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Last updated on February 26th, 2021
Caulking is an art that if you don’t know its ropes, you may end up creating a big mess. Even worse, you may use up a lot more caulk than you need. But if you know how to caulk like a pro, people won’t help but marvel at your work. You will also be very pleased with your work, having used just the right amount of caulk sealant to fill those gaps and seams.
Good thing is that learning how to caulk like a pro is not rocket science. You only need to know the cardinal rules of doing it and some tips and tricks. In this post, I will share with you some very useful caulking tips and tricks I have learned over the years. These hacks have helped me perfect the art of applying caulk, whether, on the toilet base or flange, windows, bathtub, shower, or whatever, you just name it. The end result is always the same; a clean, neat, and perfect seal.
Caulking Tip 1: Clean the surface
Start by cleaning the surface to remove dust, dirt, grease, and debris before applying caulk. If there is old caulk or sealant, use a penknife to scrape it off and a fine-grit scouring pad to make the surface smooth. This will ensure a good seal.
If there is paint on the surface, use both medium and fine-grit sandpaper. The medium grit sandpaper is for removing paint and the fine-grit scourer is for smoothing the surface. Never apply caulk on a painted surface because when the paint peels off it will compromise the integrity of the seal and may cause leakage. Sometimes old paint may peel off with caulk.
After scraping off old paint, and removing dirt and old sealant, rinse the surface with water and wipe it dry. If you apply silicone sealant on a wet surface it will not stick. So, make sure you wipe the surface completely with a dry rug. You can also use a heat gun or a vacuuming drier. However, avoid using a heat gun on a painted surface as it will damage the paint.
Caulking Tip 2: Use masking tape to mask the gap
A masking tape or a painter tape is useful for masking the gap you want to apply sealant. It prevents the caulk from spreading to unwanted areas. The tape also ensures your sealant bead has a very straight edge.
However, there is a catch in using masking tape when caulking. You must remove it while the caulk is still wet but not immediately after spreading. I would advise you to wait for 5 minutes before peeling off the masking tape. Otherwise, you might undo your good work if you let the sealant dry completely. Also, if the caulk hardens, it might cause the tape to tear off when removing, leaving behind an ugly mess.
Caulking Tip 3: Use wet finger to spread the bead of caulk
The easiest way to create a rounded bead is to use a wet finger to spread the caulk. A wet finger smooths the caulk and removes any excess sealant effectively. The reason for wetting the finger is to prevent the sealant from sticking. A wet finger also slides very smoothly. I learned this genius caulking trick from a friend after trying in vain to smooth with a dry finger.
But which finger is the best for spreading caulk?
When it comes to using fingers to smooth the caulk bead, the index finger is the most effective because it gives you better control than other fingers. Also, for best results, use the index finger of your dominant hand. It is stronger and easy to control.
How else can you spread caulk?
Some people don’t like the smell or feel of caulk. If you are one of them, there is a cheap alternative for spreading caulk. You can use the backside of a plastic spoon to smooth caulk sealant. However, this option might not be as effective as the finger on very tight corners. A spoon might also not fetch excess sealant effectively.
Alternatively, you can use a caulk smoothing tool. I prefer the multifunctional plastic-tipped corner caulking tool. This tool has a soft edge on one side and a knife-edge on the other. You use the soft edge to smooth caulk to a nice smooth finish and the sharp edge to scrape off old silicon.
Caulking Tip 4: Cut the nozzle at the right opening size
Instructions on most caulk tubes only tell you to nip the nozzle close to the tip. Hardly will they tell you that it is still okay to have a wider nozzle. What I have learned over time is that the size of the gap or crack you want to seal determines how wide your nozzle should be. You will achieve the best results when you cut the nozzle as wide as the gap you want to fill. That way, you will dispense just enough sealant in one pass.
So, the next time you want to caulk your window for a tight seal during winter, check the size of the gap to determine at which point to cut off the nozzle. If you are unsure, the rule of thumb is to cut progressive from the tip until you get the right size of the opening.
Caulking Tip 5: Cap the caulking nozzle with a red wire nut
A red wire nut caps the nozzle tightly with its threads. I learned this caulking tip from a member of a woodworking group on Facebook. Before that, I used to stick a nail or screw into the nozzle opening. Unfortunately, this method was only effective for small nozzle openings. Surprisingly, the red wire nut hack works for both narrow and wide nozzle openings, providing a very tight seal. The only downside is that the nut costs a couple of bucks. However, once you buy, you can re-use it to cap other caulk tubes.