Best Caulk For Kitchens, Baths, Gutters, And More
With a little knowledge, selecting sealant is simple
Admit it. You’ve been one of the lost souls standing in the caulk aisle, staring dumbfounded at the magnitude of caulk choices. This article will help you make sense of those ever-expanding choices and choose the right caulk for your specific job. For more caulk application tips, check out Mark’s Caulking Tips.
FOUR COMMON FORMULAS
These types of caulk dominate the shelves at home centers. Labels don’t always tell you what’s in the tube, so we’ve included examples of each type in this slideshow. But there are many more brands than the ones we show. All are available in various colors and paintable.
Acrylic Latex ($2 to $5)
Acrylic latex caulks are the easiest to apply and smooth out. They’re also the only sealants that clean up with water. Look for versions labeled “siliconized” or “plus silicone.” Adding silicone to acrylic latex improves adhesion and flexibility.
Poly caulks are generally tougher than other sealants, making them a good choice for driveways and other areas that take a beating. But their gooey consistency makes them hard to work with. Check the label before painting; you may have to wait several days.
Solvent-Based ($6 to $9)
Many solvent-based caulks are great for roofing because they don’t degrade in direct sunlight and can be applied to wet surfaces. But they’re gooey and hard to apply neatly.
Hybrid ($7 and up)
Most hybrid caulks combine silicone and polyurethane for top-notch adhesion, flexibility and longevity. They’re easier to apply neatly than polyurethane, but not as easy as acrylic latex. Most aren’t labeled “hybrid,” so we’ve pointed out the hybrids in the various photos. Cost is a clue: High-quality hybrids are usually the most expensive caulks on the shelf.
“Big Stretch” is latex— and flexible!
Latex caulk is typically less flexible than other caulks. Adding silicone helps, but Sashco achieved tremendous flexibility with its latex-based Big Stretch product without the addition of silicone. Big Stretch stretches up to 500 percent its original size. That’s impressive!
Best caulk for siding and trim
Choose a hybrid or polyurethane. On your home’s exterior, high-quality caulk is critical—it locks out water, protecting your home against rot and peeling paint. Although some inexpensive acrylic latex caulks are rated for exterior use, we recommend hybrid caulks because they offer better adhesion and flexibility. For matching the appearance of materials like stucco or rough-sawn wood, we like Vulkem, a textured polyurethane.
Best caulk for painting
Choose acrylic latex
This is the one project for which 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, easy to clean up and can handle a little movement. Alex Plus is one good choice, but there are several others. If you have a large recurring crack in a wall corner or in a crown molding joint, choose a product with better flexibility such as a hybrid formula or Big Stretch acrylic caulk.
Best caulk for kitchens and bathrooms
Just check the label
Caulk in kitchens and bathrooms is often visible, so choosing a product that’s easy to apply neatly is important. It also needs to be waterproof and mold and mildew resistant. Choose a product labeled with those traits. Acrylic latex kitchen and bath caulks are the easiest to work with, but hybrids generally have a longer life span.
Best caulk for concrete and masonry
Choose a specialty caulk
A caulk specially formulated for concrete and masonry will outperform general-purpose products. Most concrete and masonry sealants are polyurethane or hybrid formulas. But one acrylic latex product, Slab, also performs well, especially on concrete cracks that move a lot. Some concrete and masonry caulks are self-leveling and can be used only on level surfaces.
Best caulk for roofs
Choose solvent-based sealants
Any caulk that lives on a roof is going to get hammered by the elements. It needs to be able to survive extreme exposure to sunlight and temperature variations yet remain flexible. These two recommended products can actually be applied on wet surfaces!
Solvent: Lexel, Through the Roof
Best caulk for gutters
Go with a hybrid or solvent-based product
It’s no surprise that a product designed to seal gutters needs to be 100 percent 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, but not all will adhere to plastic gutters. Be sure to check the label.
What about Silicone?
Years ago, silicone caulk was a good choice for many jobs. Today, there are better options for almost every situation. So why is silicone still so popular? Here’s what one manufacturer of caulks (including silicone) told us: “Silicone is what our customers saw their fathers use. It’s what they’re familiar with.”