Ask any tile installation professional and you’ll learn caulking tile is not as easy as it looks. Tile and fixtures in Madison WI kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms – anywhere indoors – require a clean application of caulk to seal seams, edges and boundaries. All the materials used to caulk tile come in two common formats: a cartridge for large volume jobs and tubes for smaller applications. Cartridges are teamed with specialized tools or “guns” for applying a steady, continuous bead. Guns hold cartridges of from 9 to 11 oz. of caulk. Tubes are 3-6 ounces. Using a caulking gun correctly to get a nice, neat bead takes practice.
Basic caulking materials are broken into three categories: silicone, latex and a combination of the two. In recent years specialized caulks have been added to the mix.
Caulking Tile With Silicone Products
Silicone caulks have been the mainstay in the trade for more than 50 years and there’s no sign that will change any time soon. The continuing advantages of silicone caulks include:
- Cures to a soft texture
- Remains flexible
- No harmful effects from UV exposure
- Resists most molds and mildew
- Can be applied in almost any temperature
- Extremely strong
- Ideal for hard surfaces like glass, metal and tile – excellent for both ceramic and porcelain tiles
- Withstands extremes
Silicone caulk does have some drawbacks, including:
- Often difficult to apply with a gun
- Requires solvents for cleanup
- Most cannot be painted
- Damaged silicone caulk tears easily and cannot be repaired – must be removed and redone
- Requires good ventilation when it’s applied – it isn’t toxic but has a strong odor
Pure, 100% silicone is the premium caulk for jobs where exposure to water is a sure thing. Modern formulations include inhibitors to resist mold and mildew and slow discoloration. They come in different colors, too, which is good since silicone cannot be painted. If you have a container that say’s it can be painted, it isn’t pure silicone. Pure silicone is ideal for creating a seal around plumbing fixtures near bathtubs and in showers. It’s a general “water proofer” and is an adhesive, too.
Consider Latex Caulk Options
Often called “painters caulk,” latex caulk is a strong contender for the top caulking product. Also known as Latex/Acrylic caulk, it has its own set of advantages when going head-to-head with silicone products, including:
- Easier to work with and to apply
- Easier to replace and repair if it is damaged
- It comes in colors
- It can be painted – earning the “painters’ caulk” name
- Clean-up tools and surfaces with soap and water
- Little or no odor during application
- Applies to porous and nonporous surfaces
- It weakens when exposed to extreme temperatures
- Weakens when exposed to direct sunlight
- It may shrink and crack over time
Considered a good, general purpose option it is easy to work with and fast drying. Best used for filling small gaps and blemishes around material of different kinds where one or both will be painted. Not ideal for high-moisture areas.
Developments In Tile Caulks
As demand for new and more efficient products grows variations in caulking materials come to the surface. There are several new blends and combinations available, including:
- Latex/acrylic caulk with silicone added – more moisture resistant that standard latex. Also more flexible and durable. Commonly sold as “tub and tile caulk” but it isn’t as good as pure silicone for wet areas in the bathroom, kitchen or laundry room.
- Butyl rubber caulk – a sealant for use between metal and masonry or any joints where changes in temperature cause expansion/contraction. Not easy to apply and usually used outdoors. Many versions can be painted.
- Refractory caulk – also sold as fireplace caulk it’s a high-temperature sealant ideal for sealing small cracks and seams in brick, natural stone, concrete and masonry. Used around fireplaces and chimneys for minor repairs.
- Masonry repair caulk – flexible and strong it’s used outdoors in all masonry products as well as natural stone, concrete and stucco. Some blends include polyurethane. High-end versions may contain sand to create a true masonry-like texture.
Plan Ahead For Caulking Tile
Do you need caulk or sealant around your tile, stone or masonry? While caulk fills seams and edges it is not a true sealant. Sealants are very elastic while caulks dry to be rigid and stiff.
The first step in selecting the right caulk for a tile installation is reviewing where you will use it. In the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room your selection must resist water and mildew.
Changes in temperature, humidity and surface moisture all affect the caulk you select. Because silicone is permanently waterproof and flexible it is the No. 1 choice for most tile-related applications.
Once you’ve identified the area that needs caulking and decided upon the right type to use, the big question is “can I do it myself?” If you’ve never done a caulking project before, don’t get your start on a job with long, demanding edges. A caulking gun isn’t easy to use correctly. Make a test run or two for practice – once applied and cured, caulk is hard to remove and mistakes are tough to fix.
Do you need help deciding on the right caulk for your job or tips on how to apply it? Molony Tile is the area’s leading tile resource. It provides cost-effective solutions, not just high-quality products. Do you have questions? Call 608-268-8453 or email us to make an appointment and visit Madison’s most complete tile showroom.
Our staff is ready to assist homeowners any way it can. For more than 70 years Molony’s skilled craftsmen have provided expertise for high-end jobs throughout the Madison area. No matter if your home’s tile needs replacing, sealing or caulking explore your options with us. We’ll match your needs and provide the right solution for caulking tile in your Madison WI home.