Caulk is important stuff.
Your building project can consist of the finest, best-assembled materials, but if a joint is not properly caulked, it can cause major difficulty. Just wait till the first rain.
But caulking isn't only for keeping water from making its way into spaces where it doesn't belong. It has other purposes -- such as the long-term preservation of installed building materials, preventing drafts (which improves comfort and saves energy), and as a pleasing-to-the-eye, smooth transition between building materials such as the joint between door trim and the wall to which it is attached.
Caulking also is used at locations where flexibility is important, such as the joint between unlike building materials where the rate of expansion is not uniform. Architects go to great lengths to create caulking details that are critical in the construction of a project. You should be no less thorough when it comes to tackling your home projects.
Most do-it-yourselfers use caulk to make repairs or while performing routine home maintenance, such as cracks in concrete or to seal the joint between the tub and shower walls.
There are other less obvious uses for caulking that are worth mentioning. One of the best ways to prevent uninvited visitors such as ants and other crawling critters from making your home theirs is to caulk gaps, cracks and penetrations that they use as a means of entry. And, something as simple as a caulk joint around a toilet can prevent sewer gases from wafting up into the bathroom and prevent odor from bacteria buildup at this joint. It also can make the job of cleaning up around the toilet easier and more sanitary.
Have you shopped for a tube of caulk lately? It's a completely different experience today than it was years ago when the one-type-fits-all product selection was the standard. Although fewer choices might have made the shopping experience less confusing, the greater variety in caulk today has many benefits -- once you get beyond the confusion.
Caulk is like ice cream. When we were kids there were three basic flavors -- vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The same held true for caulk. There was an interior caulk, exterior caulk and a specialty caulk for tub and tile. Today ice cream comes in endless flavors, and there is certainly no shortage of caulking products, either.
Choice is a good thing. It means that you can now have a product that is best suited for a specific application. It also means that your project will look better, last longer and offer your home better protection.
Some of the factors that determine caulk choice are:
* Location. Where will it be used; indoors or outside? Choose a caulk based on where it is to be used. Exterior caulk is subject to greater wear and tear and is, therefore, tougher than a product designed primarily for indoor use. Although latex and silicone can be used at the exterior, the latest and most durable "flavor" on the block is polyurethane. It is a high quality material that will stick to virtually any surface. It is long-lasting and is available in a host of colors.
* Surface. What surface(s) will it be required to bond to? Is there more than one type -- such as a joint between brick and wood siding? Read the label to be certain the caulk you choose is compatible with the surface you will be using it on.
* Exposure. Will it have prolonged sun exposure? Ultraviolet rays of the sun top the list when it comes to caulk deterioration. Thus, when using an exterior caulk that won't be painted, be sure to select a product that offers UV protection. It will last longer and look better.
* Water. Will it have significant exposure to water and, thus, mildew? Latex, silicone and a combination are still the most popular choices for kitchens, baths and other "wet" areas in the home. Latex is still the do-it-yourself favorite due to its easy cleanup properties and user-friendly application. A latex and silicone combo will offer greater flexibility, improved adhesion and generally will last longer.
* Paintability and color. Does it need to be paintable or is there a specific color that must be used? In the past, caulk was available in two basic colors -- white and clear. Today, there is a rainbow of colors -- depending upon the material -- from which to choose.
* Flexibility. Is the location where it is to be applied subject to movement or significant expansion and contraction? When it comes to flexibility, elastomeric polyurethane is best. It's highly resilient and has excellent recovery characteristics after extended periods of compression or elongation.
* Climate. Are temperatures extreme? If you live in a climate that experiences extreme temperature changes, choose a flexible material.
* Specialty. Is it to be used in a fireplace or other specific location that will require extra "horsepower?" Most caulking products will not withstand extreme temperatures such as that of a fireplace. When repairing mortar use a refractory caulk that is especially suited for fireboxes and will withstand high temperatures.
And remember, the best time to caulk is when it is cool -- when building materials have yet to expand and the joint or gap is at its widest.
For more home improvement tips and information visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com.
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