Never Use Spackle

Thinking of Spackling… Think Again.

It is nothing short of amazing how well we are marketed to. If you have a hole in your wall the logical thing that you would probably think is that that hole needs to be spackled right? Wrong! As a professional painter I do not own a can of spackle. I would speculate the the big box stores are responsible for your thinking that you need some, and to be quite honest, if I wasn’t a professional painter, I’d probably fall into the same spackle pit falls right along with you. When you go to most of the big box stores, they place the jars of spackle right  in the same area as all the painting supplies, when in reality the product you actually need to do wall repairs is often clear on the other side of the store! In this article I want to educate you on why I advise against the use of spackle in most instances and what products you should consider instead for interior walls repairs.

So is Spackle Always a Bad Idea?

Even though I hate spackle for a many reasons (I will list them later) there are a few things you could use it for on interior work where it would be perfectly acceptable. What are those things you ask? Basically spackle wouldn’t get you into trouble if you used it for very minor imperfections. Say if you had a nail hole in your wall and you wanted to plug it up; spackle would be a perfectly acceptable product to use to fill such a hole. Now say you have a hole in your wall the size of a quarter… That is about the area where I draw the line with spackle. Simply put, imperfections the size of a quarter and larger and greater than 1/4“ thick would be better fixed, with more superior products which I will talk about shortly.


When is Spackle Always a Bad Idea?

Spackle is a bad idea for most wall repairs and is always a bad idea for exteriors. I know that you can go to the store and get a jar of this stuff that says “exterior spackle” on the label, but the reality is that there is no such thing as exterior spackle. Regardless of what a products label says there is no good reason to ever buy a jar of exterior spackle nor is it ever a good idea to apply it to an outside. PERIOD!

Why is this stuff so bad you might ask? I have personally seen houses ruined with this product, and the failure rate on it is nothing short of incredible. After exterior spackle is applied to an outside I have seen it “pop” in extreme weather areas after just a year of service! “Popping” is a painting term that basically means that the spackle comes away from the building taking the paint that was applied over it with it. Additionally say you have an old victorian home which is due to be stripped of paint. If the house ever had a painter run around with exterior spackle, stripping the house just became a nightmare as stripper will not soften spackle and spackle does not sand very well. So once again in case you missed it, never, ever, ever use spackle on the outside of you home!

So What Should I Use For My Interior Wall Repairs?

Wood fillers for exteriors are almost a topic in themselves, and since we now know that spackle shouldn’t be used on exteriors, let’s focus on what we should use for interior patching instead. I like to use “fast set” for the majority of my interior wall repair. This stuff comes in a bag or a box (not a jar like spackle) and starts off as a powder that you must mix with water to create the paste like material that you will then spread onto your wall. Fast set comes in many different grades which are measured in time. For example they make 90 minute fast set, 40 minute, 20, 10, 5, etc. Generally the longer the time, the easier the product is to sand when it dries. With the bigger the number though, the longer the product will take to dry. Because of these characteristics, I like to pick something kind of in the middle that dries fast, but also sands reasonably well. I personally use a lot of 20 minute fast set, but maybe for an amateur 45 minute might be better as it will allow you longer time to work with it. The following are a few reason as to why fast set is superior to spackle:

  • When spackle dries it shrinks much more than fast set, and will thus require more coats to cover the same damage.
  • Spackle takes longer to dry then many fast sets that are available.
  • Fast set is far cheaper and even now comes in smaller weekend warrior style boxes, so that you don’t have to buy a whole bag.
  • Fast set will not crack like spackle when applied to deep imperfections or holes.
  • Fast set can be used to place of joint compound when sectioning in a small piece of sheet rock, whereas spackle can’t.
  • Fast set can be used to match a skip trowel finish, which again, spackle can not.

I could go on from here but I think you get the point. True, spackle is pre mixed and you can just scoop it out of the jar and apply. If you ask me though, the advantages to fast set dwarf this single advantage that spackle holds over fast set. Always use fast set in place of spackle for your interior patching and you will be much happier with the end result.

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