Caulk is inexpensive and indispensable for maintaining your home. Flexible and versatile, different caulk compounds are designed to fill gaps and joints in your home where water, air, dust, noise or insects can get in. Caulk seals, protects and even beautifies—around doors, windows, molding, bathtubs, home exteriors or any points between dissimilar building materials. While caulking material seals and finishes your home, it also cuts down on home energy costs. For all the benefits to your home, caulk should be in every homeowner’s tool belt of maintenance tricks.
Applying caulk is a simple and straightforward skill. With practice, you can transform many surfaces in your home. Use caulk to hide imperfections in carpentry and to create more finished appearances—from baseboards to backsplashes. Recaulk around an unsightly window frame, replacing cracks and mildew with new beading. Stop mold from growing in joints between bathtub and wall or window and wall with caulk.
Apply Caulk with Finesse for a Perfect Finish
Drawing a consistent line or bead of caulk takes patience, but gets easier with experience. Practice on a piece of wood or cardboard. Take your time, follow the tips and you will apply caulk like a pro.
Caulk compounds usually comes in tubes, which attach to a caulk “gun” for application. Some caulks are applied without a gun—available in pressurized cans or in squeeze tubes for smaller applications.
- For best results, the surface should be clean before applying new caulk. Cut away old caulk with a utility knife, cutting at 90-degree angles. You can remove stubborn remnants with a needle-nose pliers or warm water. Old silicone caulk is especially difficult to remove. Even tiny amounts of silicone left behind will interfere with new caulking adhesions. You might have to sand or grind old silicone caulk away.
Once old caulking is removed, scrub thoroughly with a nontoxic cleaner. Effective disinfectants include a mix of vinegar and borax with warm water, hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil mixed with water.
- Cut the caulk applicator tip at a 45-degree angle. The angle of the tip forms the shape of the bead as you apply it to the surface. The angled hole in the applicator tip should be a little smaller than the crack to be filled or approximately 1/8″ in diameter for most household gaps.
- Test a small surface area to make sure the new caulk application will adhere.
- To help ensure even application, try masking tape. Before applying a bead of caulk, lay down masking tape along either side of the gap or seam to be filled at about ¼” distances. As you apply caulk, the excess will end up on top of the tape to be peeled away before the bead is done drying.
- For smooth, even application, hold the caulk gun at a 45-degree angle, in line with the 45-degree angle of the tip. Maintain the 45-degree angle as you apply caulk with a steady hand at consistent speed. If the beading looks uneven or lumpy you can always smooth it over.
- Smooth out the bead of caulk into a perfect line with a caulking spatula. For a custom look, use a spatula designed for the shape of beading you want. You can also use spoons, butter knives, foam paintbrushes or ice cubes to smooth out caulk. Many experienced caulking experts simply run their fingers down the caulking bead, wiping off excess into a towel as they go. But since most caulks have some level of toxicity, a caulking tool is safer, as well as more consistent.
Choose the Right Caulk
Most residential caulks are made of latex, silicone, acrylic or some combination. Water based latex caulk is easier to apply and clean, while silicone caulk is more durable, but problematic to remove.
There are many different caulks available for different applications. Choose caulks with the lowest possible toxicity, labeled as low-VOC (volatile organic compound). Look for caulks made without mineral spirits (the most toxic chemicals used in caulks). Mineral spirits can contain any number of unspecified petroleum-based solvents.
Take time to choose the right caulk. With practice and care, you will develop an eye for improving all the nooks and crannies of your home. Filling in the gaps of the interior and exterior will result in a safer, more efficient and more finished looking home.
Caulk seals, protects and even beautifies—around doors, windows, molding, bathtubs, home exteriors and any points between dissimilar materials.
While caulking seals, protects and finishes your home, it also cuts down on home energy costs.
Use caulk to hide imperfections in carpentry.
With practice, you can apply caulk to transform the look of many surfaces in your home.
Practice on a piece of wood or cardboard to draw a consistent bead of caulk.
Apply caulk to a clean surface only.
Once old caulking is removed, scrub thoroughly with a nontoxic cleaner.
Cut the caulk applicator tip at a 45-degree angle.
Test a small surface area to make sure the new caulk application will adhere.
For smooth, even application, hold the caulk gun at a 45-degree angle.
Smooth out the bead of caulk into a perfect line with a caulking spatula.
Water based latex caulk is easier to apply and clean, while silicone caulk is more durable, but problematic to remove.