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Women applying caulk to an exterior door
Buying guide

How to Choose Caulk and Caulking Tools

Caulk comes in many different types for a variety of applications both inside and outside the home. But don’t worry, choosing the right caulk and caulking tools is easy once you know what to look for. Here’s a quick guide to help you do just that.

What is Caulking Sealant?

Caulk is a type of sealant used for filling virtually all types of cracks, including gaps around windows, doors, and plumbing components. If correctly applied, it prevents the infiltration of air, water, and even bugs.

Types of Caulk

The two most common types of caulk are latex and silicone, and they are sometimes sold together as a combined product (siliconized latex or latex plus silicone) that provides the longevity of silicone and the easy application of latex. 

Caulk is also available in two main forms:

  • squeeze tubes, and
  • cartridges.

Squeeze tubes are great for smaller projects, as they are smaller in size (80 to 175 ml) and more convenient to use. For larger projects, a 266- to 325-ml cartridge in a caulk gun will provide a continuous bead.

On top of tubes and cartridges, you can also find caulk strips. They come in adhesive-backed rolls and provide fast, clean, and tool-free application. Caulk strips are resistant to mildew and great for sealing bathroom fixtures. You can even apply them to existing caulk for a nice finish. 

Latex Caulk Vs. Silicone Caulk

Latex caulk and silicone caulk both have their unique pros and cons. Latex, also called painters or acrylic caulk, is the easier of the two to apply and replace, but silicone is longer lasting and holds up better to extreme temperatures and sunlight. Latex can be painted over and is easy to clean (just use soap and water), while only some types of silicone can be painted, and all need mineral spirits for clean-up. 

Latex works on both porous and nonporous surfaces and is best used on constant gaps. Alternatively, silicone can be applied to gaps that expand, contract, and stay constant but is best for nonporous surfaces. Finally, latex has minimal odour while silicone’s odour is quite strong. 

Specialty Caulk Types

Some projects require specialty caulk made for specific tasks. Using specialty caulk for specialty applications will help deliver high-quality results. Here’s a look at some of the main types. 

Adhesive Caulk

Adhesive caulk is used to join and fill in the gap between two pieces. It helps prevent cracking due to expansion and contraction.

Blacktop and Asphalt Caulk

Blacktop and asphalt caulk is used to fill cracks in asphalt surfaces, like driveways and parking lots. The strong seal resists water as well as stains from oil, gas, and de-icing salts.

Concrete Caulk

Concrete caulk is used for cracks in concrete sidewalks and driveways. It stands up well to extreme temperatures and can be exposed to water soon after it is applied.

Exterior Caulk

Exterior caulk is used to install windows and complete outdoor trim work. It has fantastic UV resistance.

Fire-Retardant Caulk

Fire-retardant caulk has numerous applications, including sealing wires, HVAC components, pipes, chimneys, fireplaces, and all sorts of framing gaps. It is non-combustible and able to withstand high temperatures, giving it the ability to block fire.

Gutter and Flashing Caulk

Gutter and flashing caulk is the best option around metal joints like gutters, flashing, roof vents, and downspouts. It is durable, flexible, and able to withstand temperature extremes.

Kitchen and Bath Caulk

Kitchen and bath caulk is used to install tile, countertops, sinks, and faucets and maintain tile, showers, and tubs. It has great mildew resistance and can be exposed to water soon after installation.

Mortar Caulk

Mortar caulk is used to seal cracks on mortar, stucco, concrete, stone, and brick as it blends well with textured surfaces. It also withstands high temperatures.

Moulding and Trim Caulk

Moulding and trim caulk is used for crown moulding installation, as well as to fill wall and board gaps. It dries quickly and can be painted.

Roof Caulk

Roof caulk can be used to fix minor roof leaks. It is waterproof, mildew-resistant, and flexible.

Sanded Caulk

Sanded caulk has a rough and grainy appearance great for matching pre-existing tiles and grout. It can be used to fill gaps over 1/8” in size and adheres well to damp areas.

Interior Window and Door Caulk

Interior window and door caulk is used for maintenance as it won’t crack or shrink.

Unsanded Caulk

Unsanded caulk can be used to join tiles and counters, as well as to fill tight joints. It has a smooth finish.

Pro Tip

Latex caulk and some types of silicone caulk can be painted, so you may have the option of using paint to match it to the surrounding area. If you are using a silicone caulk that can’t be painted, then try to select a colour that will blend into the area best, or go with an unobtrusive clear caulk.


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