Water intrusion is a leading cause of damage in homes. An easy way to prevent this is to take some time a few times a year to inspect your caulk. While caulk can last for a long time when properly selected and applied, it does eventually breakdown. For example, while the caulk you should use in your shower is permanently waterproof, it may not standup to harsh cleansers and frequent scrubbing. Therefore, periodic inspections of the caulked areas of your home is critical to the maintenance of your home.
You should be looking to see if your caulk is cracking or if there are holes or pieces missing. If so, water is getting into your walls; the bigger the hole, the more water that infiltrates. The best way to prevent this is to take notice of the condition of the caulked areas in your home and to be sure you are using the right kind of caulk for the right situation.
First let’s start with what caulk is. Caulk is a flexible material used to seal gaps and cracks. The most common types of caulk are acrylic and silicone. There are other variants such as blended caulk, kitchen and bath caulk, butyl rubber caulk, and asphalt caulk.
Below are brief explanations of the different types of caulk:
Silicone caulk is the most common caulk. Silicone’s greatest attributes are that it does not degrade and it is very elastic. The elasticity of silicone allows it to contract and expand as the weather changes. Silicone is also waterproof. It costs $5- $8 per tube. For bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas exposed to moisture it is the best choice. Its biggest downfall is that you can’t paint it.
Acrylic caulk is for jobs that need to be painted and won’t be exposed to water or outdoor elements for a significant length of time. This type of caulk is ideal for interior molding and baseboards; when you will be painting the surfaces and possibly the caulk itself. This caulk is usually costs less and is easier to apply. It is more prone to cracking and not waterproof.
Blended caulk is a silicone based caulk that is paintable like an acrylic. Some projects require a caulk that is waterproof and paintable. If the area will be exposed to water or the outdoor elements, a permanently waterproof and shrink-/crack-proof caulk is needed. If the caulk is not permanently waterproof and shrink-/crack-proof, the area could be left vulnerable to water damage, mold growth, and air leakage. If the caulk needs to match the exact color of the adjacent surface, it also needs to be paint-able.
Kitchen and bath caulk is permanently waterproof and will not shrink, crack, or deteriorate over time. Moisture and repeated water exposure can take a toll on sinks, tubs, and showers. Kitchen caulk is impervious to water, meaning water can’t get through it and will never break it down. When caulk doesn’t perform in this way, the moisture from water and humidity can attack it and break it down. And, when an area repeatedly changes from wet to dry, water-based caulk, like acrylic, can degrade more rapidly. Its cracking may accelerate and its ability to adhere to a surface can lessen. When caulk dries out, shrinks, or cracks, gaps may form, which can lead to water damage and mold growth.
Butyl rubber sealant is a high quality sealant that is ideal for outdoor jobs requiring a durable, watertight seal. Butyl rubber sealant is designed specifically for use on metal buildings, windows, doors and aluminum gutters. It remains permanently flexible and is suitable for below-grade applications.
Asphalt Caulk is perfect for playgrounds, driveways, pavement, and parking lots. It provides a durable, elastic seal with excellent adhesion. Repairs are ready for traffic in about 24 hours.
Backer Rod is a non-absorbent, closed-cell polyethylene pre-caulking material (aka foam insert). This is used before caulking to fill gaps and openings larger than 1/2″ x 1/2″. Backer rods prevent 3-point bonding, which can ruin the caulk seal when expansion and contraction occurs in the seams.
Now that you know entirely too much about the types of caulk, you can use this knowledge to pick the right caulk for the right project.
Next blog we’ll talk about applying caulk. If you need to have something in your home caulked, but don’t have the time, give us a call!