Caulking may sound dirty at first, but is an essential and versatile component used in almost all homes and office buildings all over the world.

The word refers to not just the process, but also the material that is used in sealing up the holes or gaps between joints and seams in both structures and plumbing. This is mostly done using a special chemical sold in cartridges, which is loaded into a caulking gun and applied to the target area.

Caulking vs. Sealant

Caulking is essentially sealing up holes and gaps in different material, but is a different process from applying sealant. While most people use them interchangeably, they do have a few important differences that you need to keep in mind.

The biggest difference between the two is elasticity – while sealant is specifically used for roofing and is supposed to be waterproof, caulk is more rigid and is used for sealing gaps.

Another difference is in the way they are applied. Caulking is usually sold in cartridges and applied with the use of an apparatus called a caulking gun, while sealant can be directly applied onto the leak from the container.

Types of Caulk

There are many different types and varieties of caulk, each one with their own specific use. However, they can generally be classified into a few major categories. Some of the most common include:

  • Acrylic latex – Also called “painter’s caulk”, this is one of the most common and cheapest types of caulk available, as it is meant to cover small holes and imperfections in surfaces for them to be painted on.
  • Acrylic tile sealant – This type of caulking is the type used for sealing up bathroom tiles, and often comes in smaller tubes compared to most types of caulk. Acrylic tile sealant resists both mold and mildew, and will take a few years before the next replacement. 
  • Silicone – The best way to seal a shower area or bathtub for good is by using a silicone caulk, which has a longer lifespan and works great on non-porous surfaces. However, it is really difficult to clean off and can have a bad smell when first applied.
  • Asphalt – Though mostly used to seal shingles, flashings, and certain roof areas that aren’t exposed to sunlight, asphalt caulk degrades much faster than butyl when placed directly under the sun.
  • Adhesives – Adhesive caulks, also known as “liquid nails”, are used to glue almost any surface regardless of porosity and has an impressive lifespan. Though it can be cleaned up with water, the best way to dissolve it or clean it up is by using a solvent.  
  • Fireproof – This specialty caulk is often used for insulation and sealing holes where plumbing or electrical wiring goes through, and contains a retardant that prevents fire from travelling through them.

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