How to Choose the Right Tape for Home Improvement Projects

Find the right type of tape for your next DIY project

Rolls of tape used for home improvement

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In This Article

Painters, HVAC specialists, electricians, and even plumbers use tape on a regular basis for a variety of tasks on the job site. DIYers use tape for various projects around home and there are also several types of tape that are used outside of any type of home improvement or repair, like Scotch tape or masking tape. Tape is such an incredibly versatile product, which is why most people have used some type of tape at some point in their lives.

However, if you don't choose the right type of tape for the project or task, then you can run into problems with durability and adhesion. Before deciding on tape, it's necessary to learn more about what situations each type of tape is designed to handle, like using masking tape for closing moving boxes or aluminum vent tape for sealing your ducts. Use this helpful guide to learn how to choose the right tape for your next job around the home or on the job site.

Tip

Some tapes have a stronger bond than others and can remove paint or varnish on finished surfaces, so choose the correct tape for your project.

Buying Considerations for Tape

Environment

A factor that is often overlooked is the environment in which the tape will be used. This includes the ambient temperature and humidity, as well as exposure to rain, wind, and UV radiation. Tape that is primarily used indoors, doesn't need to be able to hold up under long hours of intense sunlight, but if you need tape that can be used outdoors, look for products that are resistant to rain, UV radiation, and temperature fluctuations.

Some types of plumbing tape or sealing tape are made to be completely waterproof, though the drawback with the type of adhesive used to accomplish this level of resistance is that it cannot be easily removed without damaging the material. Even if you are just packing up boxes to move, it's a good idea to think about the potential temperatures the boxes will be exposed to during transit. A mid-winter move can present problems unless you use a cold-weather packing tape with specialized adhesive.

Material

With a wide variety of tape types and purposes, it shouldn't come as a surprise that not every type of tape works on every surface. You can find tape that works great on wood or metal, but using this tape on a different type of material can have mixed results. Check the recommended surface material before purchasing a product to ensure that the adhesive is intended to bond to the target material.

Similarly, some types of tape have thin, smooth layers of adhesive, made for sticking to equally flat and even surfaces. These tape products would have a hard time adhering to a rough surface. However, using a tape with much thicker adhesive can create a strong bond on a rough surface, though you may have difficulty removing it from a smooth surface without damaging the material.

Bonding

When it comes to bonding, tape can be split into two categories, including temporary and permanent bonding.

  • Temporary bonding tape is designed to adhere to a surface for a temporary period of time. Masking tape or packing tape are great examples that are used to temporarily close moving boxes for the duration of the move. Similarly, painter's tape is a temporary bonding tape that adheres to smooth surfaces for the purpose of protecting them from paint. After painting, the tape can be peeled off with little risk of damaging the surface material.
  • Permanent bonding tape, as the name suggests, isn't made to be removed. It's designed to stick to the surface of the material for years without peeling or breaking. Silicone plumber's tape literally fuses to itself, forming a waterproof bond that can be used to seal pinhole leaks or cracks in water pipes.

Types of Tape

Duct Tape

There are few people that don't at least know of duct tape and its many uses. It is a versatile product that began as a durable, cloth-backed tape intended to waterproof ammunition cases. It later developed in the more iconic silver-colored duct tape that was primarily used for sealing heating and air ducts. Duct tape can also be used on metal, tile, wood, glass, cement, brick, plastic, cardboard, and more for quick fixes and sturdy repairs. Just keep in mind that it typically leaves behind a sticky residue and may damage more fragile surfaces, like drywall.

Electrical Tape

Electrical tape isn't a versatile type of tape, like duct tape or masking tape. It has an elastic backing made to stretch and contract, in order to create a tight seal around electrical wires. This tape is primarily used by electricians and DIYers to label wires, insulate electrical connections, or secure wire connectors to prevent strain on the wired connections.

Painter's Tape

Commonly used by professional painters and avid DIYers, painter's tape is a temporary bonding tape that is designed to protect the surrounding surfaces, like trim or baseboards, while you paint. After painting, the tape can be peeled away without damaging the surface of the material.

Drywall Tape

When you hang sheets of drywall to finish an interior wall or ceiling, there are typically small gaps between the drywall that need to be filled for a smooth, uniform appearance. Drywall tape is intended to keep the drywall compound secured while it dries, though there are some drywall tape products that can also be used in place of joint compound.

Packing Tape

Use packing tape to keep your boxes and belongings secure during a move or when you put items into storage. The tape typically has a strong adhesive intended to keep cardboard boxes closed while in transit, though you can also find packing tape with specialized adhesive intended for cold weather. If your move is taking place in the winter or you are putting boxes into a storage facility that isn't insulated or heated, then cold weather packing tape is an excellent option.

