Get a Free Estimate

How To Apply Caulk

by Allison E. Beatty
Repair Home Columnist

Applying caulk is an important home improvement project, as it seals cracks and prevents moisture leaks and air infiltration. This is a job that any homeowner can do without using a contractor, although it does take a little practice to do it neatly.

Why Caulk?

Caulking is one home improvement project that provides a big bang for the buck. Caulk costs $1 to $4 per tube and provides the following benefits:

  • Seals holes and limits heating and cooling loss.
  • Keeps moisture from going behind tubs and showers, thus reducing mold growth and contractor repair bills.
  • Keeps insects from crawling in through cracks.
  • Gives painted areas a smooth, clean look.


Where to Use Caulk

Caulk can be used to fill almost any hole, although large openings (1/2 to 1" or wider) are best filled with wood or other materials. Use caulk:

  • In the bathroom – for sealing the edge where tile or an enclosure meets the tub or shower.
  • In the kitchen – between wall tile and the countertop backsplash and around the sink.
  • When painting – for sealing around windows, door frames and at the top of painted baseboards.


How to Apply Caulk

Make sure the surface is clean and dry. With a caulk gun, make a small angled cut at the tip of the tube. Gently squeeze the handle as you run the edge against the surface. Always release the trigger or caulk will continue to ooze out. (There also are tubes that do not require a gun; simply squeeze the caulk from the tube) Also:

  • Wipe up excess caulk right away with a damp rag, as it is more difficult to remove later.
  • Some contractors find it easier to wipe the caulk bead with their fingers to smooth out the line.
  • Wipe hands right away to prevent sticky caulk layers from forming.


Selecting the Right Caulk

Here's an overview of which caulk to use where:

  • Acrylic latex –for filling holes for painting, or adding smooth joint in a corner. Can be painted and cleans with water.
  • Silicone latex –for kitchen and bathroom sinks, tubs and showers; look for mildew resistant caulk; easier to work with than pure silicone.
  • 100% Silicone – very durable for non-porous surfaces and sealing ceramic tile, glass and metal. It cannot be painted, has a strong odor and requires proper ventilation.

About the Author
Allison E. Beatty is a syndicated real estate writer who has been writing home improvement columns for 15 years.