We’ve been meaning to write a post about how we caulk for a while now – ever since we watched the “how to caulk” YouTube featuring a girl in a deep V tee – which oddly didn’t teach us much about caulking…? We eventually figured out a system that works for us, and thought we would pass on a few tips and tricks for getting it done (and others do it differently). Complete with turtlenecks :)
First we gather all our tools (everyone borrows my caulking gun – because it is truly awesome.):
- Rags, multiples, because this is sticky business
- Blue tape or other that won’t leave a residue
- Something sharp and narrow to puncture the caulk tube seal with: BBQ skewer, long nail etc
- Caulking gun, hopefully a good one
- A small bowl of soapy water
- Disposable glove
- Box knife to cut an angled opening on the tube spout
- A wide-mouthed and disposable trash receptacle
- The correct caulk for your project!
First, the area you will be caulking needs to be relatively clean and dry. Caulk won’t work well if it’s not able to adhere to the surfaces. You don’t need to go overboard in cleaning the area as the caulk will hide what’s behind it, but be sure it has enough clean surface area to create a good seal. Note: remove all mold, it will grow through caulk (bummer!).
Next we tape off if needed. Projects we would tape: high visibility areas where things need to look neat and tidy, rough surfaces so we could press the tape into the crevices, areas where caulk might cling like super glue in the wrong places or mar the surface somehow.
Now – set up to caulk:
- Read the directions on the tube!
- Create a space where you can set the gun down and it can ooze caulk (because it will) onto something you will throw away – layers of newspaper work well for this.
- Get a largish rag ready to wipe off excess caulk from your gloved finger. Or two. Even three. (use a disposable glove, these chemicals are not good for you) Ignore your thrifty side and throw these rags away.
- Arrange (and line) the trash can so you can easily dispose of long, gooey pieces of tape that take on a life of their own as you try to wrangle them into the garbage.
- Cut the spout of the tube with the box knife at about a 45′ angle. A 1/4″ to 3/8″ opening works well for most jobs. Puncture the seal (see photo below). Insert the tube into the gun. (The metal bar with the ladder-hook will need to be all the way out of the barrel for the tube to fit…)
- If you’re us, find your reading glasses and don your headlamp. Lookin’ good, (girl)friends!
A few notes:
- The more expensive caulking gun has a handy release feature that takes the pressure off the tube so it won’t ooze (as much) caulk. It also has a built-in puncturing tool and a rotating barrel that make the job easier and neater. You may be able to borrow one from a tool library.
- This may be too obvious, but don’t get soapy water in joints before they are caulked. It will keep the caulk from adhering.
- We think it’s best to push the caulking gun and the caulk into the joint, versus pulling it. This will depend on your application of course, but pushing will force the caulk deeper into the joint. We use both techniques however.
- Buy decent caulk and the correct one for the job. 100% Silicone is great for wet areas, but keep in mind that you cannot paint it. We use Latisil by Laticrete for the tub to tile joint – it has been phenomenal. I asked a window installer (who does a lot of warranty work) what he recommended, and boy, he had strong opinions! He uses Alex Plus Acrylic Latex plus Silicone, 35 yr durability for indoor work, and Polyurethane Sealant, Chem-Calk 915, Commercial grade, by Bostik for exterior applications. Both are low VOC.
- Caulk seems to attract dirt and dust, so keep this in mind. You may want to choose a product that you can paint over to help with this characteristic. Verify that it won’t shrink over time so that your paint will stay looking nice. **My remodel was framed and caulked for air leaks with the ubiquitous and inexpensive brand of caulk. In one year it had shrunk and pulled away from the wood, rendering it far less effective. This is work – buy decent caulk!
- If you make a mistake, sometimes it’s easier to let the caulk dry and then remove it, rather than trying to wipe off a sticky, smearing mess.
- Caulk doesn’t store well. You can try pushing nails, screws etc into the end for short-term storage, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work for long.
Phew! Is that enough caulk-talk for now?? When I find other great caulking solutions, I will post them. Good luck with your projects!
If you have any other caulking tips or recommendations for us, we would love to hear them.