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November 16, 2022  |  Home

How to choose and apply the right caulk for your job

You might have a hard time finding a contractor to come to your home just to replace the caulk around your tub or windows. It's not a good business decision for them. However, caulking is a very beginner-friendly DIY project that any homeowner can do with just a few basic tools. Our resident DIY expert Beth Allen, founder of HIP Chicks (Home Improvement Project Chicks), shares everything you need to know about caulk.

In this article: Gorilla Waterproof CaulkNewborn Drip-free Cradle Caulking Gun and Homax Two-piece Caulk Remover and Caulk Finisher Tool Kit.

Why you should learn to caulk

Allen believes that learning how to choose and apply caulk are skills that can save homeowners time, stress and money. If you have small cracks or gaps in your home, it provides an access point for air, water, insects and more. All of these elements will eventually cost you money, either in higher energy bills or repairs.

Where do you caulk?

"Obviously, we have windows. Both the interior and the exterior of windows," Allen began. "This includes trim work around the windows and under the windowsill, that is a big spot that contractors do not do when they build your home and where a ton of bugs can come in.

"You also have to caulk around where utilities come into your house and fill in any gaps or cracks in your siding, stone and stucco. The smallest crack is large enough to give animals access to your home. For example, a mouse can get in through a quarter-inch hole, about the width of a pencil, so it is important to caulk any cracks and gaps that you find."

Allen reminded that caulk can be used inside aesthetically on baseboards, crown molding, chair rails or any place you see that thin black space between two pieces of trim. Sealing that space can also stop air leaks and prevent bugs from getting in.

"In the bathroom, caulking should be done around the tub, in showers and along the back of the sink. Some people like to caulk the toilet, but I don't like to do that," Allen said.

How to choose the right caulk

Different types of caulk have different properties. Allen said you have to ask yourself a few questions to make sure you are getting the right caulk for the job:

  • Do I need indoor or outdoor caulk?
  • Do I need it to be waterproof?
  • Do I need it to be paintable?
  • What color will work best for my situation?

"The quality of the caulk is important," Allen said. "Don't buy the cheapest thing on the shelf or you'll be replacing it in a year. However, I do advise people, even if you buy caulk that says it will last 10 years, you'll probably only get seven years out of it. I have not found one type of caulk that has lasted its recommended time."

Caulking tips

  • Remove old caulk and clean: Before applying new caulk, you must remove the old caulk and clean the area. "I recommend cleaning the area with rubbing alcohol because it gets any old residue off. But remember, this is for windows, doors and plumbing applications only," Allen pointed out. "You wouldn't clean baseboards with rubbing alcohol."
  • Check the temperature: Allen cautioned that it is important to "check temperature and humidity guidelines on the tube because that will make or break your application."
  • Use a caulking gun: Allen said a caulking gun is easier to control than a tube. It gives you an even bead and creates less mess.
  • Use your finger and a wet paper towel: To smooth the caulk, Allen recommended putting a wet paper towel over your finger and running it along the caulk line.
  • Try painter's tape: If you are not comfortable caulking, you can run two strips of painter's tape leaving a space in between to apply your caulk. When you remove the painter's tape, your caulk will have a nice straight edge.
  • A small opening is better: "You want to make the smallest opening necessary in the tube of caulk," Allen instructed. "The bigger the hole, the greater the mess and the more caulk you will waste. It's easier to add more caulk than it is to remove it."
  • Follow drying guidelines: Every caulk has different guidelines for drying. Allen advised making sure you know how long it takes for your caulk to dry, especially in a plumbing application.

Best caulking products

Gorilla Waterproof Caulk

Gorilla caulk is mold- and mildew-resistant. You can buy it in clear or white, and it is water-ready in 30 minutes. This caulk is suitable for interior and exterior applications.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

DAP Dynaflex 230 Premium Elastomeric Exterior/Interior Sealant

DAP's Dynaflex 230 is best for composite wood and PVC trim board. It is crackproof, weatherproof and flexible, making it suitable for interior and exterior applications. The caulk goes on white and dries clear in 7 to 14 days.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

DAP Alex Ultra White Advanced Anti-shrink Sealant

This anti-shrink acrylic latex sealant is for the pro painter. It can be brush painted 15 minutes after application or spray-painted immediately after application. This caulk provides a waterproof seal and is mold- and mildew-resistant after curing.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

Newborn Drip-free Cradle Caulking Gun

The smooth-pressure rod in this caulking gun offers quieter operation than ratcheting models. It has a drip-free design for a cleaner application, and the thermoplastic handle provides a comfortable grip.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Homax Two-piece Caulk Remover and Caulk Finisher Tool Kit

This kit comes with two tools: a caulk remover and a caulk finisher. The remover can reach hard, dried caulk that is deep in cracks and crevices, while the finisher is designed to produce a perfect bead.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Krud Kutter 2-ounce Caulk Remover

You can use this biodegradable product on interior or exterior caulk. It is safe for wood, glass, porcelain, stainless steel and more. The thick consistency keeps the remover on the caulk longer for better performance.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot and Amazon

Magic Tub and Wall Peel and Caulk Strip

While it is not an ideal, permanent option, this peel-and-caulk tape is perfect for beginners and great for emergency or short-term use. It is super easy to apply and offers a mess-free installation.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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