Monday, January 17, 2011

Caulking-a Fool Proof Method...

As you may or may not know, we have been in the process of building a get-away/retirement cottage for over a year. We had to change builders and do quite a bit of the finishing up ourselves. I am here to tell you, when building a house, a LOT of caulking needs to be done.

Now, I am not good at caulking, but when my daughterKari came home at Thanksgiving on her break from her year in Americorps, she was a caulking expert. I was sure I was past help, but you are never too old to learn, right? So, the child became the teacher, and I the student.

Either Kari is an awesome teacher or I am a wonderful student, or maybe a bit of both, but I am now a most excellent caulker, just like my daughter. And, because this is a blog about learning, I am going to teach you how to caulk right now. For the record, I am a caulking maniac now and I caulked the octagon window in our cathedral ceiling, 10+ feet high, several windows, over a few doors where the drywall was short of the trim, behind sinks and Kari and I even attached a marble backsplash to the basement bath vanity with these same techniques.

So,  here goes...
The first, absolute most important step, is you have to get a caulking sponge.  Do not get any old sponge. Go to Lowes or Home Depot and go to the section that has ceramic tile and ask for a caulking sponge. They look like this:

Pretty humble, huh? But this is THE secret to caulking. It only costs about $2.00, so get yourself this sponge.

Now, get some caulk and a good gun. I never realized why the more expensive caulk gun is better than the cheapie model. Make sure it has a long poker-type thing attached and an open hole in the handle. You will need the right type of caulk. I copied the types below from the Lowes website. You may also want to ask for help from someone at the store. The caulk is usually near the paint in a big box store.

Types of Caulk

There are many types of caulks and sealers available. Each type is formulated for a particular purpose. You need to know what is best for different situations. Several different types are listed below with their purpose and typical characteristics. When shopping, always refer to the product packaging.

    * Painter's caulk: Inexpensive latex caulk is often used by painters to plug holes and cracks prior to painting. It can also be used to provide a smooth joint in a corner where textured materials meet. This allows the painter to paint a very straight line in the corner when using contrasting paint colors.

    * Acrylic latex: Paintable, acrylic fortified caulk can be used for both interior and exterior applications and it cleans up easily with water.

    * Siliconized latex: Very durable, latex caulk with silicone is available in different colors and cleans up with water.

    * 100% silicone: Silicone caulk is great for non-porous substances. It is the best choice for sealing ceramic tile, glass and metal surfaces, but is less appropriate for porous surfaces like wood and masonry. Silicone caulk remains flexible and is impervious to water. It cannot be painted and must be cleaned up with solvent. It also has a sharp odor when curing. It requires adequate ventilation and is usually available in either clear or white.

    * Tub and tile: Acrylic sealant gives a flexible, watertight seal. It is mildew resistant with water cleanup.

    * 100% silicone kitchen and bath sealant: This has the same characteristics as plain 100% silicone sealant.

    * Gutter and foundation sealant (Butyl Rubber): This can be used on metal, wood or concrete and is appropriate for use in areas that experience extreme temperature variations. It is often used on metal flashing and around skylights and requires solvent for clean-up.

    * Roof repair caulk: This is a convenient butyl rubber/asphalt formulation for sealing flashing, roofing, skylights, etc. It cleans up with mineral spirits.

    * Adhesive caulk: Used as an adhesive during the installation of sinks, countertops, etc, adhesive caulk dries harder than other caulks, but is less flexible.

    * Concrete and mortar repair: This caulk retains some elasticity to remain in cracks in mortar and concrete and cleans up with water.
OK, now take your caulk and put the tip, just a tiny bit of it, into the hole in the handle of the gun at an angle. Pull trigger and a little blade will cut the tip off at that angle. You want a small hole, too big and you get a mess. Now, straighten that metal straight pin-like thing out and poke it through your hole to break the inner seal and let the caulk flow out. Pull back the spring-handle thing and put your caulk in the gun, tip first. Now pull  the trigger a couple of times till the caulk comes out.

If you have a small job, you can get the caulk in the tube--like toothpaste--and just cut a small bit [on an angle] off the end and you are good to go. This will kill your hand if you have to do too much so use a tube and gun if you have a lot to do.

Now, put too much caulk in a line along the edge you want to seal. It doesn't matter if you make a mess. Just put it on thick. When you get one edge done, go back and drag your finger [may need to be a bit wet] along the line of caulk, wiping the excess on your pants. Oh, wait, did I actually say that? Wipe the excess on a rag, or on some paper or just sort of fling into an old box or trash bin.

Now this is usually where the directions stop, and your caulk job looks like a 3rd grader did it. Ugh! This is where your miracle sponge comes in. Wet and ring-out the sponge. Now lay one long edge along your messy caulk and drag it slowly along the edge. You will notice the sponge is rounded so that it leaves a nice concave edge in the caulk as you drag it along. It should look awesome now, but if you need to put a bit more caulk and drag it again, do it! When you are satisfied with your edge. Rinse and ring your sponge and you are good to go for the next edge.

I totally LOVE how this works and looks. Not tricky, no big goops, no jerks where you stop and start, just a nice clean edge.

My bathroom at home has old nasty caulk and as soon as I can get some time I am going to scrape all the old caulk off and re-do it. I bet my old bathroom will look practically new.

Let me know if you try this. I have no idea why the caulking sponge is such a hidden treasure and no idea why they tuck it out of the way in the tile section and don't  have any in the caulking section,  but many thanks to Kari for introducing me to this tool that makes this amateur look professional. My assumption is, if you need to re-grout you use this same method and the same type of sponge and get great results as well.

Happy caulking,

1 comment:

  1. There is enough caulk in my house to sink a battleship!