.

Hence, you barely make any mistake with pre joint compounds. Surely this takes time, but it pays back significantly!

Even if you make any mistake while application, you can form it in the correct manner again without any hassle or extra expenses.

Well, this isn’t the end. We have a few more joint compounds that we should know about.

4 Types of Joint Compound

Here are 4 types of joint compound. They are specified according to their application process.

  • All-purpose compound.
  • Taping compound.
  • Topping compound.
  • Fast-setting compound.

Now, with the all-purpose compound, you can literally affix any broken surfaces. Besides, taping compounds are applied between the first and second layers of topping compound.

What’s topping compound then? Well, it requires two tape compounds to put on the wall surface. You need to spread it over the wall along with two dried compounds of taping. And if you want to get something done in a short time, then fast-setting compound would be the best option.

Where to Use?

Joint compounds are primarily used for heavy wall repairing projects. Moreover, paint damages also can be fixed with joint compounds.

Drywall seam repair and even small holes can be excellently done by this.

How to Apply?

The application of joint compound is very easy. Literally, any dummy can apply it if these steps are followed-

Brush off the Seam Area

First thing first, you need to clean the seam surface. You can use any ordinary brush in this regard. 3 or 4 gentle strokes will be enough to remove the lumps.

Grab the Required Ingredients

The main ingredients are knives. You’ll probably need differently sized knives. And they should be very sharp, solid and stiff.

You must need a 12-inch knife for finishing and a 6-inch knife for application.

Secondly, you’ll need a jar where you’re gonna pour the joint compound mix. For instance, let's presume that you are using a pre-mix joint compound.

Then you need to have the tapings to attach them after the first application of the mixture on the broken surface.

Lastly, sandpaper is required to even the surface properly.

Start Applying the Mixture

After getting all the ingredients in your hands start with the application process. Suppose there is a gap between the walls, and you need to fill it with the compound joint. For this, dunk the 6 inched knives into the mixture, scoop a little portion of it and start applying on the gaps. One or two strokes may not be enough.

Keep applying until the gaps seem filled consistently.

Time to Affix the Drywall Joint Tapes

Here, just after applying the pre-mix compound, you need to attach the tapes to cover the seam. For this, you need to cut the tapes according to the seam gap sizes. It surely can be a tricky task, but with proper concentration, you will cut the chase.

After getting the tape cuts, gently attach the tapes on the seam surface.


Now, it’s time to use the 12 inched blades to do the finishing. After attaching the tapes, you need to apply more putty, or the pre-mix compound in the same area to make it more solid and settled.

Time to Sand

Usually, professionals use sand sponges or sandpaper to even the entire application. Equivalently you can use any of them. Start rubbing the sandpaper on the surface, and after a few strokes, you will notice the changes.

Choosing Joint Compound

To be honest, a joint compound can be used in any drywall installation. But the thing is, you need to choose the correct type of it.

For instance, a pre-mix joint compound mud can excel in filling the gaps between seam, whereas a setting type mud can shine on repairing holes and cracks.

Now, you need to understand the underlying facts first to determine which one to choose and when.

Some of the putties are nothing but proper junks. The manufactures may bluff a lot about the quality, but in reality, they aren't any great.

That’s why you should acquire proper knowledge about the marketplace, their authenticity, and additional offers.

Anyways, choosing a joint compound isn’t really a tight job as they are undoubtedly good at repairing any minor to severe damages. But the only thing you need to consider is the correct type!

What is Spackle?

You may have the misconception that spackle is a particular compound which is used for repairing walls. But see you are terribly wrong here.

Because Spackle is actually a trademark name. That is why whenever we write Spackle, we put the letter ‘S’ in capital letter.

So, what is the trademark referring to? Mainly, it refers to any compound that affixes small gaps and tiny holes on the wall.

Do you know why the diversity of joint compound and spackle are so subtle?

It's because of the core ingredient of the joint compound! Yes! Here I'm talking about Gypsum! And you already know that spackle is derived from gypsum and bear quite alike substitutes.

It’s commonly used for filling small holes, small household chores, and basic renovation tasks. Anything that requires a little scale of putty will find the Spackle useful and efficient.

