Because as much as 80 percent of air leakage occurs in areas other than windows and doors, caulking is an absolute winter necessity.

After determining which areas need attention, it's important to choose the right type of caulk for the job. Before buying or using a particular caulk, read each label carefully for storage and application temperatures. While the factors may be of varying concern depending on personal preference (amount of money you're willing to spend, lengths you are willing to go to to find a certain caulk, time you wish to spend redoing the job in a few years), it is important to check the temperature resistance of any caulk if you live in a very cold climate.

Learn more about determining where to caulk and a description of the different types in Types of Caulk and Where to Seal Leaks.

To save even more energy around the house, try these do-it-yourself projects:

Insulating Pipes and Heating Ducts 

Oil Burner Tune Up 

Quick Checks for an Efficient, Winterized Heating System. 

Types of Weatherstripping and How to Weatherstrip Your Home 

Log Home Insulation Saves Energy 

 

  How long will it last?  Elongation  Minimum Temperature for Use  Good Features  Problems  Relative Cost ($/gallon)  Staining  Vertical Sagging  Temperature Resistance (Low-High) 
Oil-Base Caulk 

high quality: lasts 5-10 years

low quality: 3-5 years

little elongation and no recovery good adhesion to most surfaces while there is little or no movement frequently used for glazing work with disappointing results lowest cost staining and bleeding of most substrates poor low-temperature performance — 10 to 150 degrees F
Latex Caulks  8-10 years, perhaps longer approximately 60 percent when formed into ½ by ½ inch specimens 40 degrees F may be applied to damp absorbent surfaces — brick, wood; good adhesion adhesive properties good with little or no joint movement low to moderate nonstaining to any type of substrate suitable for smaller joints (¾ inch maximum) -20 to 150 degrees F
Solvent-Based Acrylic Sealants  10-20 years below average, 25 to 60 percent  — excellent adhesion; can be used for corner heads and other oddly shaped joints strong odors; must ventilate interiors — vapors are contaminant to food nonstaining to most materials can be obtained in nonsagging form poor-low-temperature elasticity — 20  to 210 degrees F
Butyl Caulks  10 years average, 75 to 125 percent 40 degrees F particularly good metal-to-masonry adhesion and for sidings (aluminum, steel and vinyl) only for joints with moderate movements $5 to $12 nonstaining available in low-sag form -25 to 210 degrees F
Polysulfide Sealants 

one-component: good durability

two-component: 20 to 30 years

superior, 150 to 200 percent

superior, 150 to 350 percent

cannot be applied below 40 degrees F

will not cure below 40 degrees F

 

good

good on wide or working joints

$20 to $25

$12 to $22

nonstaining to masonry -60 to 250 degrees F
Urethane Sealants  20 to 30 years excellent, 300 to 450 percent 32 degrees F excellent adhesion to wide variety of materials; abrasion resistant may adhere so strongly to weak masonry that spalling occurs $12 to $18 nonstaining -60 to 257 degrees F
Silicone Sealants  30 years 100 to 200 percent cannot be applied down to -35 degrees F good adhesion when applied to metal or gloss poor adhesion when applied to concrete; cannot be painted $24 to $37 nonstaining on most materials nonsagging on vertical walls high: 90 to 400 degrees F
Nitrile Rubber  15 to 20 years 75 to 125 percent  — good for metal-to-masonry or high-moisture areas poor performance on moving joints or wide cracks
Neoprene  15 to 20 years 20-40 percent difficult to apply at low temperatures good with asphalt or concrete (foundations) difficult to apply $8 to $12
Hypalon  15 to 20 years

12 to 20 percent

difficult to apply at low temperatures working joints very slow cure (3 to 4 months) $8 to $12
Rope Caulk  1 to 2 years 75 to 125 percent

40 degrees F

easily removed from surfaces has to be replaced every year or every other year low to moderate
Polymeric Foam  many years: 30 plus little, once set up below 0 degrees F good adhesion; good for large cracks and hard-to-reach places needs adequate ventilation during insulation high none none 90 to 300 degrees F

 

 

Oil-Base Caulk 

Latex Caulks 

Solvent-Based
Acrylic Sealants
 
Butyl Caulks  Polysulfide Sealants  Urethane Sealants 
How long
will it last?
 

High quality:
lasts 5-10 years 
Low quality: 3-5 years 

8-10 years,
Perhaps longer

10-20 years 

 10 years     
Elongation  Little elongation
and no recovery
 
Approximately 60 percent
when formed into 
½ by ½ inch
specimens
 
Below average, 25 to 60 percent  average, 75 to 125 percent     
Minimum Temperature
for Use
 

-----------

40 degrees F 

----------

40 degrees F     
Good
Features
 
Good adhesion to
most surfaces while
there is little
or no movement
 
May be applied to damp
absorbent surfaces:
brick, wood;
good adhesion
 

Excellent adhesion;
can be used for
corner heads
and other oddly shaped joints
 

Particularly good
metal-to-masonry adhesion and for
sidings (aluminum,
steel and vinyl)
 
   
Problems  Frequently used for
glazing work with disappointing results
 
Adhesive properties good
with little or no joint movement
 

Strong odors; must ventilate interiors: vapors are
contaminant to food
 

Only for joints
with moderate
movements
 
   
Relative Cost
($/gallon)
 
Lowest cost  Low to moderate 

----------

$5 to $12     
Staining  Staining and bleeding
of most substrates
 
Nonstaining to
any type of substrate
 
Nonstaining to most materials  Nonstaining     
Vertical Sagging 

-----------

Suitable for smaller joints
(¾ inch maximum)
 
Can be obtained in
nonsagging form
 
Available in
low-sag form
 
   
Temperature Resistance
(Low-High)
 
Poor low-temperature performance:
10 to 150 degrees F
 
 Negative 20 to
150 degrees F
 
Poor-low-temperature elasticity:  20  to 210 degrees F   Negative 25 to
210 degrees F
 
   
Surface Preparation  Quick dusting of joint  Clean the joint,
but not as thoroughly
as with high grade sealants
 
Minimum cleaning required  Clean concrete;
wipe metal
with oil-free cloth
and solvent,
wood with cloth
or soft brush,
glass with cloth
 
   
Ease of Application  Applies and tools easily  Easy application;
clean up with damp cloth
 
Ventilate when applying in interiors: vapors can
contaminate food
 
Clean up with solvent;
below 40 degrees F, caulk stiffens and is difficult to apply
 
   
Shelf Life  Good  Good Good  Very long     
Ease of Preparation  Easily mixed  Good; available in 
1/10 gallon squeeze tubes
 
Heating to about
120 degrees F recommended before application
 
No missing
or heating
 
   
Shrinkage  Low initial shrinkage,
5 to 25 percent
 
High degree of shrinkage,
causes unsightly, wrinkled appearance
 

Negligible; however, low recovery
causes wrinkled appearance
 

High    

 

 

 





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