I’ve emptied at least 5,000 tubes of caulk in my career—that’s a bead about 20 miles long! I’ve filled in gaps so flawlessly that the caulk was virtually unnoticeable, but there’s also been plenty of times that I’ve globbed things up pretty good. To help you get a top-notch caulking job with a lot less frustration, I’m going to share a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
Choose the right caulk for the job
1) Exterior siding, windows & doors
Temperatures changes cause the components on the outside of your house to expand and contract more than the ones on the inside. That’s why flexibility is an important characteristic of exterior caulk. And obviously, exterior caulk needs to stand up to sun, water, and extreme temperatures. For matching the texture of materials like stucco or rough-sawn wood, textured caulk is a good choice.
Polyurethane: Vulkem (for texture)
2) Interior painting projects
This is the one project where it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money. For just a couple bucks you can find a caulk that dries fast, is easy to work with, is easy to clean up, and can handle a little movement. Plan on spending more for a product with superior flexibility if you have a larger reoccurring crack in a wall corner or in a crown molding joint.
3) Kitchen and bath
Caulk in kitchens and a bathroom is often visible, so choosing a product that’s easy to apply neatly is important. It also needs to be waterproof, mold and mildew resistant. For those traits, check the label. Fast drying is a bonus.
Hybrid: DAP 3.0 Kitchen and Bath
4) Cracks in concrete
Flexibility is essential because concrete settles and moves up and down during freeze/thaw cycles (that’s why it cracked in the first place). And because you’ll likely be walking or driving on the filled crack, adhesion and durability is what your after. Whether you tool it in or apply a self-leveling product is a matter of preference.
Polyurethane: Loctite PL Concrete Sealant
Acrylic Latex: Slab (for cracks that move a lot)
Any caulk that lives on a roof is going to get hammered by the elements, so it needs to be able to survive extreme exposure to sunlight and temperature variations yet remain flexible. Solid adhesion is also key. These two recommended products can actually be applied on wet surfaces!
6) Sealing gutters
It’s no surprise that a product designed to seal gutters needs to be 100% waterproof. But it also needs to be tough, tough enough to handle the abrasion from debris and ice in colder climates. Most gutter sealants do a good job on metal gutters, but not all will adhere to plastic gutters.
Solvent (Metal or plastic): Lexel
Hybrid (Metal only): DAP 3.0 Gutter & Flashing
Notice that silicone is not one of the recommended products. Back it it’s day silicone was the most flexible, most water resistant, and held up to the elements better than most other product. But today there are just better choices available. When we asked one large manufacturer why they still produce silicone, they answered, “Silicone is what some of our customers watched their father use, and it’s what they’re familiar with.”