Types of Spackle

There are generally two types of spackle according to its consistency. Such as lightweight spackle and heavy spackle. And surely they consist of different compounds.

The lightweight spackle is made from vinyl, and the heavier one is made from acrylic. Now, here’s a major difference between them, which is their contradicting performance.

Vinyl works great on filling smaller holes, whereas acrylic is relatively better on filling smaller holes caused by pins or any pointy tool.

Choosing your type is super easy right now, as from now on, you’ll know which one to use for what.

Where to Use?

Spackles are widely used in filling smaller holes such as nail holes, pinholes, small seam gaps, etc. Usually, spackles have less shrinkage ability; thus, applying them on small blemishes is utterly appropriate!

How to Apply

Applying spackle will take only 30 seconds! Yes, you heard it right.

You are gonna need the spackle putty, sandpaper, and a putty knife.

Firstly, using the sandpaper, you need to smoothen the ridges. After that, take a scoop of spackle and spread it adequately on the hole. Keep smearing until the hole looks covered.

Lastly, use the same putty knife for finishing.

Tada! We are done.

Choosing Spackle

Honestly, choosing spackle sometimes seek for some considerations. For instance, spackles are relatively expensive than other putties. Well, you know by now that putties like joint compound can also work great on filling small pinholes. Then why not buying joint mud instead of spackles?

Because you will need to buy more joint mix then spackles and eventually you’re gonna end up venting more money on the joint mix than spackles.

That’s why choosing spackles for smaller renovation always pays you back. Also, professionals always recommend spackles for basic repair.

Thus, whenever you see a pinhole or a nail hole on the wall, sticking spackle all over them should be the first thought that pops into your mind!

Joint Compound vs. Spackle

Now the question might arouse that which one is best for wall repairing project and heavy renovation?

Moreover, some people still think they are alike, whereas if you look deeply into them, you’ll easily get the contradictions.

Well, some of the native carpenters still go for spackles as they can be measured very easily, and the application is also effortless.

These conflicts won't end. That’s why without any farther ado, lets find out the differences clearly!

Joint Compound


Powder ones take more time to get dried.

Dries faster than Joint compound.

It’s cheaper.

It’s relatively expensive no matter where you go.

Heavy at consistency.

Light at consistency.

Great on a heavy renovation, drywall installations, attaching the large seam holes, filling panels, etc.

It’s great on filling small holes and gaps on the wall.

Ample durability.

Less durability.

It requires multiple coatings.

One or two strikes will be enough.

Can be used as an alternative to spackle.

Can’t be used as an alternative to joint compound.

Easy to sand down.

Easy to use but less handy to sand down.

This short table demonstrate everything you should know about joint compound vs spackle. Hope it helps!

Which One Is the Best?

Joint compounds effectively outshine any other putties out there. It will literally stand on heavy drywall repair, installation, filling seam gaps, and even smaller holes. But the fact is you can’t get these done with spackles. It's just great on smaller duties.

If you had bought a lot of joint compound tubs for your apartment a year ago, you'd surely have some left out now. So, you can use them whenever you notice any thin to thick blemish.

Now, you cant do the same thing with a spackle. You’ll barely have any spackle in your hand after the whole renovation.  There are two possible reasons. One is because it’s expensive, and second is you bought it as per your need – neither less nor more.

Moreover, joint mud can effortlessly mount even the tiniest task along with bigger projects, but spackles won’t stand drywall installations or other professional wall repairs.

You are possibly thinking that if that so, then why do I even need spackles? Well, it’s just that everything is made up for a specific purpose, and they are immensely good at it. Just like spackles are relatively good at filling small holes than joint mud.

So, which one is the best, is surely a tricky question. Hence, keeping myself on the safe side, I will say both can be good if you utilize them in the accurate place and understand the types, consistency, durability, and comfort.

Final Words

The possibility is there that you’re still a bit puzzled about the distinctions. But trust me, once you go through both and observe their features head to toe, you will understand everything literally.

Sometimes observing things practically helps you better. As I’ve tried to put all the things on joint compound vs spackle in detail, hope that it provides a crystal-clear idea to you. 

And if you’re already aware of some facts that I’ve missed out here, feel free to share it in the comment section.

Have a good day!

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