It's Time to Caulk Out the Cold Weather!

How to Lower Energy Bills

I'm afraid caulking season is here. It's time to seal those gaps in the windows, gaps around the doors and gaps in other places so you can reduce the amount of cold air seeping into your home, the amount of warm air seeping outside. Seepage means higher energy bills, and with the effect the hurricanes have had on the oil that is turned into gasoline and to heat our homes and cook our food, it's more important this year than ever.

What You Need to Know

So it behooves us all to know the right way to go about it. The three most common caulks are: latex, acrylic and silicone. Latex and acrylic are easier to apply and clean up. However, they are not as long lasting. Silicone will last the longest. Acrylic and latex can be painted; silicone cannot be painted.

The one that sets up the quickest is silicone. It is also better for filling gaps that may expand and contract. It can also be used indoors and outdoors.

Latex and acrylic should be used to fill cracks that expand or contract more than 1/8th of an inch. The label will tell you whether it can be used outdoors as well.

How Much is Enough?

You'll probably need one or two tubes or cartridges for most jobs. To weather a couple of windows or doors, you'll probably need one tube. It's a good idea to have more on hand than you think you'll need.

Operating Manuals

First you have to master the caulk gun. Then you have to know how to prepare the surface so the caulk adheres properly. If there is old caulk, remove it first with a utility knife. Make sure the surface is clean and completely dry before moving on. Insert the cartridge into the caulk gun. Cut the nozzle at a 30-degree angle. Make certain the hole in the cartridge matches the width of the gap you are trying to fill.

What if the caulk goes outside the gap? Use this trick: Put a piece of masking tape over the length of the area to be filled, then carefully cut down the center of the tape to expose the gap. By pushing the caulk gun away from you, you'll force the caulk into the gap and should get a good fit.

For hard-to-reach spots, slip a straw into the hold in the caulk cartridge. For smoothing the surface, try using a popsicle stick or plastic spoon.

To remove caulk from a surface, dip your finger in water with a little diswashing detergent. That is, do it before it dries.

What Not to Do

Don't wait until the caulk dries to begin clean up. If you do, you'll have to scrape it off. You especially don't want to scrap off porcelain or you'll likely get scratches on the porcelain.

What About Costs?

Caulking can run from $3 to $10 a cartridge or tube, depending on the make and type and the length of warranty. Don't bother with a high end caulking gun that sells for $50. Just get the $7 to $12 variety.

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