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For the most part, our homes are pretty well built, but they’re not impenetrable fortresses.
Over time, minuscule cracks reveal themselves, welcoming in some unwanted guests, namely moisture and possibly even a mouse or two if the opening’s large enough.
Voids can also open up internally, between the bathtub and the wall or the window and the sill, facilitating the spread of debris and dampness that eats away at our homes from the inside out!
Luckily, there’s an easy fix for these structural wrinkles — The mighty caulk gun!
They’re incredibly easy tools to use, but the word “gun” does make you think twice about going at a caulking project willy-nilly.
There’s an air of finality and danger about it, but I’m going to show you there’s nothing to worry about with this comprehensive caulking guide!
Using A Caulk Gun: A Step-By-Step Guide
Step 1. Choosing Your Caulk Gun
There are two main types of caulk gun, the fancy battery-powered ones and the basic ratchet rod ones.
Obviously, the more expensive electronic guns are convenient and will make your life easier if you’ve got a whole bunch of caulking to do, but you can achieve a professional finish with either.
In fact, if you’re caulking for the first time, you might feel more comfortable with a manual gun, as it puts you in full control, so you can approach your project entirely on your own terms.
Having said that, I strongly advise against buying any of the bargain bin manual guns.
They can be quite flimsy, and you need yours to last at least until the end of the job.
Step 2. Choosing Your Caulk
There are also two main types of caulk, silicone and latex.
Silicone boasts remarkable water resistance, making it the sealant for the job in any indoor space exposed to water, such as your bathroom.
This is the stuff you need to keep mold and mildew at bay.
Latex, on the other hand, is an exquisite filler, expanding more vigorously than silicone caulks, making it the most practical and economical option for spaces that are unlikely to deal with much water or sunlight.
Basement baseboards, for example, would be a prime example of a latex job.
Keep in mind though, that if latex is overexposed to sunlight or moisture, it will break down much quicker than silicone.
Step 3. Preliminary Clearing
Now you’ve got your two main components, it’s time to clear up the project area. If there is any ancient caulk, paint, rust, or mold about, do your best to remove it.
You can count on your trusty old putty knife to remove most soiling, but a wire brush is best for tackling mold.
I’d also recommend keeping a vacuum handy, as they’re perfect for sucking out old, loose bits of caulk or debris stuck in the crack.
A handheld unit is best if you want less fuss. Something like this Black+Decker design will be perfect.
The reason you need to remove debris and contaminants before applying caulk is that you’re trying to establish a stable foundation for your sealant.
Leaving contaminated or loose particulate matter in place will inhibit adherence and shorten filler lifespan.
Step 4. Preliminary Cleaning
With clearing taken care of, it’s time to do a bit of a deep clean.
I’d recommend using some liquid caulk remover, but if you don’t have any, a vinegar or bleach solution will work in a pinch.
Once you’ve cleaned up the area as best you can, allow the space plenty of time to dry. It should be bone dry when you begin applying the caulk, as residual moisture can cause mold.
Step 5. Final Preparations
You can go freehand if you want, but I’d recommend marking out your caulk line with painter's tape.
Not only will this keep your caulking precise, it protects the surrounding area if you slip up and veer from the target zone.
Aim to give yourself ⅛” on either side of the crack.
Step 6. Cutting The Tube
Before you grab a pair of scissors and snip the tip of the caulk tube, think carefully about the task at hand.
Does the project demand precision, i.e. shower tiles? Or will a fast flow rate be more suited to your needs?
For precision, cut the very tip at a 45-degree angle. For broad strokes, make a flat cut lower down the tip.
Step 7. Breaking The Seal
It this stage, the caulk is still contained, so take a pin or nail and pierce the seal of the tube.
Step 8. Loading The Gun
Locate and depress the release trigger on the handle of the gun before pulling the rod as far back as it will go.
Load the caulk tube by inserting the flat base into the rear of the gun. Then, ever so gently, push the rod back in all the way.
Step 9. Practice Run
Grab a piece of paper and practice using the gun. Pull the trigger and move at a steady pace. Too slow and the caulk will bunch up.
Too fast and the sealant will be too thin. You may need to release and re-pull the trigger to pull through more caulk part way through the job.
Try not to let the caulk bunch where you stop and then restart.
Step 10. The Real Deal
Hold the caulk gun in with both hands, one managing the trigger and the other closer to the end of the tube, guiding the tip.
Maintaining steady, consistent motion, apply the caulk at a 45-degree angle to the surface.
Step 11. Finishing Touches
As soon as the caulking is complete, use a finishing tool to smooth the line out. Don’t have one?
No worries, if you’re wearing gloves, you can use your finger, and if not, an ice cube or heated tablespoon will give you some pretty professional lines.
Step 12. Clearing Up
Remove the painter’s tape in a single, sweeping motion and leave your caulk to dry.
Curing time differs from caulk to caulk, but, generally speaking, you’re looking at about 24 hours.
There you have it — Not such a daunting task after all, right?
Take your time with your practice run, trying hard to smooth out your motion as you pull the trigger, and when you’re ready, press on with the actual application with confidence!