Caulking: How & When To Do It
In the movie The Sting Paul Newman and Robert Redford played the worlds smoothest con artists. They fooled the cops, beat the bad guys and ended up with all of the money. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a con artist to make money. All it takes is a bit of common sense and a good home maintenance program. And when it comes to home maintenance there isn’t a better time than right now to caulk your home’s exterior. We say right now, because most splits, cracks and gaps in on the outside of our homes are at their medium point. They are narrower in the winter and wider in the summer. Caulking when gaps are at their mid point minimizes the amount of expansion and contraction that the caulking will have to do. And remember, even if you caulked last year you’ll want to make a quick walk around the house to see if anything needs to be touched up this season.
As important as WHEN to caulk is choosing WHAT kind of caulk to use. As far as we’re concerned one brand is as good as another. However, various tasks require different types of caulking. For example, silicone caulking is very flexible and sticks to most surfaces. If you wish to use silicone be sure to use the “paintable” kind. Not all silicone caulking is paintable. If you don’t mind spending a little more money, choose polyurethane caulking instead. Polyurethane is that 50-year caulk that everyone talks about. It bonds (sticks) to just about anything, dries to a rubbery, paintable finish and, under normal conditions, will last forever if applied to a clean, dry surface. Polyurethane is especially good for patching tar and gravel roofs and for concrete and masonry. For wet areas that don’t have to be painted, try butyl caulking. It’s messy and sticky, but it never dries and sheds water as well as a duck does.
TIP: Caulking must always be applied to a clean dry surface. Don’t clean the surface of an old bead of caulking hoping to apply a new layer on top of it and then expect the new caulking to hold. Remove failed caulking with a can opener, screwdriver or scraper and apply new caulking directly to the surfaces you wish to seal. Removing the old caulking also will render a neater looking finished product.
For leaks between the moving-section of the window and the window frame you can use temporary or reusable caulking. Both can be easily removed at winter’s end, and, in the event of a fire, temporarily caulked windows can be easily opened for a quick emergency escape. By the way, windows that are permanently caulked or painted shut probably won’t open in the event of an emergency.
There’s a trick to everything – even when it comes to properly opening a tube of caulking. There are four easy steps to success:
- Cut a small opening first. Once narrow gaps have been sealed you can enlarge the hole as necessary to handle bigger gaps.
- Open the tube by cutting off the tip at a 45-degree angle. As you caulk, hold the tube at the same angle to the surface being caulked. The remaining piece of the tip will act like a putty knife – forcing the caulking deep into the crack – as the tip passes over it.
- Now you can mount the tube into the caulking gun. Note: The cut side of the tip and the handle of the caulking gun should both be facing in the same direction.
- Next, use a long nail, an awl or an ice pick to perforate the foil seal inside the tip at its base.
Using a caulking gun also requires a little skill:
- As we mentioned earlier hold the gun at a 45 degree angle to the surface being caulked.
- Squeeze the trigger firmly, slowly and consistently until caulking begins to flow from the tip.
- Once it begins to flow move the tip at an even pace along the gap trying your best to keep the bead a uniform size.
- With caulking, less is more. You can always go back and add more, but you just can’t believe the mess that results when too much is used.
- Just a few inches before you reach the end of your repair, quickly press the plunger release lever. Caulking will continue to flow for another moment or two.
Finally, when you’re all done you can use a red cap to create an air-tight seal at the tip so that your left-over caulking won’t dry out.
Don’t get stung this winter with high-energy bills. And don’t get stung making damage repairs next spring because you didn’t take the time to prepare you siding for wet weather. Do like Paul Newman did – and end up with all the money. And, good luck!
For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener hot line 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474.