Applying Acrylic Caulk Like A Professional: Caulking Techniques For the Perfect Job

Michelle Tether
Written by Michelle Tether

Believe it or not, £30 worth of caulk, properly applied, can add thousands of pounds to the value of your home, it really can make huge differences in some places that you would otherwise consider a structural repair. It not only helps you achieve a professional looking paint job inside and out, it also helps protect your home from costly water damage, and seals air leaks to help keep your energy costs down, there’s so many savings that can be made, every home should have a caulk gun handy, it’s the best quick decorators tip out there for time, cost, and difference it makes.

Many people hate caulking because it ends being a messy, time-consuming job, and looks botched – this doesn’t have to be the case, it’s all about neat application. Knowing a few tricks and techniques the professionals use can turn this chore into a joy, and result in a job to be proud of. Here’s what you need to know.

What caulk is used for

Primarily, caulk’s purpose is to fill gaps that might contract and expand. Except for bathrooms and kitchens where silicone caulk is preferred as caulk isn’t waterproof as standard. Most caulking jobs need only a paintable, easy-to-use acrylic latex caulk for sealing unsightly gaps in interior and exterior trim, it’s ideal for sealing your skirting board and flooring flooring joint. If you would like to learn how to do DIY hardwood flooring,  job then I’ve got the article for that. Caulk is also perfect exterior gaps where moisture can penetrate and cause hidden damage.

Caulking windows - this stops draughts and icy gusts coming through

Caulking windows – this stops draughts and icy gusts coming through

Caulks best and most common use is around window and door trims to seal air leaks that can sabotage heating and cooling costs. Using caulk to paint sash windows is one of the best tips to get decoration done quickly.

Cut the tip to the right size

The first mistake many homeowners make when using caulk is not cutting the tip of the caulk tube to the right size and shape for the work at hand – this is the single most important factor in creating a neat caulk job. Most often, you can cut the tip too large resulting in applying way more caulk than needed and requiring significant effort cleaning up the excess caulk and this is what leads to such a negative feeling toward caulking.

Caulk tip cut properly

Caulk tip cut properly by

Unless you’re working on a specific area that has a very large crack to fill, cut the tip so that it provides a bead of caulk slightly less than one-eighth of an inch wide. That’s less than half of the one-quarter inch size bead you see mentioned in the instructions on the tube. Properly cut, you should just be able to insert the seal-piercing tool on your caulk gun into the tip.

Also cut the tip at nearly a 45-degree angle. The angle cut makes the caulk bead larger than you’d expect, so err on the side of too small. If it’s too small, you can always cut it larger. If it’s too large, however, you’re out of luck.

Apply the initial bead quickly and evenly

When caulking the crack at the top edge of a baseboard, for example, you don’t have to perfectly fill the crack with a beautiful bead of caulk on the first pass. The first reason is you will never get it perfect. Pros know this so they don’t try. What will help considerably is making sure your caulk surface is perfectly prepared.

The second reason is that in the time you’re trying to get a perfect first bead, the professional will have laid down a fast bead, smoothed it with his finger, filled in any gaps that were missed, smoothed those for a perfect looking job, and be done long before you’re half-way done with your first pass.

Neat Caulking

Neat Caulking

How does he do it?

This is worth noting again. The professional can finish an entire baseboard, use less caulk, and have a perfect looking job in less time than it takes the typical homeowner to do even half the same job. Why?

Because the professional doesn’t use too much caulk (so less cleanup), and he applies the first bead quickly. Why fuss over it when you have to clean it up no matter whether you go fast or slow?

Because he hasn’t over-applied the caulk, he can smooth out six feet of caulk with one swipe before having to clean the excess caulk off his finger. He can smooth out an entire length of wall in fifteen seconds.

As he smooths the caulk, the excess gathering on his finger ends up filling the occasional gap left behind on the first pass because he was going so fast. For any remaining gaps, he touches them up with a little more caulk, smooths those out with his finger, and he’s finished. The baseboard looks perfect and he’s done in less than sixty seconds.

Quick caulking

Quick caulking by

Another advantage of their speed technique? He’s done long before the caulk even starts to form a skin. As you might know, caulk starts to form a skin within a few minutes, and once it has, smoothing it out becomes tougher as little dried caulk flecks start appearing. As you take time to clean up the flecks, the rest of the caulk is drying even more. The result is usually a lot of gritty bumps and tracks of caulk that you end up giving up on and painting over. Hardly professional looking.

The fine points

To constantly clean your fingers as you go, have a wet terry cloth rag as you work, one that you can throw away. In fact, have plenty. If not plenty, then have a bucket of water so you can periodically rinse the rag. The less you have to fret over the mess and cleaning, the faster you can finish your work.
Have a damp linen rag to do a final wipe. When you go quickly, you can miss the little ridges left behind where excess caulk oozed out around your finger tip while you were smoothing out the caulk. Wiping lightly with the slightly damp linen rag (without pressing into the crack) removes these ridges for that perfect finishing touch. Be sure to rinse the linen rag often, as well, and wring it well before using. It doesn’t matter if your decorating home or office, the same tips apply.

Use these principles for most caulking

The principles of professional caulking described above don’t just apply to baseboards. Use these techniques on door frames, casings and moulding, exterior siding and anywhere you need to fill gaps. The one caveat is when you’re caulking adjacent to rough surfaces, such as stucco, brickwork, or heavily textured walls. For these situations a slightly different technique is required for professional results. You’ll need to try to freehand as it’ll make a neater caulking line. Use this tip to help the process of selling your home. No one likes seeing nasty cracks, a decoration crack can leave negative feeling, so don’t take the chance.

About the author

Michelle Tether

Michelle Tether

I love everything home. I write as a passion for non profit about the things I love.

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