What is caulking used for? It's a bit like magic, that you apply to your home to prevent costly home repairs. If water gets into your home’s infrastructure (roof, walls or floors), it can cause wood rot which is costly and time consuming to repair. The damp environment also encourages mold and mildew, which may cause other health issues (learn how caulk can help prevent mold). So this article will review where to caulk around your home.
Caulking will also save you money by reducing the loss of conditioned (heated or cooled) air. By sealing the small gaps around your house it stops unwanted air flow between the inside and outside (learn how to Save Energy Costs on Heating and Cooling).
Our houses are like puzzles, made up of hundreds of different building materials and there are gaps, mostly minor, where different materials meet. Caulking is the magic material that makes these gaps disappear. For example, in your basic room, there are narrow spaces between the trim and drywall. These gaps are filled with caulking!
Where to Caulk Around Your Home's Exterior
Caulking creates a tight barrier to stop rain and snow from seeping into gaps and joints, causing wood rot and blistered paint. Caulk is also used to reduce drafts, keeping the temperature where you want it, not where Mother Nature does.
Common areas that need exterior caulking:
- Where window and door frames meet wood siding on an exterior wall. These frames are made from vertical and horizontal pieces, that many need caulking where they meet.
- Where wood siding forms corner joints or meets corner trim, caulking can fill any gaps. But don't caulk vinyl siding to the channel on vinyl trim pieces. Like wood, vinyl moves slightly with changes in temperature.
- Where different types of building materials meet, such as wood siding against brick.
- Openings, gaps and cracks in siding, stucco, masonry or your foundation (for larger gaps, use an expanding foam sealant such as those made by Great Stuff and 3M) should be caulked. Don't forget about the openings where vent ducts, air conditioners, plumbing or wiring come through the building.
- On the roof, look at gutter corners, seams, downspouts and end caps. Openings through or against the roof for chimneys, vents or skylights should also be caulked.
- Don't caulk the undersides of window trim, door trim, or siding such as clapboards. If there is moisture trapped in the structure this gives it a way out.
Where to Caulk Indoors – Kitchens, Baths & Laundry Area
The kitchen, bath and laundry rooms are prime places for water damage inside your home. Caulk helps to prevent water damage if the caulk is maintained. Over the years it can be damaged, dry out or crack, so you have to check periodically to see when it should be replaced. In order for caulking to work correctly, it needs to adhere continuously.
Caulk in these common wet areas:
- Where the backsplash meets the counter and wall.
- Caulk around the sink, where it meets the counter top.
- Where the tub or shower meets the surround, the wall and the floor. If the surround is more than one piece, the corners may also need to be caulked.
- Holes where the plumbing comes through the wall or floor. They will often be covered by decorative plates, so check to make sure they were caulked.
- Some people like to caulk around the bottom of toilets, but if the toilet seal fails, this will trap the water under the toilet and cause the floor to rot.
Finishing Your Home’s Interior Nooks & Crannies
Should you caulk other areas of your home? Absolutely! In addition to sealing out drafts, caulk is used to make a seamless transition between two intersections and make the room look finished. Paint may be able to fill in gaps smaller then 1/16 of an inch, but anything else needs to be caulked.
Caulking for a finished look:
- Where trim such as crown molding, chair rails and baseboards meet walls, floors and ceilings. This includes door and window casing that lie flat against the wall.
- Where two pieces of molding come together in a long wall and at the corners.
- In older homes you may need to caulk where the wall and ceiling meet.
- Don't caulk around panels in woodwork, such as a raised panel doors or wainscoting. Since wood expands and contracts with the seasons, these panels are designed to move freely in their frames. That's because today's caulks are stronger and can cause the wood to split before they break their bond.
Where Else To Caulk in Your House?
Caulking is something homeowners can do with a little practice. We get lots of questions and wrote these articles to help you tackle this task with confidence.
- To figure out which caulk to use, read Caulking – How Many Types are There.
- How to buy the right caulk, read Caulking Basics: How to Pick the Right Caulk.
- Tips for homeowners who want to learn to caulk, Learning How to Caulk.
- For more on home maintenance, read … this article.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge. We have dealt with a few jobs where things were improperly caulked and it resulted in water seeping in between surfaces.
The seal is gone from my front door and I live in an apartment building. What do I use ? Is caulking something I can do ? Please help. Thank you in advance.
Jeane, Is the seal made from rubber? I don’t think your problem is caulking. I’m guessing you need to replace the weatherstripping around the door frame that seals the gap between the frame & door, when the door is closed. Here’s an article that reviews the different types of weatherstripping, How to Buy Weatherstripping.
All good advice except for one thing — the idea that it’s okay not to caulk around a toilet because the water from a leaky wax ring can’t escape. That’s incredibly counter-intuitive. If a wax ring is leaking, the water is going to saturate the subfloor anyway, and you may not find out until the toilet starts to wobble on its base. Water may or may not ever become apparent on the floor around the toilet if the ring leaks. You simply can’t play those odds. The bathroom is a “wet” room, and the odds are much greater that water seeping downward between the toilet and the floor will damage the subfloor long before a wax seal will leak. Never attempt to cover faulty toilet installation by not caulking around the commode. Believe me — that’s not the road you want to go down.
The rest of the piece is spot-on!
Glenda, Thanks for your feedback. I did some more research & confirm your point that leaks inside the toilet will go down versus out the sides to the floor. I also found 2 reasons for caulking around the toilet base although I’m not sure I agree with the 2nd one.
Again, thanks for your feedback & a dialog that helps everyone.
Can you caulk the inside seams of a cabinet in the kitchen or bathroom?
Jean, You can caulk the seams but I’m not sure why you’d want to do this. Caulking is meant to stop water infiltration but you shouldn’t have any water in your cabinets?