Caulking Techniques & Tips
Every successful job depends upon having the right material for the job and the right tools to install the material properly. Common sense dictates that if you attempt to install a quality product with inadequate or inferior tools, you will achieve less than excellent results. Caulking is no different.
Before you start your caulking job, take inventory of your caulking "tools." Here is what you should have: opens in a new windowhigh quality cartridge caulk gun, putty knife, scissors - knife - or razor blade, 5 inch long piece of thin, rigid wire, back up filler strip (for those deep cracks in excess of 1/2 inch deep), clean dry cloth, rounded synthetic sponge and bucket of warm water (if using a water based caulk), or correct solvent (if using a solvent based caulk.)
Just like anything, there is a right and a wrong way to caulk. The first thing to do is to make sure you have purchased the right caulk for the right job! Determine this by carefully reading the label on the caulk tube. Make sure that it says on the label that the caulk will stick to what you are caulking. If in doubt, ask for some help. Don't "hope" that it will work.
Once you have the right caulk, read the directions on the label. Yes, I know this sounds boring. I mean, really, who has those extra two minutes it's going to take to do this? Do you think it is worth two minutes to ensure a first-class job? I thought so.
Water based caulks can often be applied to wet or dry surfaces. Non-water based caulks, especially silicone, will not remotely stick to wet or damp surfaces. The trick to a successful job is taking your time. All too often, people squeeze the heck out of the gun and caulk squirts out all over the place.
The key, in my opinion, is the right size hole in the tube. Trim the nozzle of the tube a little at a time. Remember, you can always trim the tube a little more. There is no way of reducing the hole if you cut off too much. I always make the hole of the tube about 60 to 70 percent the size (width) of the crack I am trying to fill. Depending upon weather conditions, caulk only two or three feet of the crack and stop. Tool the joint with your finger and wipe the excess caulk onto a paper towel.
The next step, if you're using a water-based caulk, is to tool it with a damp grout sponge. Get a sponge wet and squeeze out all of the water you can. You wipe the joint you just tooled with your finger to remove EXCESS caulk you smeared on either side of the actual crack you caulked. This is the step MOST PEOPLE SKIP.
Don't skip it. Don't press too hard with the sponge and make repeated passes along the joint until you just see caulk in the crack. This works well when caulking cracks indoors along smooth objects.
You can't do this if you're caulking up against a rough surface like stone or brick.
If you apply the perfect amount of caulk, there will be no excess when you tool the joint. This is very difficult to do. I know of only two or three painters who really have perfected this science. However, once again, the key is taking your time. Simply slow down, and squeeze the gun slooooowly. This is especially critical if you are caulking against a rough surface such as brick. If you get excess caulk on brick, it is almost impossible to remove. Caulk, remember, is like glue! It sticks very rapidly to things. You can make a big mess on brick if you are not careful.
If you have never caulked before, buy a tube (caulk is really very inexpensive) and experiment! Nail a few different sized scrap boards together and caulk the seam or the corner of the overlap. Simply imagine that you are caulking a new window edge against a piece of trim.
Silicone caulks are a challenge. Take your time and use lacquer thinner to tool the joint. Ventilate well, if indoors!
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