Caulking Tips for Beginners

 Caulk. It can be intimidating and definitely takes some time, but use these caulking tips and you’ll love the finished, professional look you create!

Use your caulking skills on these projects: Beginner Tips and Tricks for Installing Trim  —  Built-In Bookshelves for Your Home  —  Build a Wall-to-Wall Built-In Desk and Bookcase

Caulking Tips To Finish Your Project, Lemon Thistle On Remodelaholic

By Colleen of Lemon Thistle

Pro-Level Caulking Tips for Beginners

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You may not often notice a good caulking job, but you’ll notice if it’s missing, I promise!

After you’ve spent days/hours replacing baseboards, windows, or trim breaking out the caulk can be the farthest thing from your mind, BUT it makes such a huge difference in your space. Adding caulk creates seamless transitions that make the whole room look finished.

To prove my point, see the base trim in the photo above. A little section on the end of one wall got missed when we caulked the rest of the house. Can you see how it looks like it’s still waiting for something, that it’s not quite finished?

Caulk: Get the name right

Before I dig in, a little bit of background for you. “Silicone” strictly speaking of the name, is a non-water-soluble, super stinky product that plumbers use around sinks and tubs. It’s usually clear and is meant to create a water tight seal. You can’t paint over it or the paint would bead up and looks terrible. It dries but stays cushiony and rubbery which is great for keeping water out of areas that expand and contract with heat and cold often (like a shower).

Caulk is a different product, although the words get used interchangeably all the time (like I do in the video- I just couldn’t help myself!). Caulk dries harder and many types are paintable. It’s meant for filling in seams in your handiwork.

Types of Caulk

I use this caulk from Home Depot around my home (and in the video). It is caulk plus silicone so it has a bit of flexibility when dry, helping to prevent cracks or separation. It is also paintable and good for indoor and outdoor use.

There’s 100 different types of caulk and silicone products out there. Choose the one that best suits your project. I use a grout silicone (found in the tiling section) to finish off my tiling jobs and a clear silicone to seal along countertops and the drywall. They all are used with the same technique- they just react a little bit differently.

How to Caulk: Video

Here’s a short video where I share basic caulking tips. I was a total beginner and these are the things I had to figure out on my own!  For instance, the first time I tried to caulk, I was so frustrated that caulk kept coming out when I wasn’t squeezing the lever. I made such a mess! After caulking one room, I had a system down, so just don’t give up, okay?

 

I should tell you that I did paint the baseboard after that video (did you see how dingy it was!).

After filling the top gap, I used the same caulking process to fill the nail holes and vertical corner seams. Don’t worry if you’re not perfect at it. Stick with it and watch how fast you’ll improve.

 

 

Caulking Tips for a Perfect Finish

Start somewhere less visible

I always like to start in a section of the room that’s less visible, like behind a door or in a closet just in case it takes me a minute to get going.

Caulk before painting

I prefer to caulk before painting when I have different levels of trim that will all be painted the same color. Caulk can be difficult to clean (keeping it’s flexibility means a bit of stickiness) and painting over the caulk reduces some of that stickiness.

Using tape 

Taping is a great idea until you are comfortable with a caulking gun. Tape both the wall and the baseboard, leaving a small gap for your caulk to go into the seam. Smooth it, as in the video, then peel back the tape to see a nice, crisp line. I stopped taping after the second bedroom in our house because it is time consuming. BUT if you’re only doing one room or maybe just one window, taping will help you get a nice straight line. This is helpful in areas that are really visible.

Caulking Gun

Your caulking gun will really affect the way you work, especially if you are doing a large space. When we first bought one, we bought the cheapest gun we could find but it killed my hand. It broke after a couple bedrooms and we upgraded to the second cheapest caulking gun and it has made a world of difference!

Smooth Finish

I use my finger and a smooth damp rag to apply silicone and caulk. If you’re not into that- I get it, it does kill your fingers. My family swears by a caulking applicator that can be used to get a nice corner instead of your finger. Just drag it along as you would your rag or finger. I’m all about efficiency (also known as impatient) so pulling this out every time I needed to smooth a line was too finicky for me.

Time

The caulk I use takes two hours to dry, and that’s if you have a nice thin line. Filling gaps that are a bit deep or wide will take longer to dry. Make sure your silicone is completely dry before painting to avoid pulling it up.

Push or Pull

Professional painters will push the caulking gun along the baseboard, but most of us will find it easier to pull or drag the caulking gun along, using the tip to smooth it as we go. Find out what works for you and go with that.

