FALL HOME IMPROVEMENT TAB Caulk variety wide, choose the right one

By James and Morris Carey

For AP Weekly Features

Caulk is important stuff.

Your building project can consist of the finest, best-assembled materials, but if a joint is not properly caulked, it can cause major difficulty. Just wait till the first rain.

But caulking isn't only for keeping water from making its way into spaces where it doesn't belong. It has other purposes:such as the long-term preservation of installed building materials, preventing drafts (which improves comfort and saves energy), and as a pleasing-to-the-eye, smooth transition between building materials such as the joint between door trim and the wall to which it is attached.


Many reasons to caulk

There are other less obvious uses for caulking that are worth mentioning. One of the best ways to prevent uninvited visitors such as ants and other crawling critters from making your home theirs is to caulk gaps, cracks and penetrations that they use as a means of entry. And, something as simple as a caulk joint around a toilet can prevent sewer gases from wafting up into the bathroom and prevent odor from bacteria buildup at this joint.

Have you shopped for a tube of caulk lately? It's a completely different experience today than it was years ago when the one-type-fits-all product selection was the standard.

Some of the factors that determine caulk choice are:

Location. Choose a caulk based on where it is to be used. Exterior caulk is subject to greater wear and tear and is, therefore, tougher than a product designed primarily for indoor use. Although latex and silicone can be used at the exterior, the latest and most durable "flavor" on the block is polyurethane. It is a high quality material that will stick to virtually any surface. It is long-lasting and is available in a host of colors.

Surface. What surface(s) will it be required to bond to? Is there more than one type: such as a joint between brick and wood siding? Read the label to be certain the caulk you choose is compatible with the surface.

Exposure. Will it have prolonged sun exposure? Ultraviolet rays (UV) of the sun top the list when it comes to caulk deterioration. Thus, when using an exterior caulk that won't be painted, be sure to select a product that offers UV protection.

Water. Latex, silicone and a combination are still the most popular choices for kitchens, baths and other "wet" areas in the home. Latex is still the do-it-yourself favorite due to its easy cleanup properties and user-friendly application.


Paintability and Color. Does it need to be paintable or is there a specific color that must be used? In the past, caulk was available in two basic colors:white and clear. Today, there is a rainbow of colors.

Flexibility. Is the location where it is to be applied subject to movement or significant expansion and contraction? When it comes to flexibility, elastomeric polyurethane is best.

Climate. Are temperatures extreme? If you live in a climate that experiences extreme temperature changes, choose a flexible material.

Specialty. Is it to be used in a fireplace or other specific location that will require extra "horsepower?" Most caulking products will not withstand extreme temperatures such as that of a fireplace. When repairing mortar use a refractory caulk that is especially suited for fireboxes and will withstand high temperatures.

And remember, the best time to caulk is when it is cool: when building materials have yet to expand and the joint or gap is at its widest.

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