Apply Caulking Like A Professional Painter

Apply Caulking Like A Professional Painter

For a professional painter, the devil’s in the details. And few details are more important when it comes to a great looking paint job than clean, crisp, lines in your finish.

Caulking serves some very important functions for a painter from sealing out moisture and drafts from a building to concealing cracks and gaps in exterior siding or interior walls prior to painting. But a bad caulking job will not only bring down the overall quality of the finished project it can also defeat the point of what you’ve spent so much time trying to accomplish in the first place.

Believe it or not, caulking is a legitimate trade in the construction industry. There are many companies who’s sole occupation is caulking, sealing, and waterproofing structures — usually in commercial construction applications. But the point is that there is a skill, even art to applying and finishing caulking, and if you want your next painting project to turn out great it warrants taking the time to learn how the pro’s do it. Hitch Property Constructions has a wide range of caulking services

Caulking is used to fill the gaps between two different or similar materials. Painters value prep-work as the foundation of a professional paint job. As trade skills go, caulking, like patching, is a skill that new painters tend to overlook. In a way, it’s understandable, since a new painter wants to get to the brush and the roller as quickly as possible. Prep work is usually not that noticeable, and it is heralded much later when the longevity of the painting project is evaluated. At Ecopainting, we train every painter we hire on how to prep surfaces properly.

How Caulking Interior and Exterior 

Caulking is used to fill the gaps between two different or similar materials. Painters value prep-work as the foundation of a professional paint job. As trade skills go, caulking, like patching, is a skill that new painters tend to overlook. In a way, it’s understandable, since a new painter wants to get to the brush and the roller as quickly as possible. Prep work is usually not that noticeable, and it is heralded much later when the longevity of the painting project is evaluated. At Ecopainting, we train every painter we hire on how to prep surfaces properly.

The role of exterior caulking is to protect the home from water intrusion. Moisture can damage the home’s elements, especially wood, and cause rot and mildew.

Interior caulking is used around kitchen countertops, bathrooms and around tub and shower enclosures. Preventing moisture from entering in gaps, this type of caulk has additives to stop mould from developing in humid environments. More often than not, Silicone is used in kitchens and bathrooms. Silicone offers better adhesion and allows for more flexibility. Unfortunately, Silicone is not paintable and therefore not very popular with painters.

Interior caulking is used for cosmetic reasons. In new construction, joints between wood panels require caulking before painting. The same applies to gaps between drywall and wood, especially around casings and baseboards.

Caulking can save a property owner money, not only by protecting building elements but also by stopping drafts from coming into the house.

Quality of Caulking Materials

Variety of quality caulking materials

There are different varieties of caulk for different purposes: polyurethane, stretchable types, acrylic, Silicone, latex, paintable, etc. The best ones offer good flexibility, sometimes 25% and more. Considering the temperature variations we have in Toronto, there is a lot of expansion and contraction of building materials. The more flexible the caulk is, the better it will fill the gaps between moving materials. Some sealants are water-resistant, and some others can be exposed to occasional water submersion.

The quality of interior caulking is not evaluated by the flexibility alone. Sealants for interior painting must be easy to apply and tool, and they have to be paintable. When speed is of the essence, quick-drying and curing times can speed up the job of the contractor.

Everything else being equal, the more expensive products are better. Every manufacturer has different grades available, and some are rated by years of longevity. The 25-year grade is better than the 15 years one, but don’t expect them to last that long.

Types Of Caulking

Before we get into the “how” of this article, let’s first discuss the “why” and the selecting of the right kinds of caulking material for your job.

There are two broad categories when it comes to caulking: Adhesives and Sealants.

Adhesives are just what you would expect them to be — they are used to bond one type of surface to another. That concept is pretty self-explanatory, and although there are many different types of adhesives that would probably deserve an explanation piece devoted to them, for the purpose of this post we’ll be focusing exclusively on sealants.

The purpose of a sealant is to seal cracks, gaps, and joints between materials to keep out moisture and drafts — not to mention to give the paint job a seamless final appearance. Sealants also come in many different varieties depending upon the type of project you’re doing. 

