Tips for Using a Caulk Gun

Caulk Gun

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That simple caulk gun hanging from a nail in your shop or resting on a shelf is actually one of the most powerful tools you can own. Just by inserting a tube of caulk in the gun, you can waterproof and weatherproof all sorts of areas in and around your home, preventing damage, saving you money, and keeping you comfortable. Plus, there are many other uses for a caulk gun unrelated to caulking that render this inexpensive device one of the most versatile tools you'll own.

Typical Projects With a Caulk Gun

Any material that comes in a correctly sized tube can be used in caulk guns—caulk, adhesive, epoxy, silicone, and even cementitious materials. Caulk guns are typically used in projects for dispensing:

  • Caulk around windows and doors
  • Silicone sealant in bathrooms, around tubs and showers
  • Viscuous sealants such as epoxies for concrete
  • Construction adhesive for supplementary attachment of drywall to studs
  • Caulk in cracks and other areas that permit airflow to the interior
  • Landscape adhesive for attaching caps to retaining wall blocks
  • Exterior-grade caulk around outdoor lights, outlets, and other points of penetration in the siding
  • Paintable caulk along the tops of baseboards
  • Caulk in cracks to help soundproof a room

Where to Avoid Using a Caulk Gun

Caulk is best used for long, thin gaps. Because caulk guns are so convenient, they are sometimes used in the wrong applications. Do not use a caulk gun for:

  • Filling nail or screw holes
  • Filling butt joints (where the ends of two board meet)
  • Smoothing out surface depressions and other defects
  • Expansion joints between concrete slabs and pavers
  • Fixing leaking under sink P-traps
  • Tuckpointing brick
  • Sealing around tub or shower drains (instead, use plumber's putty)

Types of Caulk Guns

Manual Caulk Guns

Manual guns rely on hand force to grip a large handle, advancing a rod with a disc at its end. The disc fits neatly into the back of the tube and provides a flat, even pushing surface.

Manual guns are either regular or dripless. Regular caulk guns' rods are etched with tiny notches that help the rod move forward and remain in place, much like the ratchets on a car jack.

One downside of manual caulk guns is the slow ooze of caulk that occurs after you have finished with your pass. Experienced do-it-yourselfers and pros know to always place this type of caulk gun down on a piece of cardboard to catch the excess.

Dripless caulk guns may sound like advanced technology, but the operation is really quite simple. Instead of a ratcheted rod, dripless guns have smooth rods. After you have finished with your pass, the caulk tube's internal pressure pushes back on the rod. Since the rod is smooth, it can slide freely backward.

Powered Caulk Guns

Once used only by contractors and tradespeople, powered caulk guns are now finding their way into the toolboxes of homeowners, as well.

Manual caulk guns work fine for small projects. But for anything more than a window or door, hand and wrist fatigue begin to tax the user. Electric powered caulk guns eliminate the need to squeeze the handle, saving your hand and letting you caulk more in less time.

Powered caulk guns on the consumer level are usually powered by lithium-ion batteries that are often strong enough to last for up to 200 tubes of caulk. A powered caulk gun is a small investment if you have a large home remodel or building project ahead of you.

How to Use a Caulk Gun

Warm the Caulk Tube

Caulk and adhesives tend to flow best in temperatures above 40 degrees F. Let the tube rest in a warm environment for at least two hours.

Clean the Area

Make sure that the area that you intend to caulk is clean, dust-free, and free of oil and grease.

Sever the Nozzle of the Caulk Tube

Remove the cap from the end of the tube. Cut the end of the nozzle either with a utility knife or with the caulk gun's included cutter.

Tip

A caulk gun's on-board cutting device is usually located within a small hole on the side of the gun. It is operated by the gun's trigger. Insert the nozzle and pull the trigger to snip off the nozzle.

Puncture the Tube

A puncturing device is usually located on the gun. It looks like a blunt nail. Swing the puncturing device upward. Fit this device into the cut end of the nozzle. Puncture several times.

Load the Caulk Tube

Pull the caulk gun's rod all the way back. Put the caulk tube in the caulk gun. Then, push the rod by hand gently forward until the metal disc fits within the back of the caulk tube.

Tension up the Caulk Gun

Move the rod forward by advancing it with the caulk gun's trigger until caulk begins to ooze from the nozzle.

Dispense the Caulk

Move the caulk gun evenly and smoothly along the gap to be filled. Push caulk ahead of the nozzle. Caulk can usually be worked by hand for up to 10 minutes and is fully cured in about two hours.