What Is Spackling Paste?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Spackling paste is a paste which is used to fill holes in wood, drywall, and other substances. It comes in several different grades which are divided by coarseness for specific applications, and it can be a very useful thing to keep around the house, especially for people who like to do home improvement projects. Many hardware suppliers stock spackling paste.

Spackling paste should be sanded down after it dries.
Spackling paste should be sanded down after it dries.

This product comes either in the form of a pre-mixed paste, or in a powder which must be mixed with water for use. The advantage to buying spackling paste as a powder is that the user doesn't need to worry about the paste drying out over time, which can become a concern. The disadvantage is that powder can also get messy, and some people dislike the nuisance of mixing the power every time they need some spackling.

Spackling can fill in holes or dents in walls prior to painting.
Spackling can fill in holes or dents in walls prior to painting.

One of the most classic uses for spackling paste is in filling holes to prepare walls for painting. Spackling paste can be smeared into holes, cracks, and joins, allowed to dry, and then sanded flat so that the surface will be smooth for painting. People with white walls may also use spackle to seal holes from nails, tacks, and other objects, especially if they are moving out of a home and they want their deposit back.

Classically, spackle is made from gypsum powder and glue to make a gummy paste which will dry to a relatively hard consistency. The gypsum makes the spackling paste coarse, so it will cling to a wide variety of surfaces. For especially large holes, several layers of spackling may be required, with the paste sticking to itself as the layers are applied.

Usually, the site of a spackling is invisible after painting. When materials are stained, however, sometimes the spackle will be lighter in color than the surrounding area, causing it to stand out. One way to reduce this problem is to stain the spackle before use to make it dark, or to use special colored spackling which has been designed for use with stained wood.

The term “spackle,” which is used primarily in the United States, has an interesting history. Spackle is actually a registered trademark of a company which offered a specific compound for sealing holes in the 1920s. Over time, however, the term came to be used generically, and the company lost its right to the trademark, because it failed to enforce it. In Great Britain, Australia, and Canada, consumers are more familiar with polyfilla, another product which has become generic as a result of trademark dilution.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

My husband and I repainted every room of the house we moved into right after getting ready, and it had a quite a few cracks in the walls. It was built in the 1960s, so that was understandable.

My husband took care of this by spackling the drywall. He filled the gaps and spread the spackle out beyond the holes. He held the putty knife at an angle and faded the edges of the spackle out along the wall to make everything nice and smooth.

Then, he put a latex primer on top of the spackle. We let that dry overnight before painting the walls. I was very happy with how smooth they looked after being spackled and painted.

@seag47 – I have removed popcorn ceiling paint before, and it was an extremely messy process. That's why you will want to either get all your furniture out of the room or cover it with plastic sheeting. You might even want to cover the floors, especially if you have carpet.

The best way to get all the stuff off without too much effort is to use a scraper tool and make long, straight movements. Think of it like shaving off a piece of cheese from a big block.

It will require a lot of getting up and down from a ladder, so go slowly, and if you have someone who can help you, by all means, ask! My arms got so tired that they shook for days after I did this!


I bought a house with popcorn ceilings in every room. I have also heard that this type of ceiling is sometimes called a “spackled ceiling.”

I would love to get rid of it, but I'm not sure what the best way to do this is. I know that it will be messy, because I once just barely touched the stuff, and it came crumbling down to the floor.

Has anyone here ever removed a spackled ceiling? Is there an easy way to do it, or can you at least tell me a way that will result in an nice, flat ceiling?

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