Caulk is used to seal cracks and crevices for either an airtight or waterproof seal. Applying caulk around windows and doors can make a home more energy efficient, while applying caulk to tub or shower seams can provide a watertight seal. Caulk can also be used to seal cracks around baseboards, chimney flashing and gutter seams. With a variety of caulking products on the market, you might wonder which caulk is better suited for a particular task? While this article is not intended to be a comprehensive study of caulking choices, hopefully it will aid the do-it-yourself homeowner in understanding basic caulking products.
Silicon Caulk is a multipurpose product that can be used for interior or exterior applications and adheres to nonporous surfaces, such as ceramic tile, glass, plastic and metal. It is not well suited for porous surfaces, such as wood or masonry. Silicon caulk remains flexible after curing and resists cracking with extreme changes in temperature. It emits a sharp odor during curing, so it should be applied in a well ventilated area. This product provides a weatherproof, watertight seal and is commonly used as a sealant around doors and windows. Silicon caulk can remain effective for over 30 years. It is also mold resistant and can be used around showers, tubs, sinks, toilets and other areas exposed to water. Silicon caulk cannot be painted, however it can be purchased in different colors including clear and white. Cleanup requires a solvent.
Butyl Rubber Caulk is a high performance product that adheres to a variety of materials, which include aluminum, vinyl, concrete, rubber and metal. Butyl rubber caulk is used primarily for outdoor applications, such as sealing joints in exterior gutters, drain spouts, aluminum or vinyl siding, roof vents and flashing. It can also be used to seal cracks in concrete, brick or stone, which makes it suited for masonry walls, foundations and driveways . Butyl rubber caulk can withstand extreme weather and temperature conditions while providing a watertight seal for up to ten years. This product can be stringy to apply and will require a solvent such as turpentine or paint thinner for clean-up. Butyl rubber caulk is slow curing and can be painted.
Acrylic Latex Caulk is a general-purpose caulk that can be used for interior or exterior applications and adheres to most common building materials, such as drywall, wood, glass, plastic, vinyl and metal. While this product may be used to seal joints and cracks, the distinction should be made between sealing (prevent air penetration) and weatherproofing (prevent water penetration). Acrylic latex caulk is more affordable than other grades of caulk. It can be painted with latex or oil-based paints and is also available in different colors. This product cleans-up with soap. It will typically last between ten to fifteen years. Acrylic latex caulk is more flexible than vinyl latex caulk.
Vinyl Latex Caulk is waterproof and can be used in wet areas. It is good for sealing out moisture on interior surfaces, such as cracks in baseboards. This product can be used on dry wall, concrete, wood and metal. Vinyl latex caulk is not very flexible and hardens over time. This type of caulk is only effective for about five years. Vinyl latex caulk can be painted and cleaned-up with water. It may be a bit more expensive than acrylic latex paint.
Specialty Caulks are designed for a specific task and are easily identifiable by name. These include tub and tile caulk, kitchen and bath caulk, concrete and mortar repair caulk, and roof repair caulk. While these names may be self explanatory, it is still a good idea to understand the desired application to make sure the caulk is appropriate.
The key to selecting the right caulk is to understand the purpose for applying the caulk (weather proof/waterproof, indoor/outdoor, painted/non-painted, wood/brick/glass, and so forth) and reading the label before using the product.