November Project: How to Use Caulk

With winter weather quickly approaching, or already here, here's a quick home improvement tactic to help you save. It waterproofs. It weatherproofs. It seals cracks and fills in joints both inside and outside of your home. It's relatively inexpensive, durable, and multi-purpose - and best of all, it's easier to use than you might think!

Caulk should be used on...
Bathtubs and tile; Kitchen and bathroom plumbing fixtures; Window and door frames; Siding ; Plaster walls; Baseboards; Flashing; Mouldings; Air conditioners; Skylights; Gutters & downspouts; Concrete & mortar; Window panes; Foundations; Blacktop & roofing; Fireplaces & wood burning stoves; Air conditioners; Skylights; Gutters and downspouts; Concrete and mortar; Window panes; Foundations; Blacktop and roofing; Fireplaces and wood burning stoves

Red Devil caulks, from Hardware Hank, are long-lasting and offer many specialized uses and properties. Ask your local Hardware Hank for extra help with your caulking project.

Quick Tip:  When you want to caulk areas where water collects, such as a flat roof or driveway, it is best to choose a solvent-based caulk. Acrylic caulks are a bit easier to use and clean up, but standing water can deteriorate them.

Caulk comes packaged in either a cartridge or a squeeze tube. With a cartridge, you must use a caulking gun.

To get started, gather these tools:
Paper towels
Small bucket of water
Mild bathroom cleaner
Caulk smoother
5-in-1 Tool or utility knife (for removing old caulking)
Although there are many different places inside and outside of your home that can be sealed with caulk, the application technique will be essentially the same in most cases.

First, prepare the surface:

Making sure that the surface you are going to caulk is clean and well-prepared is essential to achieving good adhesion and a smooth bead. Clean off any dust or dirt particles with water. Do not use soap.
Remove any remnants of old caulking. New caulk will not adhere well to acrylic caulk that has been cured - and will not stick at all to cured silicone caulk. After you have removed most of the old caulk with a blade (being careful not to scratch the surface), clean any remaining residue with a mild abrasive or rubbing alcohol. If the surface is mildewed, use a concentrated mildew killer after removing the old caulk.
Quick Tip:  Caulk has a shelf life of one to two years. To ensure that your caulk is fresh enough to work properly, test it on a non-porous surface before you begin your project. Make sure that the caulk sticks, comes out of the cartridge smoothly, and most importantly, that it cures in the time it is supposed to.
If you're caulking for the first time, practice on newspaper.

Next, the tapered nozzle of the caulk cartridge must be cut before you begin. The further down the nozzle you cut, the larger the opening. Before you cut, estimate the width of the crack or joint you are caulking (example: 1/4"), and cut the nozzle at approximately the same measurement, following the markings on the nozzle. Cut it at a 45° angle.

Second, if you are applying caulk from a cartridge, place the cartridge into the caulking gun and hold it at a 45° angle to the surface using even pressure and squeezing the trigger. Apply caulk from a squeeze tube using the same technique but without a caulking gun.

Third, once the caulk begins to come out of the nozzle, carefully move the gun or tube at an even pace along the gap to be filled. The caulk should fill the gap and also touch both surfaces. If the bead of caulk is too narrow, recut the nozzle to provide a larger opening.

Quick Tip:  How much caulk do you need for the job? One standard cartridge contains enough caulk to cover 26 linear feet with a 1/4" x 1/4" bead.

Quick Tip:  The best fill is usually achieved by pushing the caulk out into the gap in a forward motion. However, in some cases (particularly where the side materials are rough or uneven) a pulling motion may work better, as the cartridge will be less likely to get snagged along the joint.

Fourth, use a caulk smoother for both acrylic and silicone caulks for a clean, finished look.*

* If you don't have a caulk smoother, a moistened finger or a popsicle stick can be used to smooth the bead.

Quick Tip:  It's better to apply a thin bead of caulk and add a little more if necessary than to apply too much and attempt to remove the excess.

Fifth, allow the caulk to set for the proper amount of time as indicated on the packaging, especially if you intend to paint over it. Curing times vary greatly so be sure to read the instructions carefully.

Quick Tip:  If you are caulking around a bathtub, fill it with water first. When the tub is full, or when someone steps into it, the added weight causes the tub to shift or sink slightly. You must make sure you are applying enough caulk to the gap so the caulk will not crack under added weight and movement.

Quick Tip:  If you plan to paint over the caulk, a white caulk is a better choice than a clear paintable caulk, which takes longer to cure and is more likely to shrink.

Follow these simple steps to make sure your home is sealed properly this winter. You'll see it pay dividends on your heating bill.

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