Caulking 101

Nothing finishes a job around a tub, shower, sink or vanity like a nice, clean professionally applied bead of caulk.  The challenge is getting that caulk applied neatly isn’t it? I’ve pulled up many a bead of caulk that looks like it was applied by an 8 year boy. For any of us that have done any caulking at all we can appreciate the difficulty in getting that caulk on neatly.  There are several things that I have learned over the years that have much improved my results and can do the same for you  as well.

1.) You need a good caulk gun.

Like most things, all caulk guns are not created equal. Some are apparently are just manufactured to resemble a caulk gun in their basic shape. I guess to be fair I ought to add that they also seem to be designed to  function somewhat like a true caulk gun as well… in that if you squeeze the handle hard enough caulk will come out.

What I have found that works best is a caulk gun with a spring and sliding tension bar. This design seems to allow you  more control of the pressure pushing the caulk out. You don’t want the caulk to come out too fast( that is what causes the lumpy, globby results that look so unprofessional). In fact it is better for the caulk to come out slower than you want than faster than you want. Also, with this kind of caulk gun when you get to the point you want to stop caulking…it is easier to stop the flow of caulk. With a rachetted caulk gun you invariably end up with too much caulk at the end point and/or a spill of caulk on your work you have to clean up later(i.e. more mess and more work). Get a good caulk gun at the start and you will be thanking yourself later.

2.) Cut the tip the right size for the job.

So you’ve gotten a good caulk gun and you are ready to start. How big of a bead do you want? My advice is to start small…smaller even than you think . You can always stop later and cut the tip a little bit more to get a larger bead. Once you have cut the tip too big you are stuck with it… and likely just going to make more work and more of a mess. Start small and work your way up with your bead size.

3.) Keep a moist  hand towel close by

Caulking sets up(dries) pretty  fast…almost always faster than you think it will. As soon as you get a bead run with the caulk gun be prepared to touch up. Moisten a finger  on the towel and lightly run it along the bead. If you have you caulk bead the right size this will do a nice job of smoothing any irregularities and give it that nice smooth finished look.

4.) Keep some paper towels handy too

With practice in cutting you caulk tube tip….you will learn to get that bead the right size and will rarely ever have to wipe excess off. But until you have practiced a bit, you will invariably get too much caulk on in spots. Don’t panic. Simply wipe the excess off with a paper towel , re-apply a new bead and then smooth with the moisten finger.

5.) Get the right caulk for the job

Once after caulking an outside seam and then letting it dry I painted the wood and caulk only to find out that my paint was beading up on the caulk! Some caulks are not paintable. Many are. Many silicon based caulks are not paintable…. though some are. Plan ahead on your project. Will you need to paint the caulk later?  If so, take your time in choosing your caulk….make sure it is plainly marked as “Paintable”.

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