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Jointing compound: What is it? How many types? How to use?

Worker in white gloves performs plastering of the walls of the room

Drywall installation and finishing are essential components of construction and renovation projects, requiring careful attention to detail and precision. Central to this process is the use of joint compound, a versatile material that fills gaps, smooths seams, and provides a seamless surface for painting or other finishes.

In this guide, we’ll explore the various types of joint compounds available and walk through the step-by-step process of how to use them effectively. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a DIY enthusiast tackling your first drywall project, mastering the art of joint compound application is key to achieving professional-quality results.

What is jointing compound?

Jointing compound, also known as joint compound or drywall mud, is a substance used in the construction and renovation of buildings, particularly in the installation of drywall or gypsum board. It is primarily used to fill and smooth the joints between sheets of drywall and to cover fasteners such as screws or nails.

Jointing compound typically comes in powder form and needs to be mixed with water to create a paste-like consistency that can be easily applied with a trowel or knife. Once applied, it dries to form a hard, smooth surface that can be sanded down to achieve a seamless finish. There are different types of jointing compounds available, including ready-mixed and setting-type compounds, each with its own advantages depending on the specific needs of the project.

the process of smearing plaster mortar putty with a spatula on the wall close-up

Is joint compound the same as filler?

Joint compound and filler are similar in their purpose of filling in gaps and imperfections, but they are not exactly the same.

Joint compound, also known as jointing compound or drywall mud, is specifically designed for use with drywall or gypsum board. It is used to fill and smooth the joints between drywall sheets and cover fasteners such as screws or nails. Joint compound is typically applied in multiple layers and dries to form a hard, smooth surface that can be sanded down to achieve a seamless finish.

Filler, on the other hand, is a broader term that refers to any substance used to fill gaps, cracks, or holes in various materials, including wood, metal, plaster, and drywall. Fillers come in various forms, such as paste, putty, or compound, and they can be made from a variety of materials like gypsum, plaster, wood filler, epoxy, or polyester resin. Unlike joint compounds, which is specifically formulated for use with drywall, fillers can be used for a wide range of applications beyond drywall installation or repair.

In summary, while joint compound is a type of filler used specifically for drywall joints and seams, filler is a more general term that encompasses a variety of substances used to fill gaps and imperfections in different materials.

Trowel mortar tIling a closeup with new cement trowel ceramic tiles.

How many types of joint compounds?

There are four main types of joint compounds you can use for your drywall projects:

    1. Quick-setting joint compound:
      • This type is great for handling large repairs because it dries faster than others.
      • It’s perfect if you need to apply multiple coats in a single day.
      • Quick-setting joint compound works well for deep holes and cracks in plaster.
      • It sets through a chemical reaction instead of just drying, which is helpful in humid conditions.
      • Depending on the brand, it can set in as little as 5 minutes or up to 90 minutes.
    2. All-purpose joint compound:
      • This is a popular choice for taping joints, covering fasteners, and finishing corners.
      • It’s easy to work with and has low shrinkage for smoother coats.
      • You can use it for all stages of drywall finishing, including skim-coating and texturing.
      • All-purpose joint compound is lightweight, but it takes longer to dry compared to topping compound.
    3. Taping joint compound:
      • Use this type over drywall tape, especially for cracks in plaster and areas needing extra bonding, like around windows and doors.
      • It dries quickly, but sanding it can be a bit tougher compared to other types.
      • Taping joint compound is ideal for laminating drywall panels on ceilings and multi-layer partitions.
    4. Topping joint compound:
      • This is the final coat applied over two layers of taping compound.
      • It has low shrinkage, spreads smoothly, and bonds well.
      • Avoid using it for embedding joint tape.
      • While it’s less convenient than all-purpose compound, you can mix only what you need and save the rest for later projects.
      • When applied correctly, sanding time should be shorter compared to lightweight joint compounds.

Each type of joint compound has its own advantages and is chosen based on factors such as the size and complexity of the project, the desired drying time, and personal preference or experience level.

Handyman plastering walls with gypsum plaster and trowel. Construction of house and home renovation concept. Close up of worker hands with spatula and stucco

How to use joint compound?

Using joint compound involves several steps, which I’ll outline below:

  1. Prepare the Surface: Before applying joint compound, make sure the surface is clean, dry, and free from dust, grease, and other contaminants. If necessary, sand down any rough spots or protruding edges.
  2. Mix the Compound: If you’re using setting-type joint compound, mix it with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions until you achieve a smooth, lump-free consistency. Ready-mixed joint compound does not require mixing and can be used straight from the container.
  3. Apply the First Coat: Using a taping knife or drywall trowel, apply a thin layer of joint compound over the joints between drywall sheets, as well as over any fasteners such as screws or nails. Press the compound firmly into the joints and smooth it out to create a flat surface. Be sure to feather the edges of the compound to blend it into the surrounding drywall.
  4. Embed Tape (if necessary): If you’re taping joints, place drywall tape over the wet joint compound and press it into place with the taping knife or drywall trowel. Make sure the tape is fully embedded in the compound and smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles.
  5. Apply Additional Coats: Allow the first coat of joint compound to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once dry, apply a second and possibly third coat of compound, each time widening the application area and feathering the edges to blend with the surrounding drywall. Sand lightly between coats to smooth out any imperfections.
  6. Sand and Finish: Once all coats of joint compound have dried completely, sand the surface smooth using fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding sponge. Be careful not to sand too aggressively, as this can damage the drywall or create uneven surfaces. Wipe away any dust with a damp cloth before applying paint or other finishes.
  7. Prime and Paint: After sanding, apply a coat of primer to the surface to seal and prepare it for painting. Once the primer is dry, you can paint the surface with your desired color.

Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the joint compound packaging and use proper safety equipment, such as goggles and a dust mask, when sanding or working with joint compound. Practice and patience are key to achieving a smooth and professional-looking finish.

The takeaway

Joint compound is a versatile material that helps create smooth and seamless surfaces in drywall finishing. It is essential for construction and renovation projects that involve drywall installation. This guide has explained the different types of joint compounds and the step-by-step process of applying them. By following these instructions, anyone can learn how to use joint compound effectively and skillfully.

Joint compound can fill gaps, smooth seams, and prepare surfaces for paint. It is a valuable tool for achieving professional-quality results in drywall finishing. With practice and patience, anyone can master the art of joint compound application and turn ordinary walls into seamless works of craftsmanship.

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