A caulking gun is one of the handiest tools in your arsenal
Anyone can learn how to use a caulk gun to waterproof and seal corners, gaps, and edges around their home. However, it’s easy to make beginner’s mistakes. The best way to apply caulk is with a caulk gun and your finger. Follow the steps below to seal like the pros.
Difficulty: Easy (1/5)
Caulking is a very simple DIY home improvement task that anyone at any experience level can take on. However, it may require some practice to learn how to apply caulk evenly without making a mess.
Total Project Time: 30 minutes
It takes approximately 30 minutes to complete basic caulking jobs (bathtubs, windows, etc). Total project time will increase depending on the size and difficulty of the project.
A tube of caulk is very affordable at $3 per tube, though the price can increase depending on type, color, and brand. The total project cost increases if you need to purchase a caulking gun. Manual options cost anywhere between $15 and $50 while powered guns run between $50 and $250.
Utility knife or scraping tool
Empty spray bottle
How To Use a Caulk Gun
Follow the five simple steps below to learn how to seal any corner in your home.
1. Old Caulk Removal to Prep the Area
Caulk will stick to any surface as long as there’s no dust, grime, grease, or old caulk.
Start by removing existing caulk with a utility knife or other scraper tool of your choice. Then, wipe the area clean with a fresh cloth and rubbing alcohol. Let the alcohol dry completely before applying caulk.
2. Cut and Puncture the Nozzle
Now it’s time to prep the caulk tube.
Cut the nozzle—Use scissors to cut off the caulk tube nozzle tip at a 45-degree angle. This will help the nozzle glide across corners for a smooth and even application.
Keep in mind that cutting closer to the nozzle tip makes a smaller hole for caulking areas such as sink and countertop edges. Cutting further down from the tip creates a larger hole for bigger jobs including windows and doors.
Create a hole—You’ll need to puncture the seal inside the nozzle to get the caulk out of the tube. Most caulk guns have a long pointed metal needle attached to the side for this purpose. You can also use a clean nail or metal hanger.
3. Secure the Caulk Tube in the Gun
To load the caulk gun, release the plunger mechanism in the back of the gun and pull it out. This will create space inside the gun for the caulk tube. Place the tube in the gun base end first with the nozzle pointed outwards.
Rotate the back of the gun until you begin to feel resistance as you turn. Test the trigger by squeezing it a few times until the caulk starts to slowly creep out of the nozzle.
4. Apply the Caulk
To apply the caulk, gently pull the trigger and apply steady pressure to lay a bead of caulk along the entire length of the corner or surface you’re sealing.
Be careful to not apply too much caulk. Too much will cause the caulk to get messy and attach to surrounding areas. On the other hand, not enough caulk will create gaps and won’t effectively seal the area.
5. Smooth Out and Clean the Caulk
Clean up and smooth out the caulk by applying moderate pressure with your index finger and running it along the caulked edge or corner. You can also use a damp towel instead of your finger for this step.
Pro tip: Spray rubbing alcohol around the entire area first so the caulk doesn’t stick to any other surfaces during this step.
Common Uses for Caulk
The most common uses for caulk at home include:
Around windows and doors to prevent drafts
Around tubs and showers to prevent water damage
Around outdoor outlets for waterproofing
Around drywall studs for extra security
Caulking can be intimidating for first-time DIYers. Here are a few quick answers to the most common caulking questions.
Are there different types of caulk? Which is the best for my project?
Yes, there are many types of caulk sealants used for different purposes. The most common include:
Acrylic latex caulk—A multi-use caulk that’s easy to apply
Hybrid caulk—A multi-use silicone and polyurethane mix more durable than acrylic latex
Polyurethane caulk—A heavy-duty caulk for big jobs and outdoor use
Solvent-based caulk—Another heavy-duty caulk often used for roofing
Are there different types of caulking guns?
Yes, there are two main types of caulking guns—manual and powered. Manual caulk guns require you to squeeze the trigger to release the adhesive, while powered caulk guns do the work for you.
I applied too much caulk. What should I do?
You may be able to smooth out excess caulk with your finger or a damp paper towel. Extreme instances may require you to wipe up all the caulk entirely and start over. Fresh silicone caulk should come clean easily with just a paper towel. For acrylic caulk, a damp sponge will work best.
What’s the difference between caulk and grout?
Caulk and grout are two different materials with different purposes. Caulk is used to seal corners, cracks, and edges, while grout is used to fill the gaps between tiles. While the consistency is somewhat similar, caulk and grout can’t be used interchangeably.
Does caulk come in different colors?
Yes, caulk does come in different colors. The most common colors include clear, white, off-white, and gray.