How to use caulk

November 11, 2010 | Comments Off on How to use caulk

By Good Housekeeping

Caulking 101 (© David Papazian/Corbis)© David Papazian/Corbi

Caulking your windows and doors can really help save on electricity and prevent drafts in your home. Good Housekeeping’s article on “How to use caulk” gives homeowners great tips regarding the importance of caulking your home properly.

You don’t have to be handy when it comes to caulking. You just need a few tools and a little patience.

Start by examining your windows and doors from the outside and inside for cracks in the panels and gaps behind the frames. If you find old caulk, see if it’s cracked. If so, it must be replaced.  

You can also try the incense test: With the stick smoldering, move it toward the edges of windows and doors. A draft will blow the smoke horizontally. If there is no draft, the smoke will rise as normal.

Note how many problem areas you find. As a rule of thumb, you should buy one tube of caulk for every two windows or doors that need sealing.

When you’re ready to shop, make sure you choose the right caulk. There’s latex, which can be painted and can be perfect for your dining room and other areas where you’ll want windows to look their best. There also is silicone, which is mildew-resistant and much more flexible than latex, so it’ll expand and contract when temperatures fluctuate. It is better for use outdoors.

Now you need a caulk gun that feels comfortable and won’t jam. In our test of eight models, the Black & Decker 2-Speed Power Caulk Gun was the most efficient and the easiest to use. For a cheaper, basic model, consider the Newborn Brothers Co. Drip-Free 102D, which also works well — though it doesn’t have the comfortable grip or speed of its high-tech competitor.

To start, clean all areas with soap and water; for tough spots, use rubbing alcohol. Chip away any old caulk and paint with a putty knife. Then cut the cone-shaped tip of your caulk tube. The narrower the spout, the thinner the line.

Finally, load your gun, do a few practice rounds on a piece of cardboard and start caulking. To smooth and straighten lines, try the Homax Perfect Bead Finisher. The tool works well and keeps your fingers clean.

If you don’t have a lot of cracks or gaps to fill this year, skip the application gun and use a squeeze tube of caulk. Try Phenoseal Vinyl Adhesive Caulk, which scored highest in our tests.

Another new option that’s easy to use: General Electric Caulk Singles, which come in clear or white waterproof silicone. Once you’ve prepped your surface, just tear off the top and squeeze the caulk into place, moving the pack toward you to get an even line. Use the bead finisher or your finger to smooth the surface. You’ll need two packs for a small window or three for a large window or a door frame.



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