No item used in a home during construction or maintenance is more important than caulk. For many homeowners and builders, caulk is the least researched and most misused product in the home.
All caulk is not the same. Unlike paint, the easiest to apply typically is not the best to use. For those who have installed caulk, it can be a gooey, sticky mess and difficult to clean up.
So, why use caulk? Caulk is used for sealing gaps to prevent water intrusion and spreading of fire. Caulk is also used, in many cases, to create better aesthetics for painting. That’s really where the problem begins, because caulking quality requirements for interior moulding are far different than caulking around an exterior window. However, it is not uncommon to see cheap, painter’s grade caulk being improperly used.
Inexpensive painter’s caulk, in a promotional sale, can go for less than a dollar per tube, while longer-lasting, weather-tolerant caulk with minimal shrinkage can cost over $5 per tube.
The quality of caulk purchased should be based on the homeowner’s willingness to re-caulk. Typically, a low-cost caulk shrinks fast and cannot handle the extreme weather conditions in Florida.
Once a caulk shrinks or deteriorates, it must be stripped out and new caulk applied. It is a good bet the person replacing the caulk doesn’t want to repeat this task annually, so they will search out and pay for the best caulk available.
The basic caulks available on the market include: painter’s caulk for interior use, exterior painter’s caulk, door and window sealant, roof and gutter polymer-based caulk, elastomeric caulk for components that expand and contract, fire caulk for fire walls, masonry crack caulk and bathroom tile caulk. Choosing the correct caulk for each application is very important. Unfortunately, rather than buying multiple tubes of caulk for the correct application, many people will use one caulk for everything. That is why Florida homes have so many water intrusion issues.
After determining the correct caulk for the application, the next step is selecting the type of caulk for the job. Latex caulks are water based and much easier to use, however, they are not as durable. Latex caulks with silicone add durability, reduce shrinkage and are a bit more expensive.
Pure silicone caulks are very durable with less shrinkage, however, these types of caulk are much harder to use and many cannot be painted. The new polymer caulks have outstanding durability, flexibility and minimal shrinkage, but they are very expensive with most selling for more than $10 per tube.
Applying caulk that both looks good and functions properly is another challenge. For best results, the tip of the caulk tube should be cut small and at a slight angle. A good caulk gun will spread the caulk out evenly. A cloth with water or solvent can be used immediately to clean up excess. Patience is needed when caulking to prevent caulking catastrophes.
Buying the proper caulk and applying it correctly can protect the structure of your home against rot, mold and water intrusion. One tube does not fit all.
Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Radio Show heard every Monday at noon on My790AM WLBE in Leesburg.