How To Caulk And Make It Pretty

How to caulk a painted project and make it pretty...it doesn't have to be hard or messy
Have you ever tried to caulk a painted project and ended up with a mess on your fingers and everywhere else?  Me too.  For years I would work at it and always end up with an ugly caulk strip and caulk all over me, my clothes and my work area.

One day I was happily painting alongside some other contractors.  One of them was caulking the cracks between seams on the walls and suddenly he swiped that caulk with a wet rag.  That seam was beautiful!  I asked him about it and he said that was the best way to get a smooth pretty caulk seam and eliminate the extra caulk.  I said, "That information could have saved me years of frustration."

He shared a couple of tips.  This method only works on caulk that is water cleanup type.  First you lay a bead of caulk down then you use a wet rag to swipe it and smooth it out and even push into little spots with the caulk that ends up on your rag.  From time to time it is good to rinse out your rag as you work.

If this is your first time to try to caulk anything then you will need to know a few things:

  1.   Using a caulk gun is by far the easiest way to do any large amount of caulking.  Those squeeze tubes will wear you out and make your hands sore after a bit.  Spend the little bit extra and get a caulk gun.  They are not expensive.  Then you will buy the tubes that look a bit like a bullet.  
  2. Install the tube of caulk into the caulk gun.
  3. Cut the tip of the tube about 1/4 inch from the tip.  You can use scissors, a utility knife or a regular knife for this.
  4. Use a long nail or a piece of wire to poke down the end of the tube and break the membrane that holds the caulk into the cardboard part of the tube. (save that nail or wire for the next time!)
  5. Squeeze the trigger and caulk will come out.  It will keep coming out until you push the little silver metal lever piece on the back of the caulk gun (just past the area of the back of the tube.)  Practice a bit so you get the hang of how fast it will come out and stop.
  6. Lay a bead of caulk on the seam you want to seal.  Don't caulk slow, go at a quick pace because this will keep you from laying too much and keep it smoother as you go.  Keep the tip at the seam you are caulking.
  7. Have a wet rag on hand to swipe the bead against the crack or seam and make it smooth and pretty.  You don't want to end up with a long raised amount of caulk.  The best job is when it blends down in and smooths and seals the crack.
  8. There will be extra caulk on your rag.  This is normal (and better than on your finger).  Use it to start sealing your next part.  Don't let it go to waste.  
  9. Rinse your rag out from time to time as you proceed on the job.
  10. When you run out of caulk in the tube you will need to push that silver metal piece and then pull that piece of metal rod (the one that is bent at a 90 degree angle at the end) out of the tube.  This will allow you to pull that tube out of the gun and reload a fresh one. (remember to cut the tip)
  11. If you have to stop the job before it is finished you can keep the caulk fresh by putting a screw that fits the tip of the tube tight into the tip.  Just screw it in with a screwdriver.  You can further protect it from drying out by wrapping the tube in a plastic grocery bag and twisting it closed. (sometimes I just do this if I will be back the next day and skip the screw.)  It will be ready to go for you when you come back to work with it.  You can store caulk like this for quite a long time with the screw and sack method.
  12. One more tip...be sure to buy caulk that is close to  your final color for your project and be sure it is paintable as well as water cleanup.

Give these tips a try next time.  You will be amazed how much prettier it turns out.  Now you can have a beautiful contractor like finish too when you caulk.  Let's face it.  Caulking the cracks and holes on a painting project at the seams and holes and dimples in your project makes all the difference in how professional looking it turns out.
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