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Don't Reuse Old, Partially Dried Wallboard Compound or Spackle

Dear NH,

I'm preparing walls for wallpapering and need to patch a couple of small holes. I've found that my big old tub of spackling paste is very thick. Do I need to go out and buy a new tub or can I add water to what I have? I've tried it in a couple of small holes and it spreads fine, it's just not real goopy. Thanks in advance.

MG from Mentor, Ohio

Dear MG,

Partially dried spackle or wallboard compound is... partially dried. Mixing dried spackle into moist spackle is like adding sand.  The product loses some of it's strength and smoothing ability.  It will go on the wall lumpy and be tough to trowel smooth.

Frankly, I am not a big fan of "old-time" spackle. It doesn't work smoothly "off the knife" and it dries very hard. This level of hardness was fine when all the walls were plaster.  Today's softer walls of paper-coated drywall are better filled with a softer product. This is especially true if you need to sand the dried spackle.  You are as likely to tear the paper as you are to smooth the spackle!

Instead of spackle, get a container of the newer lightweight spackle. It is a relatively dry product that is very workable, and dries so quickly you can paint over it within a half hour under normal circumstances. In fact, you can paint over it immediately with latex paints if you find a very small hole, such as a nail or picture hanger hole, as you are painting!

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