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Joint Compound vs Spackle: What’s The Difference?

joint compound vs spackle

Whether you’re building or repairing walls, some sort of joint compound or spackle is essential. Both of these materials do similar things, but they are required in different jobs and situations. However, on the surface, it can be hard to tell the difference between these two compounds.

They are both handy and high-quality in their own way, so it isn’t merely a matter of choosing the best option. However, if you want high-quality results, you need to choose the perfect option for your project in particular. Each option works best in certain situations.

To help you choose the best option for your current project, we wrote this complete guide. In it, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about both options.

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Joint Compound

Material

Joint compound is simply gypsum dust mixed with water. Gypsum is the main ingredient used in drywall, so joint compound is just spreadable drywall. It is about the consistency of cake frosting, which makes it easier to lather walls and other materials. It can create a smooth surface for painting or other projects.

Uses

Joint compound is mostly used for larger projects. It is used for drywalling projects and large-scale work.

It can be used for smaller tasks, of course. However, it isn’t really designed for this purpose. Instead, it is created so you can splat a whole bunch of it on a surface at once.

Most homeowners probably don’t need this if they want to be equipped for minor repairs.  However, if you’re a serious DIYer who wants to be prepared for everything, the joint compound is something nice to have around.

drywall tools

Cost

Joint compound is relatively inexpensive. It is usually much cheaper than spackle. However, you’re going to use quite a bit of it at a time so that the cost can add up after extensive use. For massive projects, you still end up spending a decent amount of money even though it is a cheaper material.

Our Favorite Joint Compound:

Dap 10102 Wallboard Joint Compound, 12-Pound
  • Dap wallboard joint compound (rtu) 12 pound tub - 441125
  • This is highly durable
  • This is manufactured in United states

Pros
  • Good for large projects
  • Easy to use
  • Cheap
Cons
  • Must be mixed at the time of use

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Spackle

Material

Spackle is also derived from gypsum and is made very similar to a joint compound. However, it is more paste-like, which makes it more usable in certain situations. It is a bit thicker and is more designed for spot-treatments.

You can spread it over a larger area, but it’ll take a bit more elbow grease and time. It is not as spreadable as the joint component.

Uses

Spackle is more used for smaller applications, like fixing holes and those sorts of things.  It isn’t very suitable for larger-scale projects, however.

You can use it for larger projects, but it’ll take longer, and you’ll end up spending more money.

In the end, you should choose spackle for your average home repair. Because of this, most homeowners should have some on hand for those quick and easy repair jobs. Spackle is suitable for most small repairs.

Cost

Spackle is a bit more expensive than joint compound in general. However, you also use less of it, so the cost usually balances out. A little joint spackle can go a long way. It is more expensive up front, but you won’t spend that much on it because you’re using very little.

Our Favorite Spackle:

3M High Strength Small Hole Repair, 16 oz.
  • MAKES REPAIRS 3X FASTER than traditional vinyl spackling
  • QUICK AND EASY repair for nicks and nail holes
  • FOR HOLE REPAIRS up to 3" in diameter

Pros
  • Thicker
  • Good for spot treatments and small jobs
  • Pre-mixed
Cons
  • More expensive
  • Not ideal for larger jobs

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Which Should You Get?

Spackle and joint compound are very similar. However, joint compound is used for large projects. Spackle is used for small home repairs.

Most homeowners are going to need spackle for the majority of their projects. If you’re redoing a wall or a room, you may need joint compound. However, when in doubt, consider how much you need to use. Joint compound is for large projects. Spackle is for smaller projects.

Stocking Your Toolbox

Even if you don’t currently have a project in need of spackle or joint compound, you may want to consider stocking up on them just in case. You never know when you’ll need either of these products. They’re quite inexpensive as well, so there is little reason not to purchase them.

However, if you can only purchase one for whatever reason, we recommend stocking up on spackle at the very least. The average homeowner is going to be doing small wall repairs, which is exactly what spackle is used for. You’re much more likely to need spackle than joint compound, which should be reason enough to stock up on it.

Safety

Spackle and joint compound are both about equally safe. They can cause issues in their dry forms if inhaled. The dust can cause irritation in your throat, coughing, and breathing difficulties. You should not breathe them in when possible. You should preferably wear a mask.

If you have sinus and respiratory conditions, you should be extra careful.

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Conclusion

While these compounds are both very similar, it is vital that you choose the correct one for your needs. Most homeowners will need spackle for their average repairs. However, some larger projects might require joint compound. If you’re considering which one to stock up on, spackle is likely going to be used more often.


Header image credit: Georgia National Guard, Flickr

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