Learn how to use caulk for professional-looking results throughout your home
Caulk is one of the most commonly used home improvement products and is easy to apply whether you’re repairing flashing on a roof, weatherizing a door or window, installing crown moulding, or painting a room.
This guide will help you understand how to work with caulk by showing you how to caulk around a bathroom sink.
Tip: Caulk is available in squeezable or rigid plastic tubes. We recommend squeezable tubes for small projects. For larger projects, use larger tubes and a caulk gun.
WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS PROJECT
Tip: If the gap you are caulking is greater than ½ inch, press a foam backer rod into the space.
• If you are replacing old caulk, cut it out with a utility knife or scraper.
• Remove all dirt, dust, grease and debris. In you’re removing silicone caulk, ensure all residue is completely removed.
• Use a rag to wipe the joint surface with rubbing alcohol or an over-the-counter disinfecting spray, rinse thoroughly with water and dry.
Apply painter’s tape to mask off areas around the joint where the caulk should not appear. This will give you a straight line of caulk and will improve the final appearance.
• Read the instructions on the caulk bottle for how to cut the nozzle, as some nozzles have a foil seal that will need to be punctured, and some nozzles also need to be removed to trim an inside seal.
• If using a squeeze tube, remove the cap and then trim the nozzle with scissors. For rigid plastic tubes, use a utility knife to cut the tip of the nozzle off at a 45-degree angle.
• The further down the nozzle the cut is made, the wider the line, known as the “bead,” of caulk will be.
• If using a rigid plastic cartridge, place the cartridge in the caulking gun.
• Apply steady pressure to the trigger or squeeze tube and fill the gap with an even bead of caulk.
• It is best to push the caulk ahead of the nozzle to ensure that it gets into the joint for a proper seal.
Tip: Some clear caulks will apply white and dry clear in seven to 14 days, depending on humidity and temperature. To reuse any remaining caulk on a future project, tightly reseal the cartridge and store within the manufacturer's recommended temperatures.
• For a neat and professional-looking finish, “tool” or smooth the bead of caulk. Lightly drag a caulk finishing tool or putty knife to smooth the bead.
• If you used painter’s tape, remove the tape prior to the caulk skinning over (meaning that the product has developed a firm skin on the surface, which normally occurs after a few hours). To correctly remove the tape, lift the edge up at a 45-degree angle away from you.
• Wipe away excess caulk with water and a damp cloth before the caulk dries. Excess dried caulk will need to be cut or scraped away.