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Joint Compound vs Spackle: What’s The Difference?

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joint compound vs spackle

If you have a wall building or repair project on your hands, you might find yourself in need of some joint compound. Or, some spackle. The problem is determining which option is right for your needs in a given moment.

They are actually both very useful, and can even be used interchangeably in certain scenarios. But, if you want to produce the highest quality results that you can get then you should be mindful of applying these materials to the circumstances they work best in.

Today, we will help you learn how to do exactly that. What is the difference between joint compound and spackle? Read on to find out!

What is Joint Compound?

Joint compound is basically just gypsum dust mixed with water. Gypsum is also a primary material in drywall.

When you mix gypsum powder up with water, it takes on the consistency cake frosting. In that state, it is easy to lather on to your work material to create a nice smooth base for an indoor wall painting project.

You will also use it to finish up drywall seems, or even do minor repair work.

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Dap 10102 Wallboard Joint Compound, 12-Pound
179 Customer Reviews
Dap 10102 Wallboard Joint Compound, 12-Pound
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That said, it also is not the best material for filling up larger holes because it tends to shrink and retract quite a bit. But, if you are in a pinch it will work just fine.

In general, joint compound is used for larger projects and therefore is not often kept on hand for regular household use.

What is Spackle?

Spackle is a paste-like product that actually has quite a bit in common with joint compound. In fact it is also derived from gypsum.

The big difference between spackle and joint compound is the scale in which they might be used. While joint compound can be used for anything from sealing joints, to prepping drywall for its first coat of paint, spackle is going to find its application for much smaller household uses.

Our Favorite Spackle:

3M High Strength Small Hole Repair, 16 oz.
1,371 Customer Reviews
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

You might bust the spackle out if you notice a small crack or imperfection in your wall. And, if you have a painting project that you need to do, it will be perfect for repairing small marks on the work surface.

Spackle comes in different consistencies, each optimized for different situations. A thinner grain of spackle might be used for very tiny repair jobs, while thicker grains will be used for more significant patchwork.

Spackle is actually better than joint compound when it comes to repair-work because it doesn’t shrink as much once applied.

Conversely, it also just isn’t used often to seal, both because of the consistency, and the cost.

Spackle vs Joint Compound: Knowing How to Choose

To the average homeowner, these products will probably seem very alike. And they are, but the distinctions do also make it fairly easy to choose between them.

If you have a big drywalling project on your hand you will probably be using joint compound. Spackle just isn’t well suited for the large scale application of joint compound.

However, typical homeowners that just want to be well equipped for basic maintenance also won’t have much use at all for joint compound. Even though it can be used for small patchwork, it isn’t as well suited for the task as spackle.

In fact, just about any home could make use of some spackle paste from time to time. It’s easy to use and can be applied with a flexible spatula or putty knife in a pinch.

In terms of cost, spackle will usually cost more than joint compound, but the difference is offset somewhat by the fact that you use it in far smaller quantities.

On the flipside, if you are a serious do-it-yourselfer, you will probably have both products on hand. Joint compound is necessary for larger products, but spackle is just a good resource to have around the house.


So, now you know the difference between spackle and joint compound. Most homeowners are probably going to be reaching for the spackle the next time they notice a small mark on their wall.

However, now that you know the ins and outs of these products you can make your own, informed decisions.

More comparison posts:

Header image credit: Georgia National Guard, Flickr

About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!