Caulking 101


Caulk plays an essential and often overlooked role in keeping your home airtight, watertight, and looking its best. It’s an effective and inexpensive weapon in deterring costly repairs and unwelcome pests. And best of all, most homeowners can tackle caulking jobs without hiring a pro. You only need to know some basics and spend a little time practicing your caulking skills. 

Where to use caulk?

Houses have hundreds of seams—locations where various building materials are adjoined, but small gaps occur. Some of those gaps, especially in bathrooms, kitchens, and along exterior walls, are routinely exposed to water. If left unsealed, water damage is highly possible. 

Other gaps allow exterior air to flow into your home, reducing energy efficiency and driving up heating and cooling bills. Cracks along exterior walls can also make it easier for insects and mice to enter your home. 

Caulk provides a convenient way to close those gaps. Some of the most common applications include sealing and waterproofing these areas:

  • The perimeter of exterior window and door frames
  • Shower and bathtub seams
  • Wherever countertops meet walls
  • Sink perimeters 
  • Where toilet bases meet the floor 
  • Anywhere that old caulk has cracked or rotted

Caulk Types

Latex and silicone caulk are the most common types. The two materials are sometimes combined and sold as siliconized latex or latex plus silicone. These products offer the easy use of latex with the added durability of silicone.

Caulk comes in two forms: a cartridge or a squeeze tube. Using a larger cartridge (usually 9 to 11 ounces) with a caulk gun will result in a continuous bead of caulk. For smaller projects, a smaller squeeze tube (usually 3 to 6 ounces) may be a more convenient choice.

In addition to cartridges and tubes, you can also buy caulk strips. These rolls come with adhesive backing and a fast, no-mess application. With no tools required, these mildew-resistant strips are perfect for sealing bathtubs, showers and wall trim, and can even be applied over existing caulk as a finishing touch.

Latex Caulk

  • Easier to apply and replace
  • Can be painted
  • Easy to clean with soap and water
  • Minimal odor
  • Weakens in extreme temperatures or sunlight
  • Works on porous and nonporous surfaces
  • Best suited for constant gaps
  • Also called painters caulk or latex/acrylic caulk

Silicone Caulk

  • More difficult to apply or replace
  • Only some can be painted (check the label)
  • Requires mineral spirits for cleanup
  • Stronger odor than latex
  • More flexible and holds up to extreme temperatures and sunlight
  • Lasts longer
  • Works on nonporous surfaces
  • Works for gaps that expand, contract or stay constant

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