Thinset Vs. Joint Compound (Compared)

Thinset and Joint Compound both play critical roles in construction projects. Both have various advantages and disadvantages.

If you aren’t aware of what role each plays, you may find yourself using it for the wrong project, which may lead to unpleasant results. Today’s article will define Thinset and Joint Compound and list some primary uses for each.

Tile thinset mud (also called cement) for a major tiling renovation project during a house renovation.

What is Thinset?

You will hear a lot about Thinset in tile installation projects since that’s the main purpose it serves. Even though Thinset is a modified form of mortar, its specifically designed for tile installation and not to hold bricks or act as flooring.

The reason is that it lacks the strength to perform the latter purposes. Understanding the capabilities of Thinset ensures that you put it to good use.

What is Thinset made of? Thinset comprises sand, cement, and water retention agents. The primary purpose of Thinset, as mentioned earlier, is to help tiles stick to walls. You can find Thinset in almost all the stores near you.

Thinset is available in different forms. There is Thinset which comes pre-mixed. With this option, you have to open the packaging and start using it immediately. Another type of Thinset is available in the form of a dry powder. To use it, you will need to add some water.

Unlike the mortar you are used to, Thinset is thinner, just as the name suggests. As a result, thinset is much easier to spread whilst maintaining uniformity.

Besides Thinset being sold as dry or pre-mixed, there are two more varieties of this product. Modified Thinset comprises special polymers that give it a stronger adhesive power.

You can also buy unmodified Thinset, which is available in its purest form. This type includes mainly Portland cement, water-retaining agents, and sand.

Please note that Thinset should be hidden behind the tile once done with the installation project. It’s not supposed to be visible.

Where can you use Thinset? One of the perks of working with Thinset is that it can be used on many surfaces. Examples include cement, cement backer boards, and concrete or wall-covered floors.

Thinset can also be used on waterproof membranes. While we are still on where to use Thinset, we must also mention how to use it.

Thinset can be best applied using a trowel. During tile installation, scoop some Thinset and layer it on the floor or cement board. It’s only during the installation of big tiles whereby Thinset should also be applied behind the tile itself.

What makes Thinset perfect for tile installation jobs is that it’s water-resistant. Therefore, it can be used in bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas that are likely to get wet.

Thinset was introduced to make tile installation easy. If you are familiar with tile installation jobs, then you know there are two methods. Before Thinset, tiles were installed mainly using a mortar bed.

What would happen here is that one would spread a thick layer of cement on a floor or wall and wait until it’s about to cure before laying the tiles.

The method of using a mortar bed is quite lengthy. Thinset, on the other hand, provides a much quicker solution to tile installation.

Instead of taking days to complete a tile installation job with a mortar bed, Thinset should ensure the job is done in hours.

Joint Compound

What is Joint Compound?

Now that you know what Thinset is, it’s time we introduce Joint Compound and its uses. Remember when we said that Thinset is used for tile installation, and Joint Compound is used for drywall finishing?

Joint Compound is an adhesive that holds drywall, seams, and patching together over screws. Joint Compound is often used alongside a drywall board and drywall tape. It also acts as an excellent surface prep for drywall painting.

Amongst contractors, Joint Compound is popularly known as mud and has a crucial role in drywall installation jobs. The primary ingredient in Joint Compound is gypsum.

Similar to Thinset, Joint Compound is available in a pre-mixed and powdered foam that needs water to be ready for use. Joint Compound has certain features that make it very effective.

For instance, it’s resistant to mildew and moisture. There are different types of Joint Compound, each with a varying amount of gypsum. Those that contain more gypsum are the ones that dry quickly.

To better understand what Joint Compounds are, allow us to dig deeper into the different types.

• Powdered Joint Compound, commonly known as hot mud, is excellent for novice builders.

The reason is its ability to let the user select the thinness or thickness. Hot mud contains high amounts of gypsum. Therefore it dries pretty quickly. It would be best to use it as soon as you add water. Powdered Joint Compound is an excellent choice when pre-filling joints because it inflates as it cures. Therefore, it’s great for filling gaps. Hot mud isn’t easy to sand since it dries pretty hard.

• The other option is a pre-mixed Joint Compound.

These are sold ready-to-use. They are perfect for taping. Pre-mixed Joint Compound is sold as all-purpose, which can be used in all drywall-finishing stages. These are great for beginners.

There are also taping compounds to be used with paper tapes. And there are lightweight all-purpose Joint Compounds. Before buying a Joint Compound, you must be very keen and ensure the option you choose is perfect for that kind of job.

Joint Compound is a product that plays an essential role in giving drywall a smooth finish. Once you have taped the drywall, you should layer Joint Compound to conceal the seams and fill screw holes using drywall knives.

Unlike Thinset, which needs a trowel, Joint Compound should be applied using the above tool. For easier application, it should be spread on a flat tray.

How Are They Different?

• Different Applications

The first and most significant difference is that these two products have varying uses. Even though there are some similarities which we will look into later on, Thinset is used to adhere tiles to a cement board.

On the other hand, Joint Compound is a drywall finishing product. It’s what gives drywall a smooth finish.

• Thinset is Applied Using Trowel, Joint Compound Needs a Drywall Knife and Flat Tray

Since these two are used for different purposes, you can expect the application tools to differ. Thinset is layered on a HardieBacker with a trowel.

When finishing drywall using Joint Compound, you are required to use a flat tray and a drywall knife.

• Using Joint Compound is More Time-consuming than Using Thinset

Finishing drywall using Joint Compound is more time-consuming and laborious than setting tiles using Thinset. The size of the area being worked on heavily determines the time taken.

However, if you compare finishing drywall with Joint Compound and installing tiles using Thinset, the person doing the latter project will take less time than the one doing the former.

• Shouldn’t Be Used Interchangeably

On various forums, you may read that these two can be used interchangeably. However, we advise you not to. Each of these products is designed to be used on different surfaces. When used interchangeably, you are assured of not getting lasting and pleasant results.

Also, Thinset and Joint Compound are widely available in many stores and even in e-commerce stores. There is no reason you should use one instead of the other.

How Are They Similar?


• Have Adhesive Properties

A key characteristic of these two is that both have some adhesive properties. Whether you use Joint Compound or Thinset, some glue bonds the product to the substrate used.

• Are Available in Powdered and Pre-mixed Forms

You can also get both Joint Compound and Thinset in pre-mixed and powdered forms. Remember that whichever option you choose is yours and should be determined by your preferences.

What’s Better about Thinset?

There are some good things about Thinset that you should know about. First, it makes tile installation projects very quick and easy compared to mortar beds.

Secondly, Thinset is cheap and widely available. It is water-resistant and evens out a surface, ensuring 100% uniformity. Thinset, however, doesn’t look very good. That’s why it has to be covered by tiles.

What’s Better about Joint Compound?

Drywall mud has got tons of benefits. Without it, a drywall installation project would be incomplete. Joint Compound is responsible for the smooth finish you see on walls.

It fills in nail heads on the drywall, conceals tapes, and joins together seams of drywall. It also prepares the surface for a paint job. It’s a must-use product when finishing drywall.

Who Should Use Thinset and Why?

Thinset was created for beginners and experts interested in a quick and easy tile installation project. It is used to help tiles adhere to a cement board or floor.

Who Should Use Joint Compound and Why?

Joint Compound is ideal for anyone who is planning to finish drywall. If you have tape or seams on drywall, Joint Compound can smoothen the surface and prepare it for paint.

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