Masking Tape

Masking tape is actually a type of packing tape, though it is specially designed for easy application and removal. This type of tape is commonly used around the home for a variety of jobs, like hanging decorations, sealing moving boxes, or even as a substitute for painter's tape. Just keep in mind that masking tape doesn't peel away as easily as painter's tape.

Plumber's Tape

Plumbers traditionally use two types of tape that can both be referred to as plumber's tape. The first is known as pipe tape. It doesn't have an adhesive, but it designed with a high level of elasticity to tightly grip pipe threads and help create a watertight seal between two joints. The other type of plumber's tape is called self-fusing silicone tape. This tape is a permanent bonding tape that is intended for emergency pipeline repairs and even leaks that are underwater. Wrap the tape tightly around a leak and it will fuse to itself, creating a watertight seal.

Transparent Tape

Commonly referred to by the popular brand name Scotch tape, transparent tape is used for a range of applications around the home, though it is most often associated with wrapping gifts. The tape has a transparent backing, allowing decorative wrapping to show through clearly. It also has an adhesive that, while not being the strongest on this list, it is strong enough that it could damage paint or drywall when you try to remove it. So it's best to sticking with masking tape or painter's tape if you want to temporarily stick something to the wall.

Aluminum Vent Tape

While duct tape has been adapted for use in a wide variety of situations, aluminum vent tape is a specialized product for use in HVAC applications. It is a heat- and flame-resistant type of tape that creates strong waterproof, and airtight seals, making it ideal for patching or sealing gaps in the ductwork.

Cost

Tape is one product that isn't likely to break your budget, regardless of the type you need for your project. On average, you can expect to pay between $1 to $20 per roll. Basic tape types like masking tape or Scotch tape occupy the lower end of the price range, while specialized tape, like aluminum vent tape or waterproof sealing tape, tend to cost more.

Just keep in mind that you may not be able to complete the job with just one roll of tape. For instance, if you are painting several rooms, you may need more than one roll of painter's tape to protect the baseboards and trim. Similarly, if you are moving, then it's likely that you will need more than one roll of masking tape to secure your boxes.

How to Choose Tape

With so many different types of tape to choose from, it can be difficult to decide on the right type of tape for the job. To ensure that you select the best tape, it's necessary to consider the bonding type, purpose, material, and any environmental factors, like temperature, UV exposure, or waterproofing.

Will the tape be used indoors or outdoors?

If you are applying the tape to an indoor surface, then you don't typically need to worry about the adhesive being resistant to water, temperature fluctuations, or UV radiation because it is sheltered from these factors by the home. Exterior tape needs to be able to hold up in rainy or sunny weather without peeling or tearing.

Does the tape need to bond temporarily or permanently?

In most cases, tape is designed for easy application and removal, allowing the user to pull packing tape off of moving boxes or remove painter's tape from the walls without damaging the surface of the material. However, if you want to seal a gap in the siding of the home or fix a leak in your boat, it's important to use permanent bonding tape if you want the repair to be permanent.

What is the tape being used for?

There are many varied types of tape to choose from depending on the project, so it's necessary to consider what you will be using the tape to accomplish before purchasing a roll of tape for the job. For instance, while aluminum vent tape and duct tape are great for HVAC work, they aren't suited for repairing plumbing leaks or taping electrical wires.

FAQ
  • How do you remove tape from a wall without peeling the paint?

    The best way to avoid damaging the wall is to be selective about the type of tape you use. Opt for a tape that is designed for temporary adhesion, but if you end up using a tape that sticks too firmly to the wall, try using a blow dryer to heat the adhesive. This should weaken the grip, allowing you to peel off the take without damaging the wall.

  • Is green painter's tape better than blue painter's tape?

    Green painter's tape is more durable and better able to adhere to various surfaces. However, blue painter's is less likely to leave behind sticky adhesive or damage the surface when the tape is removed. So, whether green or blue painter's tape is best, depends on the circumstances of the job. Some jobs require more adhesive strength due to the nature of the material, while other surfaces can be more vulnerable to the adhesive.

  • Why isn't my packing tape sticking?

    There are several reasons why your tape may not stick. The surface is dirty or too uneven for proper adhesion, the temperature is too cold for the adhesive, or the box is improperly filled. A box that is too full will have flaps pushing up on the packing tape, while a box that isn't full enough will allow the flaps to drop down into the box, peeling away from the tape.