How to Caulk Like a Professional

  • 01 of 07

    How to Caulk Like a Pro: Tools and Materials

    Applying caulk
    Applying silicone bath tub caulk. Fotolia

    Have you ever been frustrated by what seems like the simple job of caulking? We've all seen those "how to" articles that show caulk being applied like there is nothing to it, but we all know that getting a smooth, consistent finished caulk job that is not amateurish looking can be difficult.

    Until now.

    Here's a great technique for getting professional caulk results time after time.

    Needed Tools and Materials:

    • Caulk (type appropriate to the intended use)
    • Caulk gun
    • Retractable razor...MORE blade scraper
    • Blue painters tape
    • Rubbing alcohol (if using silicone caulk)
    • Several small cotton rags (like from a T-shirt)
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  • 02 of 07

    Select Your Caulk and Dispenser

    Hispanic woman holding caulking gun
    Tanya Constantine / Getty Images

    First, you must evaluate your caulking project and determine the proper caulk for the job. There are a number of different caulks, colors and dispensing methods from which to choose. Caulk typically comes in three varieties: latex, silicone and butyl rubber.

    For dry areas, vinyl latex caulk works best. For wet areas, the nod goes to silicone caulk. For exterior jobs, butyl rubber works great. For interior home repair caulking projects, however, use either a latex caulk or silicone caulk.

    The type...MORE of caulk gun or dispensing tool you use is an important decision. Caulks can be purchased in either squeeze tubes or cartridges. Due to both economy and professional results, a caulk cartridge and a smooth action caulking gun are preferable.

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  • 03 of 07

    Remove Old Caulk and Clean

    caulk removing tool
    Caulk removal can be done using an inexpensive mechanical tool. Hyde Tools

    Removing the old caulk and preparing the surfaces is very important for an effective caulk repair. Here's how to prep the surfaces:

    • Remove the old caulk with a handy tool called a retractable razor blade scraper.
    • Use the razor scraper to get all the old stuck-on caulk off both surfaces such as the tile and tub. Scrape it clean.
    • Vacuum up the debris and vacuum the open joint.
    • Once both surfaces are clean and dry, proceed to the next step.
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  • 04 of 07

    Tape off Both Surfaces

    Painters tape
    RightFramePhotoVideo/Getty Images

    This is the secret to a professional looking caulk job and any amateur home repair enthusiast can do it! Without this step, you will end up with very wide caulk joints once you try to smooth the joint out after application. The use of tape to mask both edges of the joint allows you to set the width of the joint and protect the surrounding finish material from the caulk.

    • Take blue painters tape and mask off both surfaces at the point where you want the edge of the caulk to stop.
    • Make sure the tape...MORE is straight and use long sections of tape, not short pieces.
    • The joint will look best if you tape a thinner joint, approximately 1/4" in total width.
    • Press down firmly the edge of the tape that is along the caulk joint.
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  • 05 of 07

    Apply Caulk

    Caulk gun applying silicone to granite sink
    BanksPhotos / Getty Images

    Once the joint is cleaned out and masked, you're ready to caulk.

    • Open the caulk tube by cutting the tip at a 45-degree angle and puncturing the inner seal with a long nail or wire. Many newer caulk guns have built-in tip snippers and puncture wires.
    • Apply the caulk at a 45-degree angle between horizontal and perpendicular.
    • Make sure to squeeze hard enough to get the caulk fully into the joint.
    • Work at a speed that is slow and consistent. The smoother you make the joint to start with, the easier...MORE the job will be.
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  • 06 of 07

    Smooth the Joint

    Man applying caulk to sink
    SolStock/Getty Images

    Once the caulk is applied, the next step is to smooth the joint. Here's where the tape masking technique will make your job successful. Typically at this point, where tape masking is not used, the caulk would smear and spread onto both surfaces as you pressed the joint smooth with your finger. However, by using the tape masking technique in this tutorial, your caulk joint will be left with only a clean, sharp edge.

    • Wet your finger with either alcohol (for silicone caulk) or water (with latex...MORE caulk). Also, dampen part of a rag with water or alcohol as appropriate.
    • The alcohol or water will serve as a lubricant and cutting agent as you smooth the joint.
    • Using firm pressure, smooth the caulk joint working from one end to the other.
    • As you finger becomes laden with excess caulk, wipe it off with the dampened rag and re-wet your finger.
    • Continue the smoothing process until the entire taped section you're working on is finished.
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  • 07 of 07

    Remove the Tape

    mphillips00/Getty Images

    Once the caulk joint has been smoothed out with your finger you're almost done.

    • Once the caulk joint is smoothed out, immediately remove the blue painters tape used to mask the joint.
    • Remove the tape away slowly and pull it away from the joint at an angle, not toward the joint.