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Caulk for Baseboards and Trim Buying Guide
Home improvement can be challenging, and caulk is no exception. There are so many types on the market that it's difficult to figure out if you need silicone, acrylic, paintable, fast-drying, or something else. So let's give you a head start. Here are some of the things you should consider when buying baseboard and trim caulk:
- Type of Caulk
- Dry Time
- Gap Size
- Mold & Mildew Resistant
- Durability Rating
- Cartridge vs. Squeeze Tube
Type of Caulk
The type of caulk you choose for your trim and baseboards is a big deal. Let's review some of the common caulks that you might use for inside trim work:
Acrylic Latex - This is the most common type of caulk for inside your home. It's paint friendly, features easy cleanup with water, and is resistant to ultraviolet light. It works great for baseboards, trim, molding, and as a wood filler substitute. The main disadvantage is its limited flexibility which increases the chances of cracking.
Acrylic Latex with Silicone - If you're worried about cracking, then a siliconized acrylic is a good choice. It flexes with temperature changes, but it's still a paintable silicone with easy cleanup.
Advanced Polymer Acrylic Latex - Another option for interior caulking jobs is an acrylic latex caulk with added polymers for increased flexibility and large gaps. The application is effortless, and it's great at sealing up holes, gaps, and cracks.
Elastomeric Sealant - Another type of high-quality caulk commonly used for interior jobs falls into a group called elastomeric sealants. As with the advanced polymer latex caulk above, this type also uses special formulations of chemicals to create a paintable caulk that's easy to clean and incredibly flexible. It also provides excellent adhesion.
Which do we recommend? Truthfully, it comes down to your needs and your budget.
But in general, we recommend an acrylic latex with silicone for most interior caulking jobs that are not exposed to water (such as in your bathroom or around a sink).
An advanced polymer caulk or elastomeric formulation can give you great performance in larger gaps, but it also costs up to three times the price of siliconized acrylic caulk. In addition, many of these advanced formulations either can't be painted or are truly meant for outdoor jobs so they won't give you the professional finish inside your house.
If you're dealing with smaller spaces between your baseboard and walls, then an acrylic latex caulk with silicone might work fine. The silicone helps with the expansion and contraction in the wood molding during the seasonal changes, and it's still budget-friendly.
What about acrylic latex caulk (without silicone)? That's usually the go-to caulk for most contractors. Why? Because it's a low-cost choice! As for performance? It works great in areas with smaller joints, such as 3/8 inches or less. It's also great for caulking material that doesn't expand or contract with humidity fluctuations.
The next thing you should focus on when buying a caulk for using on your baseboards and molding is whether it's paintable. In our list above, every caulk we recommend is paintable.
So what type of caulk isn't paintable? 100% silicone. You can't paint it. Well, you can try. But the paint won't stick. That's why you won't find a pure silicone caulk recommended for baseboards or molding. Usually, 100 percent silicone is reserved for bathrooms and outdoor projects.
Many people make a common mistake by buying a non-flexible caulk, applying it to fill a large gap, and thinking they are good to go. What happens? The summer shifts into winter, and now the beautiful caulk job is full of cracks! If you haven't figured it out yet, it's a pain to fill cracks.
Why does this happen? As the season changes, your house's humidity also changes, which results in the wood fibers in your molding swelling or shrinking.
So the best way to avoid cracks is to buy a flexible caulk. How can you know if the caulk you choose is flexible? It's usually listed on the caulk tube itself. A rule of thumb is that any caulk with silicone, an advanced polymer, or an elastomeric sealant is probably flexible and therefore crack resistant.
The dry time for baseboard and trim caulk affects how long until you can paint it and how long until it cures. Both of these are different, and we'll discuss each below.
After you caulk your baseboards and trim, you'll want to paint. But... you might have to wait. If you paint before the caulk is ready, it won't adhere, and you'll have problems down the road. So make sure to buy a caulk that has a paint-ready time that fits your needs.
Cure time is different from paint-ready time. In general, the cure time indicates when the caulk is in its final state.
