Under 2 hours
In home maintenance, you might find any number of caulking projects. Caulk can fill gaps when installing moulding or when weatherizing a door or window. Caulk is also used to seal showers, bathtubs and sinks.
This guide shows how to apply caulk, including how to remove old caulk, how to apply new caulk and how to use a caulk gun. The basic caulking tips here can be used for almost any project.
Prep the Area
Learning how to caulk starts with a clean surface. Take the time to remove any existing caulk to help ensure a good seal.
- Cut old caulk out with a caulk tool, razor blade, putty knife or scraper.
- Remove all paint, dirt, dust, grease and debris. If you’re removing silicone caulk, make sure 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.
Tip: If the gap you are caulking is greater than 1/2 inch, use a caulk formulated for wider gaps or press foam tape into the space.
Tape the Area
One of the best caulking tips is to make sure that the caulk only goes where you need it. Caulking with tape along the surface will help produce an attractive finish.
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.
Cut the Nozzle
Caulk is available in hand-held squeezable tubes or rigid plastic cylinders that require a caulk gun to push out the material. A squeeze tube is recommended for small projects.
- Some squeeze tubes may have a seal under the nozzle cap. Make sure to puncture the seal before use. Follow the instructions on the tube and carefully cut the nozzle using scissors or a utility knife with a sharp blade. Most caulk guns have a built-in nozzle cutter and seal puncher.
- A line of caulk is called a “bead” and the width of bead is determined by where the nozzle is cut. To create a narrow bead, cut the nozzle close to its tip. For a wider bead, trim off more of the nozzle.
- No matter how wide your caulk bead needs to be, cut the nozzle at a 45-degree angle. You will be applying the caulk with the tube at an angle, so cutting the nozzle on a slant will help get a smooth bead.
Apply the Caulk
Using a caulk gun is the easiest way to apply caulk.
- Insert the cartridge into the gun frame and make sure it's snug and secure.
- Press the release at the back of the caulk gun and adjust the rod so the plunger is fully extended.
- Place the nozzle at a 45-degree angle in the middle of the joint. Always start on one end of your project. Try to work in a continuous direction.
- Grasp the tube and slowly squeeze the trigger. Press the nozzle into the joint with enough pressure to force the caulk into the gap.
- At the same time, steadily draw the nozzle along the joint.
- Apply steady pressure to the trigger or tube and fill the gap with an even bead of caulk.
- Release the trigger when it reaches the handle. It will spring back. Then you can continue making a steady bead.
Smooth the Caulk Bead
For a neat and professional-looking finish, “tool” or smooth the bead of caulk after sealing the joint. Whichever method you use, the overall goal is to smooth the bead and not to remove excess caulk.
- Lightly drag a caulk finishing tool over the bead to smooth it.
- Alternatively, you can simply use your finger. Moisten your fingertip in warm soapy water and drag it with light pressure along the length of the bead.
- If caulking with tape to mask the area around the caulk, remove the tape before the caulk starts to set.
- To remove the masking tape, lift the end and pull up at a 45-degree angle, away from the surface.
- Wipe away excess caulk with water and a damp cloth before it dries.
Drying and curing are two separate processes and have different time requirements. Curing often takes longer than drying. Quick-drying caulks are available.
- Check your caulk tube for the specific dry and cure time instructions.
- To remove excess dried caulk, use a putty knife or caulk tool to cut or scrape it away. If using a paintable caulk, check the tube for paint-ready time.
When you’ve learned how to use a caulk gun and how apply caulk around your home, shop online for the supplies you need. The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.