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Cracks can appear in any aged home at almost anytime.  They’re also an eyesore and very annoying.  Happily, fixing them isn’t really difficult.  It just takes a few minutes and some adhesive caulk.  Anyone can do this.  Really!  Minor home repair isn’t just in the realm of the pros.  Hell, that’s why big-box home centers exist.

To start off, clean the area of dust and debris to get a good look at the blemish in question.  In this case it’s the bottom of a painted stone fireplace seam.  The crack really isn’t anything but cosmetic and the caulk will just make it pretty.  (Caulk doesn’t fix structural damage but it can plug a small area like this.)

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I started with some all-purpose adhesive caulk.  You can find it at any big-box location.   If you aren’t sure which one to get, read the label or track down one of the colored vests walking around the area; they should be able to help.  For applications like baseboards, countertops, windows, backsplashes, and ceramic tile, a general purpose caulk works very well. 

Though there are all sorts of specialty caulks out there that can be useful, for this project all-purpose adhesive caulk works great and costs about $4 for a 10oz tube.

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Insert the tube into a caulking gun and secure it snugly.  The metal disc located at the back will push the compound out of the tube when you squeeze the trigger, so you want to make sure you get a good fit to the tube or the gun will wind up slicing it open or crushing it.  Most caulk guns are pretty simple to operate, though, and are designed not to allow this.

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Once the tube is secured in the gun, cut the tip off the tube.  Where you cut it will control what size bead you get exiting the gun.  The higher you cut, the bigger the bead. Just remember: if you’re going to err, err on the small size because you can’t go smaller if you cut too much.

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Now position the tip near the crack and squeeze while you run the bead along the length of the crack.  You’re aiming for a nice smooth bead here so take your time.  If you get globed up near the end, don’t panic.  You can clean it up quite easily.  At this point remove any big globs of caulk.  Most of the time you can just remove access with your fingers – it’s usually water soluble so it won’t hurt you.

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Now take a finishing knife and smooth it into the crack using even motions that push in the caulk and smooth it out.  You can also follow this up with a wet finger or damp sponge to smooth the seam out further.

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The whole operation takes about 4 minutes for a project like this.  Your results might vary a bit depending on the size of the project but after a time or two, caulking will be another tool trusted tool in the arsenal of home repair. 

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Remember that even though it might look like a white caulked up mess, water will cleanse away your botched attempt if you do it in the first 10 mins.  Then you can dry the area off and begin again with no harm done.

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9 Responses to How-To: Seal a Crack With Adhesive Caulk

  1. Myself says:

    Just remember, ladies: Commenting on how your guy squeezes his caulk is a quick way to make him laugh so hard he screws the whole job up. Then he’ll have to spend even *more* time cleaning up the white sticky mess.

  2. Porthos says:

    I found a great way to caulk seams is to mask off the gap with painter’s tape on either side, leaving as little of a space between gap and tape as you want for your feathered edge.

    This makes running the caulk and pressing it in (I just use my finger) worry free.

    Then, just peel off the tape and feather the edges with a moist sponge. Ba-dah-bing!

  3. Bret says:

    What’s the best way to seal off the tip after you’re done? — A drywall screw? Is there a better tip out there?

  4. Sean O'Hara says:

    Now I wish I had taken a better picture of it but I use plastic caps that fit over the end of the tip and seal it. They are reuseable and can be found in the same area you find the tube in at the big box store. I think they are about a buck or so.

  5. You can try a “little red cap”: http://www.littleredcap.com/

    Home Depot also sells a larger plastic cap (DAP Cap) that can also be used to smooth the caulk (though I prefer to just use a finger): http://www.dap.com/media/product_photos/CaulkingAccessories.aspx

    Many brands of caulk come with a cap, and you could liberate one of those caps and put it on a cheaper tube of caulk, then buy the cheap caulk. But I would never do such a thing, no sir.

  6. People actually buy those plastic caps?!? I just use a small piece of plastic wrap folded over 4x, and use a rubber band to hold it on. This works best if the caulk or adhesive fills the tube. Air in there can cause problems.

  7. Carl says:

    I use gutter nails. They go deep into the tube and are wide enough to leave a big channel for whatever goop you’re using.

  8. Eric Corson says:

    I use electrical tape to seal used caulk tubes, just wrap spirally past the tip till you can fold backover, then another couple of wraps. Just like wrapping an electrical splice. dont spare the tape, its cheap-relatively speaking. After all, you don’t want to end up with a case of hard caulk, at least not in public!

  9. Leslie says:

    One important point: If it’s a painted surface, or one that might be painted in the future, make absolutely sure that the caulk is paintable before you use it!!!

    Also, if you use silicone caulks, sometimes trying to clean up a stray blob will cause more of a mess than the initial blob. If the silicone caulk won’t damage the surface it’s on, sometimes its best to let it cure then peel it off.

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