For exterior caulk, this matters a lot! A heavy rainstorm before the caulk cures can lead to holes and decreased durability.
What about caulk for indoor use? You don't have to concern yourself too much with cure time. As long as you're not using it around your bath, sink, or wet areas, then cure time isn't a large concern.
The best part about caulk is that it seals gaps and gives you that professional look. But to get that pro look, you need to buy the right caulk. You'll need to get one rated for the size of gaps that you have in your house.
At one end of the spectrum, there is baseboard and trim caulk that fills gaps up to 3/8 inches and at the other end is caulk that can fill gaps up to 3 inches!
What happens if you use a caulk that isn't rated for the size of the hole that you have? If you do that, then the bead of caulk will fall into the gap instead of filling it.
Usually, the larger the gap rating of the caulk, then the higher the viscosity. Caulk with a higher viscosity moves slower, and it can hold its shape when filling in a void within spec.
A waterproof caulk sounds great, but it serves little purpose for interior baseboards, molding, and trim. If these things are getting wet, then you have bigger problems.
Let's talk about a few specific places you might be tempted to use waterproof caulk.
The first place people commonly try to seal is the molding and trim around interior windows. Using caulk in these areas can definitely prevent drafts. But if you're dealing with leaky windows, then a waterproof caulk on the inside is not the answer. If you have leaks, then that's a problem on the outside.
The second place you might want to caulk is around any trim in your basement. Some people use waterproof materials, such as PVC trim, for the lower four feet in a finished basement. The logic goes that if your basement floods, then you don't have to rip out the trim and drywall because it's waterproof.
What about exterior trim and molding? Is waterproof caulk useful there? Yes, but we would recommend a waterproof siliconized acrylic, advanced polymer caulk, or elastomeric sealant. In exterior caulking jobs, a waterproof feature is not the only concern. You also have to consider flexibility and cure time.
Mold & Mildew Resistant
Is mold and mildew resistance important for baseboards, trim, and molding? In our opinion, not really. As long as the caulk isn't exposed to moisture, it's unlikely that mold or mildew will form on it. These features are more of a selling point when it comes to caulking your bathroom or exterior.
The durability rating of caulk is like a warranty. In general, a manufacturer may warrant the caulk to perform as described for a certain number of years. What happens if it doesn't? They will refund your money if you show them the receipt.
So here's the question. In 50 years, will you still live in the same house, have the same caulk on your trim, have your receipt, and want to go through all the trouble for a refund of a few dollars? Yeah, probably not.
How can we use the durability rating to our advantage? Easy. It gives us a good reference for the lifespan of the caulk. If you want caulk that has a better chance of lasting longer, buy a higher durability caulk.
Cartridge Tubes vs. Squeeze Tubes
The last thing to consider before you buy is whether you should get 10.1-ounce cartridge tubes or 5.5-ounce squeeze tubes.
It makes sense to choose the larger cartridge tubes if you have lots of places to seal. It's cheaper and easier on your hands. But before you start, you'll need a caulk gun. If you don't own one already, you can get a manual plunger-style gun for about $10 to $50. The next step up would be a cordless style caulking gun, and they start at about $75 and can reach up to $250. You can save some money if you own a compatible battery and can then buy the tool only.
What about caulk squeeze tubes products? When should you choose those? A squeeze tube is great if you're making touch-ups, and you don't have a lot to caulk. It's also great when the baseboard is in a hard-to-reach area, and your caulk gun won't fit. In that instance, a squeeze tube is an excellent choice.
The main downside to squeeze tubes, aside from the price per ounce cost, is the limited color selection. Common colors include clear, white, and tan. But most baseboard and trim caulk is paintable, so it's not a dealbreaker.
FAQs on Caulk for Baseboards and Trim
Besides our guide on buying caulk for trim and baseboards, we also want to answer some of the commonly asked questions about these products. If you have a question we haven't answered, then please drop us a line. We'll try to get it answered and add it to this article.
How Do You Caulk Baseboards?
