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How to Use a Caulk Gun?

A caulk gun, also known as a caulking gun, is used for sealing joints or gaps between surfaces. These can include the spaces between a window frame and a jamb, a bathtub and wall, and gutter joints.

While it is possible to apply caulk without a caulking gun, this is not recommended as it is more fiddly and you will not get as neat a finish. Caulk guns can be purchased at most DIY and hardware stores.

How to Use a Caulk Gun

Choosing Your Caulk

Caulk comes in many different varieties made from different ingredients, which can be confusing when it comes to buying one. The type of caulk you should get depends on the type of material you want to seal with it.

Popular key ingredients include silicone, latex, rubber, and polyurethane.

  • All-purpose caulk is best if you have a range of caulking jobs that need doing around the house and garden, because it works on basically any domestic material. This caulk has an acrylic latex composition and is relatively cheap to buy.
  • Caulk with added silicone is more durable and water-resistant than standard latex caulk, so can be used on exposed areas. Choose pure silicone for areas that come into contact with a lot of liquid – so plumbing fixtures and bathroom tiles. This also protects against mildew and can function as an adhesive for components that are awkward to glue.
  • Butyl rubber caulk is primarily used for stone and metal work, as well as other outdoor applications. It is very sticky and could make a lot of mess if used inside, as it is designed for larger joints that require a strong seal. 
  • Masonry repair caulk is great for sealing concrete surfaces such as driveway cracks. Masonry caulks are made from polyurethane or a similar urethane, and some also contain sand to imitate the stony texture.
  • Refractory caulk repairs brick and stone surfaces such as chimneys and fireplaces (for this reason, some people call it fireplace caulk. It is ideal for small cracks but not serious repairs, for which masonry caulk should be used.

Choosing Your Caulk Gun

Although it seems like a fairly straightforward contraption, you can also get different types of caulk that are designed for specific purposes. They range from basic caulk guns to specialized guns with more advanced features.

Choosing the correct caulk gun to meet your requirements is just as important as having the right caulk, so think about your options carefully.

If you have a range of tasks that need doing over a long period, or just need a general gun for anything that might come up, you should be considering a caulk gun with additional functions.

These may help you save time in the future, and examples include a puncture tool to break the caulk tube seal or unclog the spout, and a rotating shaft so you can easily use the caulk gun from multiple angles. 

If you only need a caulk gun for a one-off job that is likely to create a lot of mess, a basic model may suffice.

However, cheaper caulk guns are equipped with less power, which could be an issue if you require a higher thrust ratio – usually for more viscous formulas such as silicone-based and urethane caulks.

Setting Up Your Caulk Gun

There are two separate parts that make up your caulk gun: the tube containing the caulk and the frame that the tube slots into. You will also need a putty knife, rubbing alcohol, disinfectant and a bucket of hot water.

  • Before inserting the caulk tube into the caulk gun frame, remove the tip of the nozzle. Depending on the model, your gun may have a tip cutter to help with this step.
  •  Press the trigger on the back of the frame to release the steel rod that runs down the length of it.
  • Pull the rod back as far as it will go and keep it steady.
  • Load the caulk into the barrel from the back end first so that the nozzle is facing away from you.
  • When you are sure it is firmly in the frame, push the metal rod so that it pierces the caulk tube and hooks it in place. 
  • Adjust the size of the opening with scissors, according to the thickness of caulk you require – cutting closer to the tube will expel a thicker caulk stream.  Make sure you cut it at a 45 degree angle, as this is the angle you should apply the caulk at for best results.

Once you’ve placed the tube into your caulk gun, you should prepare your surfaces before applying the caulk. This involves removing any old caulk that might be on them using a putty knife.

Then, clean the area with hot water, disinfectant and rubbing alcohol, and dry so it is ready to work on.

Applying The Caulk

  • Squeeze the trigger several times to load the tip with caulk, then squeeze again to produce a steady stream of caulk. 
  • Holding the caulk gun about ½ an inch away from the surface you want to seal, move it evenly in one direction. Keep one hand near the nozzle to guide it, while the other remains on the trigger.
  • When the trigger has been pressed all the way down, let it return to its original position before depressing again.
  • Continue until you have filled the crack – if you missed any parts on the first try, go back and fill these in now. To stop the flow of the caulk once you have finished, simply take pressure off the trigger.
  • Smooth the caulk out using a knife or other flat implement, to achieve a neat finish. You may need to heat this first if the caulk has already started to harden. Alternatively, take a cloth or rag and rub it over the caulk to even it. We don’t recommend using your finger, as this can transfer contaminants to your newly-applied caulk and damage it.
  • To get the caulk tube back out of the caulk gun when it is empty, pull the metal rod all the way out again. Sometimes the tube may be stuck in the gun, so you should gently push it downwards to loosen it.

Conclusion

Using a caulk gun is mostly straightforward once you have gotten the hang of it, and you can seal up a whole range of cracks or gaps with ease. Choosing the best type of caulk gun and caulk for your needs is very important, as otherwise it can get messy and won’t be as effective as you were hoping.

Make sure you have all the necessary tools to hand and read the instructions provided with your particular caulk gun before you start. As long as you use it properly and carefully, your caulk gun will prove to be an invaluable addition to your toolkit for years to come.

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About Lisa Bohrer

Lisa is a native Texan who says she wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, animal lover, fisherwoman, gardener, and college student. Lisa is a sophomore at Liberty University where she is taking classes to earn her Associates Degree in Creative Writing. She and her husband of 35 years fill their days with life on the farm raising goats and chickens, and then most evenings she can be found at the computer writing, or researching a topic that has piqued her interest.

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