Caulking is one of the most handy and versatile home improvement products available. It helps cleanly seal cracks and gaps in carpentry and tiling, weatherproofing and pest proofing everywhere in and around the home. However, whether caulking seals a crack properly and looks aesthetically pleasing depends on the homeowner using the right caulking for each job. This means considering the type of caulk in general as well as which type best suits each situation.
The best types of caulking for common household jobs
Considering the best type of caulking based on the job itself is a good place for many homeowners to start. Indeed, different general types of caulking are routinely used in many different household areas:
- Bathroom and kitchen: "Siliconised" acrylic or caulking labelled "kitchen and bath" or "tub and tile"
- Concrete: Polyurethane or silicone
- Glass: Silicone or "siliconised" acrylic
- Gutters: Rubber or caulking labelled "gutter sealant"
- Siding, windows, and doors: Silicone/polymer, paintable silicone, or rubber
Since it is possible to use more than one type of caulking for all these general household jobs, this list is merely a starting point. Once homeowners have a general idea of the type of caulking they can use, matching that type to its other features and properties is the next step.
Types of caulking
Homeowners need to understand what making one choice over another means. The four basic polymers used to make caulking are latex, silicone, polyurethane, and rubber. Each of these four types of caulking has a distinct set of characteristics because of its chemical composition, and those characteristics affect everything from its adhesion to its paintability.
Latex, also called acrylic latex or vinyl caulking, is the most widely used type of caulking because it is inexpensive and works in a variety of general home improvement projects. Latex caulks do not contain any volatile chemicals, so they are safe to use indoors and outdoors as well as being easy to clean. Latex caulking is popular for colour-specific caulking applications because it is easy to paint as well as available in a palette of "painted" caulks.
Silicone is the second most popular type of caulking. It is best for use on non-porous surfaces such as glass and ceramic tile. Originally developed to bond glass to skyscrapers, silicone caulking is popular because it is waterproof and resistant to mildew, making it an excellent choice for application in a kitchen or bathroom. One major downside to using silicone caulking is that, once cured, nothing sticks to it, including additional silicone. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to repair. In addition, silicone emits an odour during the curing process and requires solvent to clean.
Polyurethane caulking is a great choice for outdoor projects between two dissimilar materials, such as masonry and wood. This is because polyurethane caulking sticks to many surfaces, is non-corrosive, and tear resistant. Two downsides to polyurethane caulking is its non-resistance to UV light, which requires homeowners to paint over the caulking, and its price, which is high relative to other caulking types.
Rubber caulking, also called butyl rubber caulking, is the most common type of caulking used for outdoor projects, such as sealing doors and windows. Rubber caulking is notable for its volatile smell and high flammability, which is why it is best used outdoors. On the plus side, the compounds in rubber caulking stick to almost any surface including those which are damp or greasy.
Considering caulking colour
Homeowners should consider the colour of the caulking or its ability to take on a new colour through painting. Latex caulking takes paint easily, and it comes in many different colours meant to match or coordinate with a home's décor. Polyurethane and rubber caulking are also paintable. Silicone caulking, on the other hand, will not take paint. For an unobtrusive look, it is best to use a neutral or clear-coloured silicone caulking instead.
How to buy caulking on eBay
No matter the type of caulking you decide to use, the reliable sellers on caulking guns, paint, and other home improvement items. Looking for bundles, in which caulking and its accessories are purchased together, is a great way to save time and money on your purchase. Simply search for "caulking bundle", using the main search bar on any page of the site.