Caulking tips to make your projects shine

And there you have it! Learning to caulk well has been one of the most rewarding skills I’ve learned. I hope these caulking tips help you come to enjoy it, too!

More projects for using your new caulking skills

Please pin this for future reference.

How To Caulk Your DIY Project, By Lemon Thistle Featured On @Remodelaholic

 

See more from Colleen over at LemonThistle

Originally published 05.07.2015 // Updated 06.11.2021

 

 

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25 Comments

    1. Thanks so much Debbie! I am embarrassed that I left that section for over a year before finishing it! It definitely is such an improvement.

    2. I must’ve missed which caulk/silicone you prefer to use? Is there a particular brand or one you like best? Cheers!

    1. It definitely takes a bit of practice! The first day I tried I am pretty sure I cried and told my hubby we’d have to hire someone. If you’re willing to put in some time, I’m positive you can do it!

  1. We are going to start caulking our new home super soon. I’m trying to work up the nerve to do it on my own. One question though, do you paint the walls before or after the trim? I’m not sure if I should paint walls, then caulk, then paint trim, or caulk, then paint trim followed by walls?

    1. I personally prefer to caulk and then paint over it (just make sure you have paintable caulk!) whenever possible, so then the dust doesn’t stick to the caulk and you can’t see any discolored caulk — makes it look cleaner longer because who wants to spend extra time cleaning baseboards?!? 🙂

    2. Yes! I agree with Cass, I always like to paint the walls first, then caulk, then paint the baseboard. If you leave the caulk unpainted I find I need to clean it much more often. Good luck!

  2. Hi! We are moving into a new construction home, and I’m not sure if they caulked all the molding. Do you know if that’s normal to do so? How can I tell if it has been caulked or not? Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Bre, I’m thinking it should be done! That’s standard here anyways. You should be able to tell if there is a smooth transition between the wall and baseboard- it will look like it’s just nailed on (with a small gap) if there is no caulking. Congrats on the new home!

    1. Aw, thanks so much! My hubby swears by his caulking/silicone applicator. They’re only five bucks- I would grab one and see if it helps! It will save your fingers as well 🙂

  3. I am painting my walls a subtle gray. My baseboards, door trim and floors are honey oak colored. Also my house was built in 1939 with no sign of any caulking in the past. I should caulk first with paintable caulk then tape the trim and paint – correct?

    1. That’s what I would recommend — caulk and then paint. Painting over the caulk just prevents any discoloration or dirt-attracting on the caulk and baseboards.

  4. Hey Colleen, Thanks so much for the video and the information. I have always been intimidated by the caulking gun – not sure why since I’m not afraid of power tools LOL – but not anymore. I have an entire house of cracks to seal! Thanks again.

    1. Thanks so much for the sweet comment Laura! I’m glad that I was able to help… It’s so satisfying to get all of those baseboards sealed!!

  5. Hi and thank you so much for this encouraging video. My house was built in 1975 and needs caulk everywhere PLUS new window sills. You have given me the courage to try it all myself. I don’t know why I find it all so intimidating, but now I’m going to go for it! Do you think old caulk should all be removed before patching the cracks with the new caulk?

    1. Hi Jan, My apologies for the slow reply! It is best to remove old caulk before applying new, however if you’re in a pinch it’s definitely an improvement to touch it up before painting.

  6. I’ve always said a little paint and a little caulk can hide a multitude of remodeling sins. Also, whennit comes to floors and moulding, a corner pf shoe moulding is a very under-appreciated piece of help.

  7. Hello! Just came across your post at the right time. We’ve installed our trim and are ready for the finishing touches. We’ll use your strategy for caulking but I didn’t see what you suggest for filling nail holes?? I’ve read not to use caulk, and that putty or wood filler works better. Thoughts?

  8. Loved it Thanks. Problem, I clicked on all the product links above, and tey all went to a Home Depot in Canada, and none of the products could be found. The mesage said, “product code not found”. As you didn’t include the product names above I have no way of finding them elsewhere (in U.S.). Please send me a list of product names, and hopefully a picture, so that I can hopefully, locate them here. I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

  9. This is the 4th time I’ve tried to comment on this post. It keeps getting deleted. I hope you get it this time. Thank you for the above. It really will help. Problem though. I clicked on all of the product links above, and they all go to a canadian home depot that says, “product code not found”. As none of products you are recomending have the product name or pic above, I have no way of finding then. Will you please send me a list of the items above, name and pic, so that I can try and find them here in the U.S.! Thank you so much.

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