By now, most people know you should do a caulk walk around the house every fall. Make sure that old caulk has not failed. Put in new caulk where necessary.
When I learned that Bob Carey, the president of Infrared Services of Michigan, (810) 329-9033,
, thinks that caulking is so critical that he tries to do much of the caulking for his Draft Stop Energy & Comfort Services Division himself, I decided that he would be the perfect person to give us a tutorial.
Here's what he had to say: "Caulking isn't hard, but you really have to pay attention and be meticulous. If you or your contractor does it right, you will seal out drafts and save a lot of money. Do a sloppy job and you've made a mess."
Recaulking your home's exterior
Materials needed: Sashco Sealants Big Stretch, (800) 289-7290, or other super-expandable caulk; acetone or another strong solvent cleaner such as Orange-Sol Contractors' Solvent (800) 877-7771; old piece of cardboard to practice
Tools needed: Knife; 100 percent cotton rag; caulk gun (Carey recommends you go out and buy a Dripless ERGO Tech ETS 2000. It is made from a plastic composite that is 40 percent lighter and has a rotating barrel.)
1. Don't just walk around the house -- check meticulously.
2. Look for small signs that could lead to large failure and water penetration.
3. Choose caulk. For exteriors, Carey prefers an extremely flexible caulk such as Sashco Big Stretch that can stretch 500 percent. For indoor use he would choose a high-quality acrylic.
Cut tube to proper angle. For outside use on windows, Carey likes a 45-degree angle.
4. You probably haven't caulked in years, so a little practice is called for. Bend cardboard practice sheet so that it has a realistic angle and practice caulking. Make the caulk line thin and smooth. Put enough down to have a good bond, but make the caulk bead thin enough to look neat. The best caulk job is almost invisible.
5. Strip off all old, dried caulk and clean the sill and window edge carefully. Carey likes to use acetone or some other super solvent because it cuts through grease and grime and evaporates, leaving the surfaces dry.
6. Caulking is an art to which you have to give 100-percent attention or you will do a bad job. If the dog is barking or the kids are bugging you, stop. When you're caulking always look where you are going, never where you've been. Focus your eyes immediately in front of the tube tip.
7. Clean tip constantly. The smallest amount of excess caulk or debris can ruin the job.
8. If you get distracted for a minute you may create a caulk overflow problem. Do not try to fix it -- you will just make it look worse. If you are a perfectionist, go back the following week when the caulk has dried and trim off the excess with a razor blade.
9. Work meticulously. Just because the last guy left a gap does not mean you need to.
10. Good job. Go to the next window.