Unless you’re a handyman who uses caulk every week for different home repair projects, you probably don’t realize that picking caulk is a lot like picking a new sofa. There are an endless number of choices, and figuring out which of the many types of caulk to use can be challenging.
With caulk, you might not realize you used the wrong product until you have to replace it again. A friend has been asking me to write this article for years as she’s tired of removing the old caulk from her bathtub, applying new caulking and a year later, she’s got black mold again. Because there are so many different kinds of caulk on the market, the decision can be a difficult one. We'll focus on the two most common types of caulking used by homeowners, latex and silicone.
Different Types of Caulk: Latex
Latex caulks are gaining popularity for durability, last up to 20 years, and they're paintable making them perfect for indoor use. Latex caulk doesn’t stand up to temperature changes well, so check the label before you use it outdoors if you live in a cold or very hot climate. Using the wrong type of caulk often means you have to redo your caulking.
Like latex caulks, acrylic caulks are easy to work with because they can be painted and cleaned up with water. That makes them good for touch-ups and filling small gaps. Elastomeric caulk, a generic term for high-performance acrylic caulk, is designed for greater elasticity and is quickly becoming a favorite in a market that values ease and speed.
Siliconized Acrylic or Latex
Siliconized caulk is acrylic or latex based, with silicone added for increased durability. It can be used both indoors and out for wood siding, cracks in brick and stone, and for weatherproofing windows and doors. Some types of siliconized caulk can be painted to match your colors.
Specialty Caulking for Kitchens and Bathrooms
These caulks are designed for use in areas with high moisture. They can stand up to mold and mildew growth and are excellent for use in and around sinks, bathtubs, shower stalls, toilets and tile. Most are paintable, and if you're looking to caulk around tile, you can find colors to match your grout.
Different Types of Caulk: Silicone
Where latex caulks can be cleaned up with water, silicone caulking (or 100 percent silicone sealant) needs to be cleaned up using a solvent which can be messy.
Silicone caulk is what people tend to be most familiar with. It is usually clear and has a rubbery, flexible texture when dry. It is especially useful on non-porous surfaces like glazed tile, glass, metal and plastic. Because it stays flexible after it dries, silicone caulk rarely loses it's seal or cracks as a result of extreme temperatures or rapid temperature changes.
However, silicone has poor tear and abrasion resistance, and is not a good choice in high-traffic areas. It is very challenging to apply and has quite an offensive odor. Silicone cannot be painted in it's pure form.
Other Types of Caulk
As a homeowner, having a tube or two of latex or silicone based caulks in your tool kit will allow you to tackle 90% of home repairs. However, there are other types of caulk — polyurethane, butyl rubber, asphalt and more, that many homeowners find daunting. These tend to be more specialized caulks used by professionals or seasoned do-it-yourselfers. There is a great article by Fine Woodworking, Making Sense of Caulks & Sealants which goes into more details.
Have more caulking questions? Ask us!
To find out more about caulking around your home, check our other articles in the series:
- Getting started with caulk, read Caulking Basics: How to Pick the Right Caulk.
- Buying caulk, Caulking: How Many Types are There? … this article.
- For tips on how to caulk, read Learning How to Caulk.
- For more on home maintenance, read Where & Why to Caulk Around Your Home.