DIY 101: 10 Types of Caulk and How to Use Them

241
types of caulk

Unless you are a construction worker, a handyman, an architect, or an engineer, the chances are you don’t know a whole lot about the various types of caulk on the market and how to use them.

That, however, is definitely something you need to read up on before starting any DIY project that may involve caulking. The right type of caulk will ensure the longevity of any construction, and the wrong kind will only cause damage in the long term.

So, with that in mind, here is everything you need to know about the ten most popular types of caulk, their properties, and uses.

1. Latex Caulk

Latex makes for some of the longest-lasting caulk products. If applied properly, latex caulk can easily last up to twenty years. What’s more, it is also one of the most versatile types of caulk. It can be used on pretty much any surface or material and is also paintable to boot.

Still, latex caulk comes with certain limitations as well. It does not tolerate extreme temperatures, either hot or cold, and does not do well under direct sunlight. Therefore, latex caulk is best suited for indoor use.

2. Acrylic Latex Caulk

Acrylic latex caulk, also known as painters’ caulk, is often used by house painters to even out any gaps and holes on the wall before applying the paint, as well as a sealant around doors and windows. It also comes in a variety of colors, so you can pick the one that best matches the color of the wall paint.

Acrylic caulks work well both out and indoors, and you can easily wash them using soap and water. They are also easier to apply than silicone caulks.

If you plan to use acrylic caulk, you may want to look up elastomeric caulk — a high-performance product that was specially designed for better elasticity.

3. Silicone Caulk

That is, without a doubt, the most popular type of caulk, and no wonder — this rubbery and clear substance can be used on almost all kinds of materials, including glass, metal, plastic, and glazed tiles.

Furthermore, as this product is based on 100% pure silicone, it is both water- and mold-resistant. That makes it excellent for sealing gaps in areas exposed to water or moisture, such as around sinks, bathtubs, and shower cabins. Due to its flexibility, silicone tolerates extreme temperature amplitudes and sudden changes well.

Unfortunately, however, you cannot paint over silicone caulk, and you cannot apply it to masonry or wood. In addition, the only way to clean up silicone caulk is by using a special solvent.

Silicone is also prone to abrasion and tears and can be quite challenging to apply. The substance also emits a distinctive odor before it dries up, which is typically not appealing to most people.

4. Siliconized Acrylic Caulk

Siliconized caulk can be either latex or acrylic-based with added silicone content and is stronger than the sum of its parts. It is exceptionally durable and can withstand extreme weather and temperatures.

This type of caulk is safe to use outdoors as well as indoors, and you can apply it to materials such as bricks, stones, and wood. It is also fantastic for weatherproofing doors and windows, and some types of siliconized caulk can be painted over.

5. Vinyl Latex Caulk

Vinyl caulks have similar properties to acrylic latex caulks but are generally more durable and can last up to decades longer. You can also paint and wash them using soap and water. These types of caulk are also safe to use outdoors, as they do well under direct sunlight and in extreme temperatures.

A downside to vinyl caulks is the fact that they are not very flexible. Therefore, avoid using them in areas where they would be prone to contraction or expansion caused by rapid temperature changes.

6. Butyl Rubber Sealants

Butyl caulks rank among the stronger and most durable types of caulks. They are commonly used as gutter sealants to fill in cracks in brick and concrete, as well as on masonry and metal surfaces. What’s more, butyl sealants are the only type of caulk that can be applied both outside and inside chimneys.

Butyl caulks generally perform well in extreme weather conditions and can last anywhere from two to ten years. They are also strong enough to be used in foundations. While they do not come in a variety of colors, you can paint them to match their surroundings.

One of the downsides to working with butyl sealants is that they require the use of a special solvent.

7. Asphalt Caulk

This product looks and smells just like butyl caulk. Much like its butyl counterpart, asphalt caulk can be used outdoors. Unlike butyl sealants, however, asphalt caulks do not tolerate direct sunlight. So if you plan to use them to seal the gaps between roof shingles, make sure that the sun does not shine on them directly.