Latex Caulk or Acrylic Latex Caulk (Also known as “painter’s caulk”) 

This is probably the most common type of caulking that you see used by everyone. It’s inexpensive, paintable, readily available almost anywhere, and it’s soap-and-water-cleanup makes it very easy to work with. It will most often have a 20 or 25-year warranty on the label (which I’m pretty sure is an attempt at humour on the part of the manufacturer). Check out our Melbourne caulking services here. 

The problem with it is that it is vastly over-used and is honestly not a high-quality sealant. The difference between an $.89 tube of caulk and a $5.00 tube of caulk is not noticeable when you’re applying it. But it’s definitely something you’ll notice later as the caulking cures and begins to age.

Inexpensive caulks will tend to shrink more and sometimes pull away from the joint as they dry. But even if they pass the initial shrink test, most of them lose their flexibility as they age and will begin to crack and pull away from the joint over time. Latex also caulks typically not a good choice for exterior application because they cannot stand up to the demands that are put on them when materials (siding, trim, windows, doors) expand and contract with the change in temperature and weather.

Acrylic Latex Caulk *Plus Silicone

 In my opinion, this is the minimum standard of sealant that should be used for interior painting project applications such as the joints where baseboards, door & window casings, and crown mouldings meet the walls. However, I would still recommend steering clear of it on outdoor applications.  

It has all the same benefits of regular latex/acrylic-latex caulks, but the added Silicone gives it more flexibility so it will last longer. The price difference between it and the standard latex/acrylic-latex is minimal, but it does usually come with a longer warranty on the label — typically a 35 year — for whatever that’s worth.

Premium Sealants, High-Performance Sealants, Indoor/Outdoor Sealants, Window & Door Sealants, etc. 

As you move up the performance ladder, you’ll find variations of high-performance sealants. Some of them are acrylic-latex caulks with special additives that make them more flexible, some are elastomeric, and some are polyurethanes (usually considered the top-of-the-line).

They’re called by many different names and have many different intended uses, but you’ll know the difference in quality by the difference in the price tags.

When you’re selecting a premium sealant pay close attention to the label to ensure that it is suitable for your particular project, look for things like waterproof, paintable, indoor/outdoor, fast-drying, horizontal or vertical use only, wider temperature application, etc., etc. — depending on your needs.

These high-performance sealants are definitely worth the extra money if you don’t want to run the risk of having to go back and re-caulk your entire project again. They remain much more flexible than their lesser-expensive counterparts and are especially useful when sealing up joints on dissimilar surfaces that expand and contract at different rates (i.e. wood-to-brick, wood-to-metal, etc.)

The only drawback to these fine products is that in many cases they are not as easy to work with. Many of them require mineral spirits (paint thinner) or some other type of solvent to clean up, and they tend to be messier. However, in my opinion, enduring a little extra pain the first time around to save me from having to re-do my work is well worth the trouble.

100% Silicone 

The most common uses for this type of product are kitchens (around sinks, backsplashes, etc.); bathrooms (around tubs, showers, sinks, toilets); exterior doors; and windows. Basically anywhere you need a waterproof, mould & mildew resistant seal.

In fact, you’ll see many 100% silicone products labelled as ‘kitchen & bath sealant’ or ‘window & door sealant’.  

100% Silicone is a great waterproof sealant, is ideal for resisting mould and mildew, and stays permanently flexible. The only downsides of Silicone are that they usually require mineral spirits for cleanup and are generally not paintable.

Getting Ready To Work

Now that we’ve gone over the basic types of caulking that you’ll have to choose from at the store, it’s time to get ready to put them to good use.

Tools & supplies you’ll need:

  • Good quality caulking gun (Pay the extra money to get a caulking gun that has a dripless design so the tube won’t continue to drip every time you stop squeezing the trigger. Also, consider a gun with a high thrust-ratio. That means you’ll avoid having sore muscles on your trigger hand because you won’t have to squeeze as hard — especially if you have a lot of caulking to do or if you’re using a thick product like a urethane sealant)
  • Wet cotton rag in a small bucket
  • Roll of paper towels

The first thing you’ll need to do is to open your tube of caulk and load it into the gun. A good quality gun should have a cutter located on the side of the gun near the trigger, which is basically just a hole that you stick the point of the tube of caulk into and squeeze the trigger to cut off the end.  