You might be surprised to know that caulking your baseboards is DIY friendly and give a lot of bang for your buck. It's effortless and can give you that "pro" look you need to show off your house.
If you've never caulked before, then we'll walk you through the process. It's straightforward.
Step 1 - Choose the right caulk for your surface. Use the list above to find one that suits your needs. If durability is a concern, then buy a premium caulk.
Step 2 - Get a caulk gun if you plan on using cartridge tubes. You can probably borrow one from a friend. But manual models are inexpensive and are a good investment. We recommend a drip-free model with a smooth-style plunger rod. You can expect to spend around $25.
Step 3 - Create a well-prepared surface for caulking. Use a utility knife or putty knife to scrape off any old caulk. In some situations, you might have to use water, soap, or isopropyl alcohol to clean up any excess that won't scrape off. While not the focus of this article, if you do happen to be caulking siding, be careful not to damage it using the knife or alcohol. Another tricky substrate is brick, which makes it very hard to remove old caulk. Just try your best and remove as much as you can before you begin.
Step 4 - Optionally tape the surface. If you are new to caulking, you might want to tape off the surface before you begin. Use some painter's tape to mask off the portion above and below where you plan on caulking. Taping helps with excess on the wall and flooring.
Step 5 - Cut the tube. User your utility knife to cut the tip of the nozzle at a 45-degree angle. The amount you cut (further down the tip or higher up on the tip) will determine the bead size when you caulk. Just take a little off at a time because you can always come back and cut it again if the bead size is too small for the gap.
Step 6 - Pierce the seal inside the tube. Most tubes have a seal that you'll need to puncture. Start by checking your caulking gun for a puncture rod. If you don't have one on your gun, you could use a coat hanger, landscape flag, or another small rod to break the seal.
Step 7 - Load the caulk into the gun if you're using a cartridge tube. Pull back on the plunger and insert the tube into the gun tip-first. Every gun is a little different, so check with the manual if you're struggling to figure it out.
Step 8 - Fill a small bowl with one tablespoon of clear dish soap. You'll use the soap to smooth out the bead and create a professional finish. Grab a roll of paper towels too. You'll need them!
Step 9 - Apply the caulk to the gap between the baseboard and the wall. Start by holding the caulk gun at a 45-degree angle against the gap. Then gently squeeze the trigger and wait for some caulk to come out. As it begins to come out of the nozzle, slowly move the gun across the gap in one direction. You want to go fast enough, so there isn't excess build-up in the gap, but slow enough so the caulk doesn't tear apart and leave a hole. The best advice is to move at a steady pace applying consistent pressure.
Step 10 - Smooth out the bead that you used with the soapy finger method. Start by gently dabbing your index finger into the dish of soap, then run your finger along with the bead of caulk in one direction to smooth it out. The soap prevents the caulk from sticking to your finger and creating an undesirable finish. As your finger fills up with excess caulk, wipe it off using a towel.
Step 11 - Fill in any nail holes using excess caulk or spackle if you have it.
Step 12 - Cleanup. Use a damp rag and warm water for easy cleanup. Liquid caulk remover is not recommended for un-cured caulk. At this point, you can also remove any painter's tape if you used that to mask off the area.
Step 13 - If the caulk you purchased is paintable, wait the recommended amount of time before painting.
That's it! You've successfully caulked your baseboards and trim! If you have other interior areas, such as door frames, windows, and molding, the same steps apply.
The best caulks for baseboards fall into three categories: latex (also called polymer acrylic or acrylic latex), pure silicon, and latex with silicone, which seeks to combine the best of both worlds. Though caulk is fairly inexpensive, generally speaking, silicone costs a bit more.How do you neatly caulk baseboards? ›
HOW TO CAULK BASEBOARDS - YouTubeShould I use clear or white caulk for baseboards? ›
Clear caulk is good for sealing fixtures on tile or stone (such as in showers or around a kitchen sink). Use clear caulk where you do not plan to paint over caulk. White caulk is best used for sealing baseboards, trim, and siding. Use white caulk where you will be painting over the caulk.What color caulk should I use for baseboards? ›
What Color Caulk Should I Use for my Baseboards? The typical color for baseboards is white, as this creates a clean, attractive contrast and frame to the wall. If your baseboards are white, use white caulk as well. Make sure to use an indoor, paintable caulk with long-term elasticity.What is the best caulk to use for interior trim? ›
Silicone-acrylic latex caulk
Most of the best caulking products for baseboards and trims are acrylic latex caulks with silicone added to increase their flexibility. This special formulation creates strong caulks that work excellently in indoor and outdoor environments.
