The Biggest Differences Between Joint Compound and Spackle

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Updated May 4, 2022
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Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/ iStock/ Getty Images


  • Joint compound is extremely durable and suitable for drywall installations. 

  • It is also versatile and is highly useful for conducting minor repairs.

  • Joint compound does take a while to dry, up to 24 hours in some cases.

  • Spackle is the preferred choice for small repair jobs, as it dries in 30 minutes.

  • Spackle is much easier to use than joint compound.

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Choosing the right product for home repair projects is half the battle, especially in the world of wall repair and construction, where you’ll find both joint compound and spackle. These two substances look almost identical to the inexperienced eye, but they each boast unique use case scenarios. 

If you are preparing to install or repair a wall, keep reading to learn the differences between joint compound and spackle.

Joint Compound Pros and Cons

man mixing drywall mud
Photo: AleksandarNakic/ Getty Images

Joint compound, otherwise called drywall mud or just mud, features gypsum dust as a primary ingredient. Local drywall pros use joint compound during the initial installation process after affixing the large sheets of drywall board and taping the seams between each board.


Here are some of the major pros to using joint compound for your next wall building or repair project.

Multiple Uses

Joint compound is the go-to substance for finishing up an initial drywall installation, but it also works for smaller repair jobs in a pinch. In other words, if you have some leftover after an install and need to repair a hole, you can use the joint compound instead of buying some spackle. There are also various types to choose from, adding to its versatility. 

  • All-purpose compound: Great for installation and all phases of wall-patching. 

  • Taping compound: Can be spread on a wall as the first coat, right over the joint tape. 

  • Topping compound: Boasts the perfect thickness for spreading on a wall after using a taping compound. Great for adding extra layers for increased durability. 

  • Quick-setting compound: Dries quicker than other compounds, making it ideal for fixing cracks and holes. 

Excellent Durability

These substances are extraordinarily durable, especially when compared to spackle. This durability makes joint compound easy to sand down and ensures it withstands some accidental damage. 

Even better? Joint compound reacts well to multiple layers, so pros and enthusiasts alike use it to fill out and thicken portions of a wall whenever necessary. Joint compound features the same main ingredient as drywall itself, along with limestone and perlite, contributing to its renowned durability. 


Here are some cons worth considering when reaching for that tub of joint compound. 

Lengthy Drying Time 

Joint compound takes a long time to dry, often 24 hours or longer. Why does that matter? Well, after applying a compound, you’ll want to paint, sand, apply sealant, or otherwise finish the wall. The lengthy drying process means you’ll play the waiting game before busting out that paintbrush. This is why pros make multiple trips when installing some drywall and why putting up drywall costs an average of $1,800.

Steep Learning Curve 

There is no way around it. Joint compound is not the easiest stuff to use, especially when compared to the elegant simplicity of spackle. 

First, you’ll typically have to mix it up in the container, though some brands offer joint compound as a premixed formulation. When using joint compound at the initial phase of drywall installation, you’ll have to apply joint tape, lay down multiple coats, and sand it down to ensure an even layer. Also, don’t forget to cover it up after use to prevent it from completely drying out. 

The multiple types of joint compounds available to average consumers also increase this learning curve. 


Joint compound shrinks so much that many pros apply multiple layers to get the surface fully finished. Plan on multiple coats when repairing holes or cracks, just in case the compound shrinks so much that it creates a tear or simply reopens the hole or crack. 

This propensity toward shrinkage is not a huge deal when initially installing drywall, however, thanks to the inclusion of joint tape and, of course, multiple coats.

Spackle Pros and Cons

woman using spatula with spackle
Photo: Ludmila/ Adobe Stock

Everyone knows spackle. This handy, dandy gypsum-based compound is the go-to choice for repairing small cracks, nail holes, or gouges in drywall. It comes premixed, features an amateur-friendly application process, and one tub lasts a long time (as you only use it a bit at a time.) 


Here are the major advantages of reaching for a spackle tub for your next drywall repair project. 

Dries Quickly

One of the best parts about using spackle to repair minor drywall is how quickly it dries. Spackle takes only 30 minutes or so to dry completely. Compare that to the 24 hours for joint compound, and you see how much time spackle saves. Once applied, wait the necessary 30 minutes or so, and then carry on with your next steps. 

Sandable and Paintable 

Speaking of the next steps, spackle reacts well to the sanding process and paint. Sand down recently spackled areas to level it out with the rest of the wall, and then lay down the paint color of your choice to match your home decor. Patching a drywall hole with spackle is simple when considering that paint is used to cover up any imperfections. 

Easy to Use 

Spackle is simple to use, suiting most DIY drywall aficionados. It comes premixed, eliminating a frustrating step for some, and requires little or no experience to get it right. All you do is apply it with a putty knife, spatula, or palette knife and then wipe off the excess with a rag. Once it dries, simply paint over it to match the existing wall. 

It also ships in small quantities, so it won’t take up much space between uses. 


There are some spackle-specific cons worth considering before starting your repair project. 

Not That Versatile 

The great thing about joint compound is its versatility, as it shines with the initial installation and with conducting minor repairs. The same is not said, however, regarding spackle. Though a great choice for fixing small holes and the like, spackle is not a great choice for the initial installation process. It dries too quickly, significantly reducing your working time. When laying down drywall, you want enough time to get everything perfect, and spackle may rush you.  

Features a Rough Finish

Compared to joint compound’s classy finish, spackle’s finish is rough, splotchy, and absolutely requires sanding after an application. This translates to another crucial step while patching up holes, but also increases cleanup tasks after finishing the work. After all, sanding down spackle leads to dust all over your floor.

Joint Compound vs. Spackle 

When directly comparing joint compound to spackle, you’ll find some stark differences. Here are some ways in which these two drywall tools differ. 


This is a tough one. Spackle is more expensive than joint compound, but you use less of it per job. In other words, a small tub of spackle lasts longer than even a large container of joint compound, as the latter benefits from multiple coats across large areas of drywall. At the same time, joint compound is more versatile than spackle, offering two-in-one functionality. Neither product is particularly expensive, though, so it’s a wash here. 

Most budget-friendly: Tie


Generally speaking, dry formulas last a bit longer than wet formulas, making joint compound, which is not premixed, last several months longer than premixed spackle. All told, spackle goes bad in around nine months, while a non-mixed joint compound lasts slightly over a year. Also, wet formulas are sensitive to extreme weather, as both cold and heat dry them out, rendering them unusable. 

Longest shelf life: Joint compound 

Project Size

Spackle comes in small tubes, whereas joint compound arrives in large containers of 1 gallon or more. This makes joint compound the clear winner when conducting larger-than-average repair jobs. Spackle is great for fixing small nail holes and the like, but not for repairing large gaps in drywall. 

Best for large jobs: Joint compound

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