How to Properly Use Spackling Compound

A closeup of a putty knife spreading spackle on a wall.
What You'll Need
Small brush
Cement, plaster, or drywall patch
Spackling compound
Spackling knife

Spackling compound is an invaluable tool for repairing holes and gaps in walls and other surfaces. It is available in both powdered and paste form, and when properly used, it can do a great job of fixing imperfections in preparation for painting. Follow the steps below to make your drywall look good as new.

Choose the Right Compound

Spackling compound is available in several different varieties, each suited to different applications. For example, some types are for repairing large holes and cracks, whereas other types are better for smaller repairs. Certain varieties are better for outdoor repairs and will last longer as compared to the standard spackling compound. So, to make sure you're using the right type, assess the damaged area and buy the substance that is most suited to your requirements.

A gloved hand holding a sudsy sponge.

Prepare the Surface to be Repaired

Before opening or mixing the spackling compound, you must properly clean and prepare the damaged area. Remove all loose debris, cement, paint, dust, and grease from the area. If needed, use a small brush to scrub, but be careful around the edges of the holes or cracks to avoid enlarging the damage. Once the opening is clean, wipe it with a slightly damp sponge and allow it to dry.

Fix Large Holes

In most cases, a spackle compound is insufficient for repairing large holes. You must use cement, plaster, or a piece of drywall to cover the opening. Only after this can you use the spackling compound to cover up seams and provide a smooth sealed finish.

Tip: There is also another product available for somewhat large holes. It is called a lightweight spackle. As its name indicates, it is very light and can be used over quite large holes because it won't fall out or sag. It also dries rather rapidly.

Mix the Spackling Compound

If you have purchased spackling compound in a powdered form, add small amounts of water to it and mix until you achieve a thick consistency that is still easy to spread. It is important to achieve the right thickness to avoid running and also to get better results. Avoid mixing large amounts of spackling compound all at once because it will dry out while it sits unused.

If you have purchased a ready-made paste, open the container and stir it thoroughly. To prevent drying when storing, pour a small amount of water on top to form a film of moisture.

Tip: For the homeowner, a do-it-yourself person, or anyone who rarely has a painting project, powdered spackle is the best choice. This powdered form will store indefinitely, whereas wet spackle and joint compound will eventually harden up despite your efforts.

A putty knife in a container of spackle

Apply the Spackling Compound

With your spackling knife, scoop some compound and apply it on the hole or crack with a smooth, swift stroke at a slight angle. Start from the top and move down over the damaged spot. Press the spackle into the area with a little force, and then even out the edges to ensure that the application is uniform throughout. Let each coat dry, and then repeat the application if needed. Make sure that a small amount of the compound is protruding outside. You can sand this part later.

Tip: Avoid the urge to keep smoothing out the patch and trying to make it look perfect. Remember, you are going to sand it when it is dry.

Sand, Prime, and Paint

Once the spackling compound is thoroughly dry, you can sand the surface to a smooth finish. Wipe away any dust, and then leave it to dry. Finish up by applying primer and paint over the repairs.