Gaps and cracks around baseboards give insects an easy way into your walls where they can build nests and eat away at the structure of your home unseen. Caulk on both the top and bottom edge of the baseboards closes the gaps to keep the bugs out.How do you CALK like a pro? ›
How to Caulk Like a Pro - YouTubeWhat do you fill baseboard gaps with? ›
A bead of caulk applied at this joint is an easy way to block such air gaps. Gaps at the top of the baseboard occur because the molding does not hug the wall close enough, which is common in older homes where the walls may not be perfectly flat.Do you paint baseboards before caulking? ›
In general, caulk should be applied before painting if the caulk line will be visible once the paint job is complete. This includes caulk lines around windows, doors, and baseboards. On the other hand, caulk can be applied after painting if the caulk line will be hidden by trim or molding.Should you caulk between baseboard and hardwood floor? ›
According to experts, if there is an eighth of an inch or more space between the floor and the baseboard, then caulking is necessary. This helps protect them from unwanted damages caused by moisture and dust. Applying caulk on firm and hard surfaces such as stone, hardwood, and the like is generally the best way to go.
How to caulk baseboards next to shower in bathroom ... - YouTubeShould you caulk trim before or after painting? ›
If you want professional-looking trim, apply caulk before painting. This will give you that seamless finish by the time you've washed and packed away your paint brushes! I found that if I apply caulk after painting it collects dust more and it does start to yellow over time.Should baseboards touch the floor? ›
Baseboards should only touch the floor if you have no plans to carpet your floors and if you've already finished installing your other flooring. If you have yet to install the rest of your floor, carpet or otherwise, you'll need to take into account the height of the installed flooring.Should you caulk around door trim? ›
Not only is caulking around exterior door jambs important for sealing out drafts; it will make your trim paint job look much more professional when you fill in all those unsightly gaps and seams.How do you fill the gap between baseboards and walls? ›
The best way to fill the gap between a baseboard and the wall is by using caulk. If the gap is wider than 1/4-inch, you should use a foam strip to fill the gap most of the way and then caulk as the filler for the rest.What caulk do professionals use? ›
Latex Caulk or Acrylic Latex Caulk (Also known as "painter's caulk") - This is probably the most common type of caulking that you see used by everyone.Which is better silicone or acrylic caulk? ›
Acrylic caulk works well for painting applications as it fills in any gaps between walls, ceilings, and woodwork trim. It cleans up well and provides a clean, neat seal. Silicone caulk, is often referred to as rubberized silicone caulk, remains flexible for most of its lifetime without peeling, cracking, or distorting.What kind of caulk do you use for molding? ›
Window, Door, Siding and Trim Caulk
Silicone caulk or a silicone-latex is excellent around exterior windows and doors, trim and siding.
Acrylic Latex - This is the most common type of caulk for inside your home. It's paint friendly, features easy cleanup with water, and is resistant to ultraviolet light. It works great for baseboards, trim, molding, and as a wood filler substitute.How do you seal gaps under baseboards? ›
- Apply Tape. Use painter's tape for this step. ...
- Fill the Gap. It's crucial to use caulk to create a solid, flexible, waterproof bond between the baseboard and the floor. ...
- Smooth out the Caulk. ...
- Take the Tape Off. ...
- Paint Your Caulk.
If the shower has a glass door that needs to be caulked, you'll want a clear formula. White caulk on any glass fixtures can look out of place and disrupt the flow of the room. Additionally, clear caulk can look very nice on shower fixtures and back plates, especially if they're made from metal.