Caulking is a process used to seal the seams in wooden boats or ships, and riveted iron or steel ships, in order to make them watertight. The same term also refers to the application of flexible sealing compounds to close up crevices in structures against water, air, dust, insects, or as a component in fire stopping.
Caulk (calk) can refer either to the caulking substance or to the process of applying it. Caulking as a term has spread to the building trade, meaning the activity of closing up joints and gaps in buildings. The function of caulking is to provide thermal insulation, control water penetration and noise mitigation.
This is mostly done with ready-mixed construction chemicals sold as caulk such as silicone, polyurethane, polysulfide, sylil-terminated-polyether or polyurethane and acrylic sealant. Unlike construction caulk, which is applied where no building movement is expected, a sealant is made of elastomeric materials that typically allow movement of 25% to 50% of the width of the joint. Silicone sealants form a durable, water-tight seal, but are not typically paintable. Some silicone sealants are made to be paintable with certain types of paint such as water or oil-based paints. Other sealants are paintable.
One-component sealants are commonly sold in cartridges which are loaded into a pistol-like caulking gun (opening at the side) or barrel gun (opening at the end) for application. During the tool-working time, which varies by chemistry, the bead can be pressed into the joint so that it can bond with the materials on both sides, and also be smoothed. The time it takes for a chemical sealant to become a rubber is known as the curing time and varies by temperature and humidity. Issues of technique that may not be obvious to first-time users:
Backer rod can also be used to fill cracks in sidewalks, and masonry before caulking. It is composed of a foam roll that is generally about 1/4 inch to 1 1/2 inch thick. The material is stuffed into the cracks to be sealed and then caulked over.
Caulk is great a material that can help you do it all. Aside from sealing cracks and filling in any gaps or joints you have inside or outside of your home, caulk is also used to help waterproof and weatherproof homes. It is easy to use and very durable. Considering that caulk is a multi-purpose wonder material for your home, it is even better to know that it is relatively inexpensive to buy.
Caulk can be used on practically any surface, including:
It is important to remember, though, that there are different types of caulks. Some may be more suited to the project and surface that you are doing than others. Also, keep in mind that, while acrylic caulks are slightly easier to use, they often deteriorate with exposure to water. If you plan to caulk an area that is exposed to water, then use a solvent-based caulk.
Easy as Pie
It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or a pro, caulking really is quite simple to do. That is because caulk is almost always applied in the same way, so you don’t need to learn any fancy, new techniques each time you want to use it.
You can buy caulk in either a squeeze tube or as a cartridge. Be aware, though, that if you buy a cartridge, you will also need to buy a caulking gun. Whenever you plan to do some caulking, make sure you have these items nearby:
Before You Get Started
No matter what you are caulking, always make sure that the surface of your project is clean. A clean surface will help the caulk adhere better.
Remember, caulk doesn’t last forever! There should be an expiration date on the package. If not, then throw out any unused caulk after one or two years. If you’re not sure that your caulk is still good, then give it a test run on a non-porous surface. Does the caulk stick? Is it coming out smoothly? Does it set within the appropriate amount of time? If the answer is yes to all three questions, then your caulk is still good.
If you’ve never caulked before, it may be a good idea to give yourself a test run first. Just use last week’s newspaper to get a feel for what you’ll be doing. Once you’re ready to put theory into practice, then follow these simple steps!
#1 Tip: If you’re caulking around your bathtub, do it right. Fill the tub with water before you start. Tubs tend to sink ever so slightly when they are full. So, when you caulk an empty tub, you may not apply enough caulk to compensate for the sinking. Which means you’ll end up with cracked caulk the next time someone takes a bath.
# 2 Tip: When smoothing your caulking with your finger, dip your finger into a small amount of little baby oil, begin smoothing. Then as you begin to feel a slight drag on your finger tip, clean your finger, re-dip into baby oil and continue.
Remember, less is more.