How to Select Your Caulking

From on February 05, 2008 in General Remodel

Sealing the leaks around your home is one of the most cost effective ways to improve energy efficiency. Quite often, the magic ingredient for this fix is caulking. Caulking works well around windows, door frames, vents, pipes, and ceiling fixtures, where air infiltration is known to happen. Once you’ve detected the air leaks that could be responsible for one-third to one-half of your fuel bill, it is time to select a caulking type. The U.S. Department of Energy summarizes the common caulking compounds, categorizing them by type, recommended use, price, cleanup, and shrinkage. Here’s a summary of products suitable for residential purposes:

Silicone caulking. This flexible compound results in little to no shrinkage and has excellent adhesion. It is recommended for sealing the joints between bathroom or kitchen fixtures and tile. It can be cleaned immediately with a dry cloth and with spirits or naphtha after more prolonged periods. Costs for silicone caulking are high, as are the costs for water-based foam sealant.

Water based foam sealant. This product is recommended over silicone for smaller cracks and for windows and door frames in new construction. Water based foam sealant also offers excellent adhesion and no shrinkage. It requires exposure to air to dry, and will not produce greenhouse gases. Cleanup is simple, requiring nothing more than water.

Butyl rubber. This caulking type is a bit more affordable than silicone or water based foam, though prices are moderate to high. It is recommended for sealing dissimilar materials, such as glass, metal, plastic, wood, and concrete. Butyl rubber can be used around windows, flashing, and loose shingles. Adhesion is good, and shrinkage can be expected at 5 to 30 percent. Butyl rubber does not adhere well to painted surfaces.

Polyurethane, expandable spray foam. This product is recommended over water based foam for larger cracks both indoors and outdoors. Price is comparable to that of butyl rubber. Shrinkage is not a problem; in fact, polyurethane expandable spray foam quickly expands to fill large, irregular gaps. Adhesion is good to excellent.

Oil or resin-based. For exterior seams or material joints, oil or resin based caulking is recommended. This product can be expected to shrink by 10 to 20 percent. Adhesion is good, and it is also the most affordably priced caulking type on this list.

Latex. For your bath and kitchen sealing, latex is the recommended sealant, along with silicone. It is effective for the joints around the tub and shower, as well as for repairing cracks in plaster, tiles, glass, and those left by nails. This product can be easily cleaned by water and is also easy to use. It can cost less than silicone, adheres to surfaces well, and can be expected to shrink 5 to 10 percent. Prices for latex fall in the midrange.

Installing new windows or insulation? For optimal energy efficiency, contact a pre-screened window or HVAC installer through CalFinder. Our free service will supply you with several quotes to help you find the contractor who suits your budget and expectations.