How to Choose Caulk and Sealant for Every Home Project

Find out more about the various types of caulk and sealant for the home

person using caulk

The Spruce / Liz Moskowitz

Caulk and sealant are commonly used for renovation projects around the home. When the bathroom is getting remodeled or the kitchen is having a new backsplash installed, caulk is used to seal the gaps and keep moisture from creating problems inside the walls.

Sealant is a similar product, though it has better elasticity than caulk. This makes it better for sealing objects that may shift, move, shrink, or expand, like window frames or doorframes. Use this guide to research the various types of caulk and sealant available and choose the right one for your home project.


Watch Now: How to Caulk Like a Pro

Buying Considerations for Caulk and Sealant


Caulk is intended for use on stationary surfaces because it is not as elastic as sealant. Use caulk for kitchen backsplashes, tub surrounds, toilet bases, and other stationary objects. Sealant has superior elasticity that makes it effective for windows, doors, and other moving, shifting, expanding, or contracting surfaces.

Drying Time

Caulk and sealant typically take about 30 minutes to dry to the touch, but may require between 24 hour to 10 days to fully cure. If you need to finish the project within a shorter timeframe, then consider investing in caulk or sealant with a fast-drying formula. These fast-drying products take less than 24 hours to fully cure and can often be painted after just one hour.

Color and Texture

While some types of caulk can be painted, this isn't true for every type of caulk or sealant, so it's important to consider the color of the target surface and what color caulk or sealant would be best for the area. Additionally, caulk and sealant may be sanded or unsanded. Sanded caulk adheres better to wet surfaces and large gaps than unsanded caulk, but unsanded caulk has a smoother appearance and texture that creates a cleaner finish than the sanded alternative. 

Types of Caulk and Sealant

Acrylic Latex Caulk

Hands of worker using a tube of caulk for repairing of molding door trim

photovs / Getty Images

The most commonly used type of caulk for general-purpose projects around the home is acrylic latex caulk because it's well suited for sealing joints and gaps in wood trim. It's recommended to use this product in dry areas of the home, instead of in high-moisture locations, like the kitchen or bathroom. After application, acrylic latex caulk can be painted, so the color of the caulk isn't as important.

Latex or Acrylic Caulk With Silicone

An acrylic latex caulk being applied to molding trim

photovs / Getty Images

Either latex or acrylic may be mixed with silicone to improve the moisture resistance and elasticity of the caulk. This mixed formula can be used in the bathroom, though it isn't as effective as pure silicone caulk. Instead, it's better for applications that only need moderate waterproofing, like a kitchen backsplash.

Silicone Caulk

Person using silicone caulk on a sink crack

The Spruce

Silicone caulk is the go-to option for sealing around plumbing fixtures, such as sinks, toilets, and faucets, and for any caulk joints on the tile in wet areas. This type of caulk is typically resistant to fading, discoloration, and mold, making it ideal for high-moisture and high-humidity areas of the home, like the kitchen or bathroom.


Silicon-based caulks don't clean up easily and prep is very important to ensure a clean finish. Solvents may be required for clean up.

Butyl Rubber Sealant

Person caulking gutters

kali9 / Getty Images

Effective for sealing metal and masonry joints outdoors, butyl rubber sealant has superior elasticity, allowing it to respond well on joints or seams that may move, shift, expand, or contract.

Refractory Sealant

Person using caulk to fill in bricks

MarieTDebs / Getty Images

This high-temperature sealant is made only for minor repairs, such as filling tiny gaps between bricks in a firebox. It is not a suitable as a masonry replacement or for any significant repairs.

Masonry Repair Sealant

Crack in cement repaired by caulk

Justin Smith / Getty Images

A flexible sealant used primarily for sealing cracks and expansion joints in the driveway, walkway, and other outdoor concrete surfaces. It can also be used to fill and repair cracks in masonry-stucco walls.


Caulking or sealing can typically be completed by an experienced DIY for about $0.05 to $0.20 per linear foot. If you choose to hire a professional for this job, then the cost increases significantly to about $1.25 to $4 per linear foot, with an average cost of about $50 to $70 per window. Consider your skills, time available, and project budget before deciding between hiring a pro or taking care of the work on your own.

How to Choose Caulk or Sealant

Consider the location, target surface, desired color, and finish. Stick to water-resistant products, like silicone caulk, for high-moisture areas, like the bathroom or kitchen. If you are working outdoors, a masonry repair sealant or butyl rubber sealant is likely the best option. For surface or objects that are prone to movement, shifting, expansion, and contraction, butyl rubber sealant, latex with silicone caulk, or acrylic with silicone caulk are top choices. Invest in acrylic latex caulk for general purpose sealing, and opt for refractory sealant to make minor, high-temperature repairs.

  • Is silicone or acrylic caulk better?

    Silicone is your go-to whenever you're sealing something water-related—bathrooms, kitchen fixtures, bathtubs, even fish tanks. Acrylic is a good general-purpose sealing substance, perfect for tiny gaps between baseboards and chair rails.

  • How do I know what kind of caulk to use?

    Many manufacturers make different product lines specifically for certain tasks. Consider where you will use the caulk and check the label to find the manufacturer's recommendations for use. Products with silicone work best in water-prone areas. Latex acrylic is suitable indoors for use with wood on drywall. Butyl rubber works well outside for handling roofing and gutters.

  • What caulk is good to use for the house exterior?

    Several types of caulks are used for sealing home exteriors like siding, gutters, roofing, and masonry. Silicone caulk or a silicone-latex hybrid is excellent for exterior windows, doors, trim, and siding. Butyl rubber is best for outdoor use such as around gutters. It's gooey and hard to apply, but it stands up to abuse from the pounding sun and icy or snow-filled days. Masonry repair caulk is primarily a urethane-based blend that fills cracks in masonry nicely.

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