Caulk

What it is, and how to use it to get the best results


There are many different types of caulk out on the market today, but for our purposes here, I would like to focus mainly on the ones for use when painting either the interior, or exterior of you're home.

What is Caulk?

To put it in simple terms, it is a type of filler/sealer that is used to finish or seal joints, cracks, or separation of any kind when preparing to paint.

For instance, when woodwork is nailed into place, caulk is applied to fill in the resulting small gap (or crack) between the wall, and the trim.

Basically, it provides a seamless finish to whatever you're trying to paint.

I like to refer to caulk as the great "equalizer", in terms of hiding many an imperfection when it comes to paint prep. This applies to old houses as well as new.

(as a wise, old carpenter once said to his assistant after making a mistake, "don't worry, the painter will fix it with a lot of caulk!")

Different Types of Caulk (Interior/Exterior)

Latex

This is the most common all-purpose filler for use with interior painting projects. Price and quality usually vary depending on the length of time the manufacturer gives as a guarantee.

(always check the label to see what length of time the guarantee is. Generally, they come in 25 year, 35 year, 45 year, 50 year, and lifetime guarantees)

The great thing about latex, is that it is easy to work with, and easy to clean up after. Just wipe away any excess with a wet rag, and your done.

As far as colors go, earth tones seem to be the rage these days. You'll find them in brown, gray, almond, and beige.

You can even finish a seam in high gloss to match shiny tile work, bathtubs, shower stalls, and kitchen counter tops.

Speaking of tubs and showers, you'll definitely want to use a sealer specifically made to resist moisture and mildew in the bathroom and kitchen area. It's virtually a must for exterior work.

Acrylic Latex/Silicone Blend - 100% Silicone

I would recommend using an acrylic latex/silicone blend, or (the best bet), 100% pure silicone to seal anything where weather, or moisture can affect the situation. Once it "cures", or sets up and dries, the resulting seal is impenetrable to water, and is resistant to moisture, mildew, and the elements.

Again, 100% silicone, or a silicone blend is excellent for outdoor use, because it can stand up to any weather extreme that nature might blow your way.

Various Applications for Specific Caulks

Use latex sealant for:

  • Finishing interior trimwork, baseboards, and all other woodwork

  • Basically anywhere a small amount of filler is needed for finishing

    Use silicone, an acrylic/silicone blend, or vinyl adhesive for:

  • Sealing around bathtubs, showers, tilework, kitchen counter tops, surrounds, and anywhere moisture comes into play.

  • Sealing around windows and doors (interior and exterior)

    Other Uses Include:

  • Irregular wall corners.

    (for more detailed information, go to my page on finishing wall corners with caulk.

    This is really handy when removing wall paper. Why?

    Well, because many times, after the paper is removed, you'll usually see all kinds of imperfections on the wall itself, and in the corners and ceiling joints.

    - TIP - This is a great point in time to break out the spackling paste for filling cracks in the walls, and caulk for the corners and ceiling joints!

  • Small holes in walls due to removal of small picture-hanging nails.

    (see small nail hole repair for further information)

  • Reattaching loose wall paper to wall. This is ideal when it's a relatively little area to reattach.

    If you have a large section (over 1" x 12") you might consider regular wall paper paste to reattach loose sections.

    Properly Seal Bathtub and Shower Area (recap)

    Now, if you're going to seal your bathtub, shower, kitchen counter top, or something where water comes into play, you're going to want to use a tough, moisture resistant sealer.

    You can use any of the following:

  • Inexpensive Latex. When "cured", or dried, will resist moisture and mildew. Easy clean up.

  • A little more expensive filler will be a silicone/acrylic blend, with the same moisture and mildew resistant result. Easy clean up - just make sure you wipe right away because it tends to set up (dry) right away.

  • Perhaps the best sealant for resisting moisture and mildew, in any kind of setting (indoor/outdoor), would be 100% pure silicone. When applied correctly, this sealer will last a very long time.

    Be careful when applying this sealer, because it can be quite messy, and the odor is strong. Clean up is hard to get right because the silicone just won't wipe away (like latex).

    Silicone comes in white, and clear, and different earth tones.


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