As we all know, choosing the right material is your first step towards a successful home improvement project. If you need to work on a wall, you’d naturally come across to major materials: spackle and joint compounds.

In most cases, the joint compound is always a better choice, although spackle is more suitable for covering up small holes. Of course, your project, your level of experience and your budget could all influence your final decision.

Before we go deeper into the differences, pros and cons of spackle and joint compounds, let’s take a look at what exactly these two types of materials are.

What Is Spackle?

The easiest way to put it would be: Spackle is the beginner-level drywall fixing material. It wasn’t designed to handle any major upgrades or repairs. In return, using Spackle doesn’t require a lot of skills either.

Spackle, or spackle paste, is made of gypsum powder and binders. Upon first glance, it looked pretty much like toothpaste. And just like toothpaste, spackle paste is typically sold in small tubes.

Types of Spackle on the Market

Categorized by weight, you will be choosing between one of the two types of spackle paste:

  • Lightweight Spackle: This type of spackle paste is primarily made with vinyl. It is thin, less conspicuous and can be easily dabbed onto your wall. This type of spackle is best for covering up small holes made by tacks, pins and nails.
  • Heavy Spackle: Thicker, gooier and less fluid, this type of spackle is mostly made with acrylic. Heavy spackle is sturdier and can be used on slightly larger areas.

Spackle vs. Joint Compound: Which One is Better?

SpackleJoint Compound
Scope of ProjectOnly suitable for holes no more than 1” wide. For example: holes made by nails and tacks; small dentsDesigned to be used for large projectsFor example: deep cracking, large holes, sealing drywall seams
Drying TimeAround 30 minutesHours
ShrinkageNo shrinkage once fully driedA fair amount of shrinkage
PricingHigher single unit price, but overall cheaper since you only need a small amount each time.Cheaper single unit price, but overall more expensive considering the quantity used for each project.
DifficultyExtremely easy to use.Some professional knowledge is preferred.

Pros & Cons of Spackle: a Restricted Convenience

Pros

Spackle is one of the most convenient and accessible fixing materials. It is meant for everyday uses and quick fixups. Even the heavier spackle is thin enough for easy spreading.

Spackle barely shrinks once it’s fully dried. The better part of the news? It only takes up to 30 minutes to dry. If you are trying to go over a dent or ding multiple times for a smooth finish, Spackle allows you to do that easily.

With spackle, there is no need to wait for hours before resuming your project.

You can repeat the process of painting, drying, sanding as many times as you need to, and you could still have half of your day left.

Cons

Higher Individual Pricing

First of all, spackle is only meant to be used on small projects. That means one thing of spackle can last you quite a while.

For this exact reason, spackle pastes aren’t cheap when you look at individual pricings. A small 16oz bucket of paste costs six or seven dollars — definitely not the most affordable product.

Limits in Applicable Scope of Project

Also, spackle paste really can only be used on fixing small problems.

For example, it’s good for filling up holes left behind by pictures hung on the wall. With a few rounds of application, it can smoothen out a small dent. Bur for anything with larger than 0.75” diameter.

What is Joint Compound

Unlike spackle, joint compound is the real deal meant for intensive projects and multi-purpose application. It can be used to fill a large crack, increasing the thickness of walls in certain areas, or to seal drywall seams in new construction.

Simply put, joint compounds are made by mixing gypsum dust and water together. The end product is a sticky paste that can be spread across a large surface.

Most joint compounds are pre-mixed and come in large containers. However, some compounds are sold as dry mixtures and require the buyer to finish the last step.

Types of Joint Compound on the Market

Joint compounds are categorized according to their purposes. Typically, there are four main types of joint compound you can buy:

  • All-purpose compound: This is the best product to go with if you are not too familiar with construction. The reason is simple: the all-purpose compound can be used across the patching process.
  • Topping Compound: As the name suggests, this compound is used as a finish. It is used on a wall that has at least two layers of compound laid down previously.
  • Taping Compound: This is the compound you’d be using the most. It is used to create the main body of patching and usually makes up the first and second layers of compound.
  • Setting/quick-setting Compound: This compound is not much meant for large surface patching. It is made to dry a lot faster to allow multi-layer applications. Therefore, the quick-setting compound is most suitable for filling deep cracks and wide holes.

Pros & Cons of Joint Compound: a Worthy Investment

Pros

Hands down, joint compounds are one of the most powerful, applicable and flexible drywall-fixing materials.

In fact, joint compounds are the king in new construction when laying down drywalls. It creates a smooth, seamless finish look with minimum sanding requirements.

In addition, joint compounds are thicker, much denser, and thus much more durable in the long run. It can be used for more than filling and fixing. For example, joint compounds can actually increase the thickness of the wall per your needs.

Cons

Higher Overall Cost

The overall cost of joint compound is almost always higher. But that is not because of the pricing of a single product.

In fact, it is simply because the joint compound is typically used for larger projects. Naturally: the larger your project, the more compound you need, the pricier the total spending gets.

Longer Drying Time

Compared to spackle, joint compounds dry much slower. You may complete a fixing project with spackle within an hour.

But joint compounds? Try timing it by five or six times, depending on how many layers you are doing.

Shrinkage Upon Drying

Joint compound will shrink. Not much, but it does happen. Therefore, you need to pay extra attention when filling up larger cracks, holes and dents.

You want to at least make sure you are laying down an ample amount of the compound to cover for final shrinkage.

Things That Affect Your Decision

Now that we’ve learned enough about both spackle and joint compounds, it’s time to make the final decision.

Of course, your personal preference probably has the biggest say when it comes to choosing. For example, people with substantial construction experience may have a specific preference simply because of how they’ve worked before.

Nonetheless, as an ordinary homeowner, you need touch on a few things when having the spackle vs joint compound conversation.

The Size of Your Project

Since spackle has such a strict size restriction, the scope of your project should be the first thing you take into consideration. For anything larger than a diameter of 0.75”, you can pretty much forget about spackle.

On the other hand, even if you are working on a large surface, spackle can still come in handy. For example, you can use spackle for final clean-ups. If there were any bubbles or holes created during patching, spackle can fill in the blank easily.

How Experienced are You?

Another thing to think about is your own experience. When it comes to construction, one key is to never go beyond your knowledge and ability.

While joint compounds are a powerful material, it requires much more knowledge whereas spackle is 100% newbie free.

What’s Your Budget?

The last thing to think about is your project budget. This budget should cover both labor and material.

For instance, if you don’t know how to work with joint compounds but insist on using it, you need to hire someone.

A skilled laborer for drywall work begins at $36 per hour and goes higher depending on who you hire and where you live. On an average, it could cost you $60-90 per drywall panel.

Additional Pro Tip

To make sure you make the best use out of your material, make sure you seal the package tight every time after use. In addition: joint compounds can replace spackle in most situations. However, it doesn’t go the same in the other way.

Summing It Up

In conclusion, spackle and joint compound each has its strengths and weaknesses. Spackle dries fast and works better with small fixups for holes and cracks, whereas joint compounds are far more capable.