THE MAGAZINE FOR PROFESSIONALS

4 Caulk application tips for painting pros

by Brian Sodoma

Delivering a clean bead of caulk requires solid technique and practice, and for some painting professionals, it may seem like the simplest part of a job. But caulking a soffit seam or baseboard can also quickly become a messy endeavor if you’re not paying attention, rushing, or have learned some sloppy techniques.

Jennifer Johnson, group product director for DAP Products, Inc., gains insight into caulk application best practices from jobsite observations; she taps pros willing to talk about their techniques as well. Here, she offers some tips to help any pro get it right every time.

TIP #1: USE THE RIGHT GRADE OF SEALANT

Painting professionals can be very cost-conscious when it comes to caulk, and painter’s caulk is known by many as a cheaper formulation. But for even a slight increase of just a few dollars to a premium product, you can avoid cracking, which is the biggest complaint when it comes to caulk failures, Johnson says.

“A lower-grade caulk tends to shrink more and has less flexibility, which can lead to cracking,” she said. “If you just step up to the next level, you’re going to have more flexibility and it’s not going to shrink as much.”

Premium sealants also allow pros to avoid ‘shiners,’ a field term where plasticizers in the caulk leach out into the paint, and the bead of caulk starts to look shiny over time. Premium sealants are also formulated to better adhere to emerging synthetic materials like PVC, polystyrene and composites found in some baseboards, crown moldings and chair rails.

TIP #2: AVOID TECHNIQUE PITFALLS THAT MAKE YOU APPLY TOO LITTLE CAULK

Not applying enough caulk to the joint is a common problem. Many will just run back over a seam to add more caulk to the joint if they feel there isn’t adequate coverage. However, Johnson points out that some pros simply may not cut their tips wide enough to match the joint they’re going to caulk so they release too fine of a bead. Conversely, if you apply too much caulk to the joint, you run the risk of over-wiping and leaving an insufficient amount in the seam. “Some also don’t take into account the shrinkage you get from the caulk when it’s fully cured,” Johnson added.

TIP #3: PAY ATTENTION TO THE DEPTH OF SEAMS

If a seam is big and deep, you’ll notice it can swallow up a considerable amount of caulk. The instinct for many is to keeping loading until enough caulk fills in the seam. As a general rule, if the seam is more than a half-inch DEEP, you need to find backer rod material to lay into it to set a base for the caulk. And if the seam is more than a half-inch WIDE, caulk is not recommended at all— or you need a specific caulk that is formulated to fill and stretch with extreme joint widths, Johnson said.

TIP #4: USE THE RIGHT CAULK GUN, AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO PUSH INSTEAD OF PULL

Caulk guns are relatively inexpensive, and the few extra dollars you spend on a higher-end model allows the user to squeeze less. “It just makes the whole job easier and you can get a smoother bead of caulk,” Johnson noted.

The expert is also finding that more and more pros are turning to a pushing, instead of the traditional pulling, technique when applying caulk. If done correctly, it can be less messy and leave a professional look.

“You’re almost tooling the bead of caulk as you go. It does take a little bit more skill, but you do get a good finish,” she added.

For other articles on caulk application tips for the painting professional, visit inpaintmag.com

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