One of the biggest secrets that will make your job easier is to cut the end of the tube as close to the tip as possible on a steep angle. Having a small hole will allow you better control of the flow of caulking, and the angle will make it easier to direct the material where you want it to go.

If your gun has a puncture wire that swings out from the underneath side of the barrel you can use it to puncture the seal of the freshly opened tube by sticking it into the hole you just cut into your end. If your gun doesn’t have a puncture wire, you can use a long nail or piece of wire such as from a metal coat hanger to do the job. Now just load the tube into the gun, and you’re ready to go.

Use a Good Caulking Gun for Professional Results

Caulking guns are the tools that we use to apply the sealants. They come in two basic sizes, the large industrial one and the standard size we use daily. Caulking guns are relatively inexpensive tools. You can get a good quality one from a big box store for less than $20. A good quality gun will make the job easier and produce better and more professional results. The good ones are simple, comfortable to use and easy to clean. They allow the tube to be squeezed evenly and give the user the ability to stop the flow before things get messy. In fact, some of them call themselves dripless, and they work great. A cheaper gun is more difficult to use and makes regulating the flow very challenging. This creates a big mess, a lot of caulk is wasted, and the result looks unprofessional.

Considering the low purchase cost, a good quality caulking gun is a valuable addition to a painters toolbox and will last for years. At Ecopainting we expect our painters to own and use the best quality tools they can get

Caulking should be smooth with no texture or ridges. Caulking should not fill trim profiles.”

  • Ensure that all surfaces are completely cleaned, scraped, primed, patched, and sanded as needed. Surfaces should be clean, dry, and free of dirt, dust, loose flaking paint and loose caulking. (Be cautious to prevent slivers).
  • Fill any gaps greater than 1/4” (6 mm) deep or greater than 3/8” (10mm) wide with the backing material.
  • Insert the caulk tube in the caulking gun and pull the trigger until the plunger is snug against the bottom of the tube. Cut the nozzle tip of the caulk tube at 30 – 45 degree angle to the desired thickness of the caulk bead (don’t cut it too big). Puncture the inner seal of the nozzle if needed.
  • Place the open tip of the caulk tube nozzle in the joint. Hold the flat open side of the nozzle tip against the joint/substrate surface so the caulk will flow into the joint.
  • Draw a bead of caulk by squeezing the trigger of the caulking gun and pulling it along the joint in a smooth continuous motion. Release pressure on the trigger to stop the bead flow at the end of the joint.
  • Smooth the caulk bead using a damp finger, cloth, sponge or caulk smoothing tool. Leave enough caulk to bridge and adhere to both surfaces. Wipe the excess off your finger with a cloth or rinse it off in a bucket of water.
  • To minimize build-up in moulding corners, etc. use a small finger or thin rag.
  • Allow the caulk to dry/cure sufficiently as per the manufacturer’s specifications prior to painting.
  • Painting too quickly can lead to discolouration or cracking.

How To Maintenance Caulk Gun

How To Maintenance Caulk GunIf you want to keep your caulk gun working in a smooth manner, you should maintain it well.

Inspect the gun for any damage. Check for broken parts or cracks. You should also check for minor damage signs to repair it easily.

After every caulking task, remove any excess caulk. It will prevent the buildup of caulk that would otherwise harden and make it hard to use the tool.

One of the most important things to remember is to keep it clean after each use. Carefully remove the tube and clean the gun properly to prevent the buildup of dirt and caulk that will affect the function of the gun. You can use a wet cloth or a brush in cleaning it. You must also ensure that the handle is clean. Finally, see to it that it’s dry well after cleaning. Check out Hitch Property Constructions for a huge range of Melbourne caulking services

Plus, you must load/unload the gun correctly. See the manufacturer instruction on how to use it properly. Use only the right size of a caulking tube. Do not also force another equipment into the gun. Keep it out of children’s reach, too.

Lubricate the ratchet with a quality oil for easy use. It will also help reduce any buildup in the gun.

You must also store the caulking gun in a dry place to extend its lifespan.

Store the tube properly, too. Seal any gaps to find on it to prevent excess caulk from hardening.

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