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Caulk Buying Guide

There are specific caulk types for bathrooms, kitchens, concrete, gutters, moulding, roof, windows, plumbing, interior and exterior jobs, and more. Choosing the right type and application can be confusing, but with the right information, caulking can be an easy DIY project.

Caulk

Why Caulk?

Caulk is used as a sealant, filling cracks or gaps around windows, doors, plumbing and pipes to prevent water, bugs or air from entering your home.

 

Watch our Video: How to Use Caulk

Caulk Types

Most caulks are composed of latex or silicone. 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.

Caulk comes in two forms: a cartridge or a squeeze tube. A cartridge and caulk gun gives a more continuous bead than a squeeze tube, which is better for small projects. Cartridges typically have 9-11 ounces of caulk versus a squeeze tube, which has 3-6 ounces.

 

 

       Latex Caulk*         

 

  • Easier to apply or replace
  • Can be painted
  • Cleans easily with soap and water
  • Minimal odor
  • Weakens in extreme temperatures or sunlight
  • Applies to porous and nonporous surfaces   
  • Best suited of constant gaps

 

Silicone Caulk
  • More difficult to apply or replace
  • Only some can be painted (check labeled)
  • Requires mineral spirits for cleanup
  • More odor
  • More flexible and holds up to extreme temperature and sunlight
  • Lasts longer
  • Best on nonporous surfaces
  • Works for gaps the expand, contract, or stay constant

 

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

 

Specialty Caulks

Beyond the latex-or-silicone decision, there are several 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.

 

Caulk Type Projects Key Features
Adhesive
  • Attach two pieces together
  • Fill gaps

 

  • Prevents cracking as surfaces expand and contract
Blacktop Asphalt
  • Fills in cracks in parking lots, driveways and other asphalt surfaces

  • Forms a strong waterproof seal
  • Resists stains from gas, oil and deicing salts

 

Concrete
  • Fills gaps in driveways and sidewalks

  • Can be exposed to water shortly after application
  • Withstands extreme temperatures

Exterior
  • Outdoor trim work
  • New window installation

  • UV resistant
Fire Retardant 
  • Sealing separations around wires, pipes, HVAC ducts and vents
  • Chimney/fireplace or other framing gaps

  • Made of special material rated for its ability to block fire
  • Noncombustible
  • Withstands high temperatures

 

Gutter and Flashing
  • Use around roof vents, gutters, flashing, drainspouts and other metal joints

  • Withstands extreme temperatures
  • Durable and flexible
Kitchen and Bath
  • Tile/countertop installation
  • Tile/shower/tub maintenance
  • Sink/faucet installation

  • Mildew Resistant
  • Can be exposed to water shortly after application
Mortar
  • Seals leaks and cracks on stucco, mortar, stone, concrete and brick

  • Withstands high temperatures
  • Blends in with textured surfaces
Moulding and Trim
  • Fills gaps between walls and boards
  • Crown moulding installation 

  • Quick dry time
  • Paintable
Roof
  • Stops minor roof leaks

  • Flexible, waterproof and mildew resistant 
Sanded
  • Fills gaps on large joints (1/8 inch or bigger)
  • Abut and match preexisting tile/sanded grout

  • Appears rough and grainy
  • Adheres well in wet areas
Window and Door Interior
  • Window/door maintenance 

  • Won't shrink or crack
Unsanded
  • Fills very tight joints
  • Joins tile and counters
  • Smooth finish

Caulk Strips

In addition to cartridges and tubes, you can also buy caulk strips. These pre-shaped rolls come with adhesive backing and have a fast, no mess application. With no tools required, these mildew-resistant strips are perfect for sealing bathtubs, showers and wall trim, and can even be applied over existing caulk as a finishing touch. 

 

Shop Caulk Strips

 

Other Caulk and Accessories

Caulk finishing tool
  • Caulk singles are good for easy touch-ups around the house, such as sealing shower tile or the kitchen sink.
  • Caulking cord comes in rolls and is used most often for weatherstripping windows and doors. Applied properly, it usually lasts one to two years.
  • 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.
  • A caulk gun can come with nozzle cutters or a swing-out wire to puncture caulk tube seals. Choose a caulk gun that will accommodate the size caulk tube you'll use.

Coloring

Because latex and some silicone caulk will take paint, you can use white caulk and paint it to match any place you're using it. When using silicone caulk that can't be painted, choose a color that most closely matches the surrounding area, or select clear for an unobtrusive look.