8. Polyurethane Foam Caulk

You can use polyurethane foam to seal holes, gaps, and voids in the insulation of a building. More importantly, however, these are the only types of caulk that may come in direct contact with electrical lines.

You can, therefore, safely use them to seal electric outputs. Polyurethane is also relatively flexible, quick to harden, and easy to apply. In addition, you can apply paint on it too.

9. Modified Silicone Polymers

Modified silicone polymers are based on polyurethane, silicone, and other water-based caulks. They are quite flexible and can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, including aluminum, cement, fiber cement, vinyl, and wood.

Modified silicone polymers are also water-resistant, so you can safely use them on areas that may be exposed to water, such as doors, windows, or air vents. In addition, this kind of caulk can be painted over using latex paint.

10. Fireproof Caulk

Fireproof caulks, also known as refractory caulks, are specially developed for use in areas or on materials that are potential fire hazards. If applied well, fireproof caulks can create a barrier that successfully contains fires as well as smoke and toxic fumes.

You can, therefore, use them to fireproof a room or building. Other uses include near electrical lines and for plumbing purposes.

How to Choose the Right Caulk for You

While all types of caulk can seal off gaps and holes, not all of them are suitable for all kinds of materials and surfaces. Using an ill-suited caulk is not only a waste of money and of no use to you but may also cause even more damage to the area you were trying to fix. The caulk may crack or even peel off, and you would have to reapply it.

On the contrary, the right type of caulk will effectively water- and weatherproof your home and permanently seal off any unsightly gaps.

However, with so many different caulk types and brands on the market, consumers and DIY-enthusiasts can easily get overwhelmed and end up buying the wrong product. Here is everything you should know to make sure you get the right caulk for your needs.

Indoors Waterproofing

If you will be sealing surfaces that come into regular contact with water, moisture, or any kind of liquid, then you should use either silicone caulk, modified silicone polymers, or siliconized acrylic caulk. Examples include the areas around sinks, showers, and bathtubs, as well as any other places that are prone to mold or mildew growth.

Thermal Isolation, Weather- and Waterproofing

If you want to thermally isolate a room or weatherproof it from the effects of extreme weather, including rain, snow, hail, wind, and storms, your best bets are:

  • Acrylic latex caulk
  • Butyl rubber sealants
  • Polymer caulk
  • Modified silicone polymers

All these caulks can make your room air- and water-tight.

If you will be weather- or waterproofing your room from the outside, however, then the best choice would be butyl rubber caulk. Alternatively, you may also use asphalt caulk, but only if it will not be exposed to direct sunlight.

Fireproofing

For use in or around chimneys, fireplaces, or fire stoves, go for specialty fireproof caulks.

Metal Surfaces

Butyl rubber caulk is your best choice here as well. You can use it both on and around metal surfaces, as well as on gutters and outdoors.

Glass Surfaces

For use on glass, opt for either silicone or siliconized acrylic caulks. However, always make sure to read the labels carefully, as not all products are compatible with all types of glass.

Pipes and Plumbing

100% pure silicone caulk works best here. A word of caution: note that pure silicone caulk cannot be painted over. If you find a silicone product that says it can, then it is probably not 100% pure silicone.

Masonry

For any type of masonry work, such as stucco walls or outdoor concrete surfaces, you should use butyl rubber caulk.

Driveways

Polyurethane caulk works best for driveways, as it is very solid and can withstand high amounts of pressure and weight.

Indoor Wall Cracks

If you need to fix a wall crack or two or mend some crown moldings, your best choice is acrylic latex.

Wrapping Up

Caulks are excellent and highly effective products that have become indispensable to modern construction and repair work. Any home should have a good supply of various types of caulk to suit the most common household uses.

However, before investing in sealant products, make sure to get familiar with the different types and their properties. Hopefully, our review has helped you get a better grasp on things and will assist you in your DIY projects going ahead.