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How to Use Less Caulk When Filling in Gaps | Ask This Old House

In this video, This Old House painting expert Mauro Henrique shows host Kevin O’Connor a common mistake DIYers make when caulking and a helpful tip for avoiding it.

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Painting expert Mauro Henrique shows host Kevin O’Connor a better way to caulk. After first showing Kevin how most people caulk and why he dislikes the technique, he details the finer points (literally) of caulking.

Cracks and Gaps Happen
There are many reasons why cracks and gaps happen: materials drying out and shrinking may cause it, as can the foundation settling, just to name a few. However, it’s important to know that they do happen, and caulking them can make them disappear.
But simply squeezing gobs of caulking into a gap won’t do.

Don’t Over Caulk
Most homeowners and DIYers cut their caulking tubes too far up the tube, creating a hole in the end of the caulking tube that’s too large. This forces them to place a large, round bead of caulk along the gap, which they must then push into the gap with their fingers, resulting in excess caulk squeezing out along the wall or molding. This is a mess and, typically, a waste of caulk. Luckily, this is avoidable.

Cut a Smaller Hole
The first step is to cut a smaller hole. Look at the crack or gap in question to get an idea of how wide it is. Many caulk tubes have lines indicating where to cut the tube for a specific hole size. For those that don’t, start closer to the tip for smaller holes and further away for larger holes. The goal is to match the size of the hole to the gap.

Holding the tube at an angle (30 to 45 degrees, usually) use the built-in tip cutter on the caulking gun to cut the tip. Use the poker underneath the caulking gun to break the seal.

Force the Caulking into the Gap as You’re Applying It
Place the tip of the caulking tube into the gap, and place the pad of a forefinger on the back of the tip. While squeezing the handle of the caulking gun, drag the tip along the gap while maintaining pressure on the tip of the forefinger, forcing the caulk into the gap.

Clean Up the Excess
This technique combines applying the caulk and forcing it into the gap into one step, minimizing the amount of time it takes to caulk and clean up. However, it may still be necessary to touch up any remaining gaps or wipe away any excess. Using the tip of a wetted finger, drag it along the gap to remove excess caulking before wiping any squeeze-out away with a damp rag.

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About Ask This Old House TV:
From the makers of This Old House, America’s first and most trusted home improvement show, Ask This Old House answers the steady stream of home improvement questions asked by viewers across the United States. Covering topics from landscaping to electrical to HVAC and plumbing to painting and more. Ask This Old House features the experts from This Old House, including general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, landscape contractor Jenn Nawada, master carpenter Norm Abram, and host Kevin O’Connor. ASK This Old House helps you protect and preserve your greatest investment—your home.

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How to Use Less Caulk When Filling in Gaps | Ask This Old House