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How Do I Choose the Best Spackling Paste?

By Sandi Johnson
Updated May 16, 2024
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Spackling paste, also known as polyfilla, comes in a variety of different options depending on the type of repair work needed. Choosing the best spackling paste begins with the specifics of the repair in question. For example, gypsum or calcium sulfate-based pastes are usually used for repairing drywall, while vinyl-based pastes are used to repair wood and other materials. Personal preference and environment also come into play when choosing the right spackling paste, as users have the option of either ready-made or powdered spackling.

Most often, spackling paste or polyfilla is used to repair holes or cracks in drywall. When nail holes, stress cracks, or other damage occurs, rather than installing new drywall or gypsum board, a small amount of paste is used to fill in the hole. Gypsum-based spackling is the best option for such repairs, since the calcium sulfate and glue used in these products provide flexibility during application. Once dried and sanded smooth, the paste blends into the existing drywall.

If a wood surface is in need of repair, either gypsum or vinyl-based spackling are appropriate, depending on the final finish. Painted wood will hide gypsum-based spackling, provided the repaired surface is properly filled and sanded. Stained wood, however, may require specially dyed gypsum paste or a vinyl-based paste intended to absorb the stain. Large repairs or rough wood surfaces may not be appropriate for spackle and instead require the use of wood putty.

When spackling paste was first introduced in the 1920s, manufacturers offered only powder mixes that required adding water to form the paste. Today, some manufacturers still offer such mix-it-yourself spackling paste products. More often, modern products offer users pre-mixed spackling paste in tubes or tubs of varying sizes. Small tubes allow users to squeeze out a small amount of paste to fill nail holes or other tiny blemishes without requiring a putty knife. Tubs offer more paste for larger jobs or ongoing repair work, but typically require the use of putty knives and sanding blocks for the repair to blend in.

Whether you choose a ready-made paste or a powder mix is truly a matter of personal preference. Some individuals prefer the ease of use offered by pre-mixed spackling paste. Others enjoy the ability to mix up a batch of paste as needed, without worrying if a tube or tub of spackling paste might dry out between uses. Location, ambient temperature, and access to a water supply are considerations when choosing between ready-made or mixes. Excessive temperatures can make ready-made spackle inappropriate, whereas lack of running water could pose a problem for powder mixes.

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Discussion Comments

By Drentel — On Jan 25, 2014

I didn't know there was a difference in spackling. I'm glad I read the article before I started repainting my walls. They are covered with pictures and thus holes from the hangers and nails. I need all the spackling tips I can get.

By Animandel — On Jan 24, 2014

I recently had to do a lot of hole filling in a friend's house. He recently purchased the house and it needed work, especially the wall plaster. The previous owners must have loved hanging pictures and whatever else they could find on the walls. There were hundreds of nail holes and some bigger holes where hangers had been ripped out and areas where paint had peeled.

We used the already mixed tubs of spackling paste. That way we didn't have to concern ourselves with the extra step of mixing the powder and that made sense for us. The sales person where we bought the paste helped us choose the right product. We aren't the most experienced people when it comes to using spackling paste, but the walls looked much better when we finished.

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