Caulking originates from the days of wooden ships. Each seam between the wood planks of a boat’s hull had to be caulked to make the vessel watertight. Dry wood shrinks and wet wood swells making it hard to keep the seam leak free. Materials were developed that would keep the water out even when the wood moved by shrinking and swelling.
The seams in the construction joints of many homes work the same way. Modern building materials don’t shrink and swell as much as the planking of wooden boats, but they do shrink and swell with temperature changes.
For general outdoor and indoor use, I recommend polyurethane caulking. It is available in, easy to use, caulking gun tubes. It lasts the longest before it needs to be re-done. Buy a couple of tubes in any color you want as long as it is white. White works with most jobs.
If you are like me, you need a good rag or several paper towels handy while you work with this stuff. I always expect to spend a day or two digging the caulking out from under my fingernails. You can cheat and wear a pair of gloves that you plan on throwing away when the job is done. This stuff doesn’t harden but it sticks real good.
The traditional way of applying it is to squeeze a small bead of it along the crack that you are sealing. Then smooth it out, at the same time you are pushing it into the crack, by running a finger or rounded tool along it.
A bare finger, wet with water, makes a smooth looking job. But, you need to have some band-aids ready for splinters or cuts to your finger. A Popsicle stick is a safer tool to use. That way you have to take a break every so often to cool off with another Popsicle.
If you put too much caulk on to begin with it can get messy. Go slow a little at a time for a neater job.
Polyurethane caulk works like a combination of long lasting glue and stretchy rubber to flex with the material that it is sealing. Do not use it where you might want to remove it next season.
If you need to seal a door or window for the winter and unseal it in the spring, use Seal ‘N’ Peel caulking. It only comes in one color and that is clear. You can paint it if you need to. When it is time to take it off just pry it up with a screwdriver until you can grab hold of it and pull it off. Any of it that doesn’t peel off will rub off with very little effort.
DO NOT seal a door or window closed that you might need for an emergency escape route.
Seal 'N' Peel is great for a temporary sealing job. I have used it as a temporary adhesive too. (It is not recommended as such but it has worked OK for me.)
Hardly anyone uses Rope Caulking any more
Rope caulking is a throwback to the wood boat caulking technology. Modern rope caulking is the least messy to use and I like it for that reason.
Think of it as a skinny rope made of a rubbery material that you can push into a gap around a window. You can easily shove rope caulking into place, by hand, with a screwdriver.
Leave an end of the caulking sticking out so you can pull it out in the spring so you can open the window again. It can be used as both a temporary and a long-term caulking.
Thicker rope caulking is used to fill really big cracks before you seal over it with polyurethane caulking.
I suggest that you try rope caulking. It really does a neat job leaving no mess or sticky fingers to clean up.
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