Your Guide to Caulk and Caulking Tools

Caulk and caulking tools come in many different types for applications both inside and out. With just a bit of know-how, it’s easy to choose the right type for any DIY project around the home. Check out our guide to help with your selection.

What is Caulk, Exactly?

Caulk is used to seal up cracks and fill in gaps around doors, windows, pipes, and plumbing fixtures. When properly applied, it keeps air, water, and bugs from infiltrating your home.

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Woman adding caulk around an exterior window

Types of Caulk Available

Caulk typically comes as either latex or silicone. Latex plus silicone and siliconized latex products that combine the two are available as well, offering the convenience of latex and longevity of silicone.

Caulk is also available in the form of a cartridge or a squeeze tube. Large, 266- to 325-ml cartridges for large jobs are used in conjunction with caulk guns, providing a continuous bead. On the other hand, 80- to 175-ml squeeze tubes are better suited to smaller projects.

Another type of caulk you can choose for your project is mildew-resistant caulk strips. These adhesive-backed rolls don’t require any tools for application and they apply fast and clean. Caulk strips are great for sealing showers, wall trim, and bathtubs, and you can even apply them over existing caulk.

Latex or Silicone Caulk?

Latex Caulk Features

Latex caulk, also known as acrylic and painter’s caulk, is the easier of the two to apply and replace. It has minimal odour and, once applied, it can be painted and cleaned easily with just soap and water. Latex is best used for constant gaps, and it is suitable for both porous and nonporous surfaces. One of the only downsides is that it can weaken in extreme temperatures or sunlight.

Silicone Caulk Features

Silicone caulk is the longer lasting of the two because it is flexible and it can stand up to extreme temperature changes and sunlight. It only works on non-porous surfaces, but it can be applied to constant, expanding, and contracting gaps. However, silicone is more difficult to apply and replace, it has a stronger odour, and you will need to have mineral spirits on hand for clean-up. Additionally, only some types can be painted.

Here’s our best pro tip for removing old silicone from the windows. You’re welcome

Types of Specialty Caulks

Different projects might require different types of specialty caulk. Using the right type can make the application go more smoothly and deliver a higher-quality result. Here’s a quick look at the main specialty caulk types.

Adhesive Caulk

Adhesive caulk fills gaps and joins pieces together. It prevents the formation of cracks from expansion and contraction.

Blacktop and Asphalt Caulk

Blacktop and asphalt caulk, as the name suggests, is used for filling in cracks in asphalt surfaces like parking lots and driveways. It creates a long-lasting, waterproof seal that keeps gas, oil, and de-icing salt stains at bay.

Concrete Caulk

When you need to fill cracks in concrete driveways and sidewalks, pick up some concrete caulk. It can be exposed to water soon after application and is able to withstand extreme temperatures.

Exterior Caulk

Because of its UV resistance, exterior caulk is used for outdoor trim work and new window installation.

Fire-Retardant Caulk

Fire-retardant caulk is made to seal the separations around pipes, HVAC components, and wires, as well as for chimney, fireplace, and other framing gaps. Because it withstands high temperatures and is noncombustible, it can block fire.

Gutter and Flashing Caulk

Gutter and flashing caulk is intended for use around flashing, downspouts, gutters, roof vents, and other metal joints. Its durability and flexibility allow it to stand up to extreme temperatures.

Kitchen and Bath Caulk

Kitchen and bath caulk is mildew-resistant and important for installing countertops, tile, sinks, and faucets. It is also used to maintain tiles, tubs, and showers. You can expose it to water shortly after applying it.

Mortar Caulk

Mortar caulk blends well with textured surfaces and is used to seal cracks and leaks on mortar, concrete, brick, and stucco. It is also made to withstand high temperatures.

Moulding and Trim Caulk

To install crown moulding and fill gaps between walls and boards, pick up some moulding and trim caulk. After it quickly dries, you can paint it as well.

Roof Caulk

Waterproof, flexible, and mildew-resistant, roof caulk is used to fix minor roof leaks.

Sanded Caulk

Sanded caulk is used to fill joints 1/8” in size or bigger. It adheres well to wet surfaces and has a grainy appearance that matches with sanded grout and pre-existing tiles.

Window and Door Caulk (Interior)

Because it won’t shrink or crack, window and door caulk is used to caulk windows and maintain doors.

Unsanded Caulk

Due to a smooth finish, unsanded caulk is used to join counters and tiles. It can also fill very tight joints.

Caulk Accessories

Enjoy even smoother caulk application with the right tools and accessories. Depending on your needs, here are some you should pick up.

LePage caulk touch-up tube

Caulk Singles

For small household touch-ups like sealing a sink or some tile, a caulk singles tube is an easy and convenient option.
White caulk strip

Caulk Cord

Often used for weatherstripping doors and windows, caulk cord comes in rolls. It is easy to apply and can last between 1-2 years.
Set of caulking accessories

Finishing Tool

A finishing tool is a handy accessory for getting a uniform bead, though you can simply use a wet finger. Try practising on a piece of cardboard or a less visible area before tackling the visible parts of your project.
Caulk gun

Caulk Gun

When using larger caulk cartridges, you will need to have a caulk gun. Consider features like swing-out puncture wire or a nozzle cutter for the tube seals, and make sure the caulk gun can accommodate the type of cartridge you have.

Paintable Caulk

All latex caulks (but only some silicone options) can be painted to match the surface they are applied to. If your chosen silicone caulk cannot be painted, then try to choose a shade that will blend in with the surrounding area. A clear caulk can also be unobtrusive.

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