Your Guide to Buying and Using Caulk

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Caulk is your all-around wonder material

It seals cracks and fills in any gaps and joints you have inside or outside of your house. Caulk is also used to help waterproof and weatherproof homes for those dreaded natural disasters.

Caulk is useful stuff, it can be used to decorate or repair and, at the same time, it seals and protects. It is a wonderful preventative and is easily replaced when its better days are past.


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Caulk is inexpensive and easy to apply relative to the damage it prevents. Learn to use your caulking gun, and learn which type of product is appropriate for different jobs. Applying a smooth bead is a skill that every homeowner should have.caulk and caulk gun

Caulk can be used on almost any surface including bathtubs, tiles, plumbing fixtures, siding, moldings, skylights, window panes and windows, door frames, baseboards, flashing, foundations, concrete and mortar, blacktop and roofing baseboards, plaster walls, air conditioners, gutters and downspouts, fireplaces and wood burning stoves.

It is important to remember, though, that there are different types of sealants. Some may be more suited to the project and surface that you are doing than others. Also, keep in mind that, while acrylic products are slightly easier to use, they often deteriorate with exposure to water. If you plan to use this type in an area that is exposed to water, then use a solvent-based product.

Latex versus Silicone Caulk

Latex caulk is easier to apply than silicone type. It also cleans up easily with soap and water. Latex sealant has less of an odor than silicone sealant and it is easy to remove when it needs to be replaced.

But Latex caulk weakens and loses flexibility in direct sunlight and temperature extremes and does not last as long as silicone caulk (under most circumstances). Latex sealant can be applied on porous or non-porous surfaces.

Silicone caulk requires mineral spirits for cleanup. It is more flexible and durable than latex product and it holds up well in direct sunlight and temperature extremes. Silicone sealant works best on non-porous surfaces.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or a pro, caulking really is quite simple to do. That is because caulk is almost always applied in the same way, so you don’t need to learn any fancy, new techniques each time you want to use it.

You can buy caulk in either a squeeze tube or as a cartridge. Be aware, though, that if you buy a cartridge, you will also need to buy a caulking gun. Whenever you plan to do some caulking, make sure you have these items nearby: paper towels, bucket of water, mild cleaner or rubbing alcohol, sponge, caulk smoother and utility knife.types of caulk

No matter what you are caulking, always make sure that the surface of your project is clean. A clean surface will help the caulk adhere better.

Things to do before you start applying caulking

1. Remove any dust or dirt from your surface with warm water. Never use soap.

2. Remove any leftover sealant that may be lingering on your project’s surface. New caulk may not adhere properly to the old sealant. If you’re using a utility knife to do this, be careful not to scratch the surface. If there is any residue left, use a mild household cleaner or rubbing alcohol to get rid of it.

3. Be sure to remove any mildew from the area using a cleaner specially formulated for mildew.

Remember, sealant doesn’t last forever! There should be an expiration date on the package. If not, then throw it out after one or two years.

If you’re not sure that your caulk is still good, then give it a test run on a non-porous surface. Does the product stick? Is it coming out smoothly? Does it set within the appropriate amount of time? If the answer is yes to all three questions, then your sealent is still good.

James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of CaulkSource.com and writes expert articles about caulk.

By: James Monahan

Watch this video for tips for choosing the right caulk:

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