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Caulk Buying Guide

Black & Decker caulking gun

Learn how to buy caulk with Lowe's Caulk Buying Guide. Find out more about the differences between latex and silicone, specialty caulks and caulking guns.


Latex vs. Silicone

Acrylic Latex Caulk Plus Silicone

One of the most often-asked questions about caulk is whether to choose latex or silicone caulk. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so use the information below to guide your choice.

 

Latex Caulk*Silicone Caulk
Is easier to apply than silicone caulk.Is more difficult than latex caulk to apply. Needs meticulous surface preparation.
Can be painted.Cannot be painted.
Cleans up easily with soap and water.Requires mineral spirits for cleanup.
Has less of an odor than silicone caulk.Has more of an odor than latex caulk.
Is easy to remove when it needs to be replaced.Is more difficult to remove when it needs to be replaced.
Weakens and loses flexibility in direct sunlight and temperature extremes. Is more flexible and durable than latex caulk. Holds up well in direct sunlight and temperature extremes.
Does not last as long as silicone caulk (under most circumstances)Lasts longer than latex caulk (under most circumstances).
Can be applied on porous or non-porous surfaces. Works best on non-porous surfaces.
Better suited for gaps that stay constant.Works well in gaps that expand and contract.

 

*Note that latex caulk is sometimes called "painter's caulk," or "latex/acrylic caulk*."


Many companies now make caulks that are combinations of latex and silicone. They are often marketed as "siliconized latex" or "latex plus silicone." These products offer the ease of use of latex with the added durability of silicone. But for the harshest conditions - particularly for exterior use in places that get extreme weather - 100 percent silicone is best.



Specialty Caulks

Specialty Caulks

Beyond the latex or silicone decision, there are many more specialty caulks to choose from - each designed for a particular task. While an all-purpose caulk might work sufficiently in many situations, the best results will always come from using a material that is designed for the specific conditions you have.

 

Some of the specialty caulks available are:

  • Adhesive caulk used when attaching two pieces together or filling a gap.
  • Kitchen and bath caulks that contain a material that fights mildew growth.
  • Mortar caulk designed to hold up under high heat.
  • Window and door caulk helps to seal openings in the home.
  • Roof sealant to stop minor roof leaks.
  • Concrete sealant to fill cracks in driveways and sidewalks.
  • Gutter and flashing sealant.
  • Blacktop asphalt sealant.
  • Caulk made of special material rated for its ability to block fire. This caulk is usually red.
  • Roof sealant to stop minor roof leaks.
  • Concrete sealant to fill cracks in driveways and sidewalks.
  • Gutter and flashing sealant.
  • Blacktop asphalt sealant.
  • Caulk made of special material rated for its ability to block fire. This caulk is usually red.


Coloring

Because latex caulk will take paint, you can use white caulk and paint it to match any place you're using it. When using silicone caulk, remember to choose a color that most closely matches the surrounding area, or select clear for an unobtrusive look.

Some specialty caulks, such as the fire-blocking material, come in specific colors.



Caulk Guns and Squeeze Tubes

caulk squeeze tubes

The classic method for applying caulk is with a gun, into which you place tubes of caulk. Many companies now also sell their products in squeeze tubes or in aerosol cans with narrow tips - both of which eliminate the need for a caulking gun. The squeeze tubes work well for small jobs, but for large areas it is easier to draw a good caulk bead with a gun. The narrow-tipped aerosol cans are particularly helpful for caulking in tight areas.



Other Caulking Products

Caulk Finishing Tool
  • Caulk singles are perfect for easy touch-ups around the house, such as sealing shower tile or the kitchen sink. Just tear, squeeze, and toss.
  • Caulking cord comes in rolls and is used most often for weatherstripping windows and doors. Applied properly, it usually lasts one to two years.
  • Oakum is a cord material used to fill wide joints before caulk is applied. Squeeze oakum into the opening, then apply caulk on top of it, sealing it in place.
  • A finishing tool will help you make a uniform bead, but once you get the hang of it, you might be able to do just as well with a wet finger. Practice on a piece of cardboard or a tucked-away area before tackling visible projects.

Get the Right Amount of Paint