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How to Caulk in Five Easy Steps

How to Caulk in 5 Easy Steps

  1. Choose the Right Caulk
    Caulk that keeps air and water out over time is a necessity when sealing around the home. For a long-lasting seal, choose permanently waterproof, flexible, shrink-/crack-proof 100 percent silicone. Avoid using acrylic caulk, which can shrink and crack over time. Air and water can seep through gaps left by cracked caulk. Those leaks can lead to water damage, mold growth, and higher energy bills. Look for GE Silicone II* Window & Door or Kitchen & Bath, or, if you are painting, try GE Silicone II* Paintable Silicone.

  2. Clean the Surface
    Remove old caulk, dirt, and loose particles with a caulk-removing tool, or a wire brush for concrete and masonry applications, and wipe clean with a cloth. Apply masking tape to either side of the joint to create a straight edge. (Remove immediately after caulk application.) If you do not want to deal with the hassle of taping, GE Caulk Smoother* can be an easy alternative.

  3. Prepare the Tube and Seal
    Cut the nozzle to desired bead size. Pierce the inner seal with a stiff wire or other similar object. Insert cartridge into caulking gun. Seal around unsightly cracks or spaces inside and outside the home. If using a caulk gun, squeeze with even, consistent pressure to control the rate at which the caulk leaves the tube.

  4. Smooth the Caulk Seal
    Use your finger or a wet caulk-smoothing tool within two to five minutes of application. GE Caulk Smoother is a great tool to help achieve a smooth, clean bead of caulk.

  5. Store the Tube and Clean
    Squeeze the caulk until it's barely coming out of the tube. Replace the cap, or use a nail in the tube opening. Wipe hands with a dry cloth before washing with soap and water. To clean the area around the caulk, use mineral spirits for silicone caulk, and soap and water for acrylic.

Sealing Tips and Advice

Sealing Windows, Doors, Attics, and Basements

  • Make sure doors and windows are closing securely and do not need to be rehung.
  • If you plan to paint the exterior of the window or door frame, make sure the caulk you use also can be painted, or that the color caulk will be compatible with surrounding materials.
  • To get the tube started and test the flow, hold the caulk gun over a garbage can and apply pressure on the trigger. Get comfortable with using the gun before you start your job.

Sealing Kitchen, Bath, and Plumbing Applications

  • Swab the joint with rubbing alcohol to remove soap scum, body oils, and other residue. Rubbing alcohol dries quickly and leaves the surfaces impeccably clean so the new caulking will adhere well.
  • When caulking a bathtub, fill it with water. You might even want to get into the tub wearing tall boots. This will pull the tub to the furthest distance from the wall. Apply a fresh bead of silicone sealant to the joint.
  • If you are caulking a shower stall, work from the inside out. Do the inside seams before the external ones so you do not brush up against any uncured caulk and create extra work or a mess.

Testing for Energy Leaks

Your home should be tested twice a year (once in the spring and again in the winter) to see if you are protected from energy loss, pollution, pests, and moisture. If you find gaps and cracks, be sure to seal—it's as easy as five simple steps.

  • Test #1: The dollar bill test: Place a dollar bill between the doorjamb or between the window sash and sill. With the door or window closed, attempt to remove the dollar bill. If it slides out easily, you are losing energy.
  • Test #2: The flashlight test: Shine a flashlight around the edges of your door at night. If you can see light from the other side, you're losing energy.
  • Test #3: The moist hand test: Pass a moist hand around the edge of your doors and windows. Where you feel a draft, you are losing energy. This test works best on cold, windy days.


Don't Waste Time and Energy

Not all caulk is the same. Because silicone is permanently waterproof, flexible, and shrink-/crack-proof, unlike acrylic, it won't leave gaps or cracks for air and water to seep through over time. Those leaks can lead to water damage, mold growth, and higher energy bills—all of which can translate into your lost time (when you have to do the job again), lost energy, and lost money.

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Frequently Asked Questions