Caulk selections and gun (C) Daniel Friedman Choosing a Caulk or Adhesive Gun: Models, Types, Advice

  • CAULK GUN TYPES, CHOICES - CONTENTS: Description of types of caulk or adhesive dispensing guns. Trigger type manual caulk guns, durability, features, quality. Battery operated power caulk gun. Compressed air operated power caulk gun choices. Caulks & sealants on buildings: joint design, silicones, polyurethane caulk, butyl caulk, acrylic latex caulk
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about types of caulk or adhesive or sealant guns or applicators - manual or powered caulk guns

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Choices of caulking guns - a buyer's guide:

This article describes different types of caulk guns, caulk gun features, and caulk gun models, giving some opinion and advice about choosing a caulk gun that fits your needs.

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Choosing a Caulking Gun for Easy Fast Caulking Work & Good Results

Caulk gun (C) D Friedman

This article series discusses best practices construction details for building exteriors, including water and air barriers, building flashing products & installation, wood siding material choices & installation, vinyl siding, stucco exteriors, building trim, exterior caulks and sealants, exterior building adhesives, and choices and application of exterior finishes on buildings: paints, stains.

Readers should see CAULKS & SEALANTS, EXTERIOR and also see GLUES ADHESIVES, EXTERIOR CONSTRUCTION. Some caulks and sealants also act as glues or adhesives.

There is a stunning, actually an overwhelming array of types and qualities of caulk guns available.

3M, Albion, Apex-Cooper Hand Tools, GE, Newborn, Rigid, Z-Pro, and other companies produce or distribute hundreds of caulk guns and other items of caulking equipment. Contact information for these companies is listed at Resources for Building Exterior Caulks and Sealants. Here are some observations and opinions from DJF who, like many, has spent a lot of caulking time on construction projects:

  • Stamped-steel caulk guns (first caulk gun at left in the group of four below) Watch out Most caulk gun producers offer durable heavy duty and good performing caulk guns, but for the "quick and dirty one-off job" also offer homeowner-grade caulk guns made of stamped metal that we find, at least in some cases, do not last long. We call these "disposable" caulk guns.

    With the least-costly grades of these caulk guns we find that very quickly the gun goes in the trash after a strong squeeze has bent the trigger handle, or the plunger mechanism keeps slipping rather than forcing caulk out of the cartridge or tube.
  • Manual caulk guns, heavy duty models for homeowner and moderate construction use (second from left below): we much prefer the caulk cartridge type caulk gun shown in our photograph (above left and below, second from left)). This type of caulking gun has a strong steel body, cast iron handle, and a plunger mechanism that does not slip when pushing against a recalcitrant tube of caulk.

    Like many models this caulk gun includes a wire to open the foil seal found in the tops of some caulk tubes and of course a cutter to snip off the caulk tube tip. The hooked caulk pushrod end forms a convenient ladder hook for the tool. Newborn produces a heavy duty professional NBC250 caulk gun of this type. A lighter version with an open cartridge body (third from left below) also performed acceptably but not as well as our preferred caulk gun.
Caulk gun (C) D Friedman Caulk gun (C) D Friedman Caulk gun (C) D Friedman Caulk gun (C) D Friedman
  • Bulk caulk guns, cartridge and sausage caulk guns are fast, and are designed to accept caulk bought in bulk, often in a collapsible plastic wrap or "sausage" (above right).
  • Air powered caulk guns can pump very viscous caulks or adhesives at high speed and in large volumes. Models accept both cartridges and bulk or sausage packs of caulk. Our friend Mike Skok (Re Bath) uses a battery-operated air-powered caulk gun to dispense adhesive when installing plastic bath surrounds.

    Apex-Cooper Hand Tools' PG 100 Caulk Master (below ) is a professional-grade air-powered caulk and adhesive gun that is driven by an air compressor - Apex-Cooper's air powered caulk gun.

Caulk gun (C) D Friedman

  • Cordless Battery-powered caulk guns are really fast and low-effort, and with some practice, you can make very smooth caulk applications by learning to keep the caulk gun tip moving. Rigid makes an 18-volt cordless gun used for both caulks and adhesives and shown below at left- Third from left, Rigid's battery operated power caulking gun.

Caulk gun (C) D Friedman Caulk gun (C) D Friedman Caulk gun (C) D Friedman

Above center: caulk gun with extension rod for reaching. Above right, our standard (and favorite) manually-opeated 3-M caulk gun.

Definitions of Caulking, Chalking, Spackling

Question: What's the Difference between caulking, chalking, and spackling?

I would like to know the difference between spackling and chalking and caulking and where each should be used. - A.C.


Definition of Spackling: Spackling refers to use of joint compound to seal tape joints between sections of drywall or to smooth other irregularities in drywall before the wall or ceiling is painted. Spackling is also used on occasion as a superficial repair on plaster although repairing plaster with actual plaster may be preferred.

See DRYWALL, PLASTER, BEAVERBOARD for help in identifying these materials and a bit about their history. Also see

Watch out: don't rely on joint compound or spackling compound to seal building leaks where temperature changes, vibration, or anything else will cause movement of the building materials. Unlike flexible caulks that are designed to adhere to various types of surfaces and to tolerate small amounts of movement between the sealed surfaces, joint compound or spackling compound is designed for cosmetic repairs only, and it is likely to crack if installed where a flexible caulk should have been used indoors, and to weather and fail if used on an outdoor surface.

Definition of caulking: Caulks are sealants used to close gaps or cracks against leaks. The leak may be an air leak or a water leak in a building, or historically, in other structures such as a boat where in addition to hull leaks a boat often leaked at the connection of hull to boat deck. Caulk types and uses are discussed in more detail at CAULKS & SEALANTS, EXTERIOR. Types of caulk guns used to apply caulk are discussed above at CAULK GUN TYPES, CHOICES.

Before modern silicon, latex, or polyurethane caulks were invented boat leaks were sealed by hammering oakum, hemp or even cotton into the open gaps using a loggerhead.

Watch out: while it is often convenient to use caulk for cosmetic sealing of gaps and cracks indoors, such as along baseboard trim installed along uneven wall surfaces, be sure to use paintable caulk if the surfaces are intended to be painted. For example, some silicone caulks that perform very well as sealants also form a surface to which paint will not adhere.

Definition of chalking: Chalking is usually used to refer to the white oxidization that appears on some painted surfaces as they wear or weather, it's not something you'd do to drywall or plaster. Paint chalking is discussed at PAINT FAILURE DICTIONARY and at PAINT FALURE, DIAGNOSIS, CURE, PREVENTION.

Chalking is sometimes used in some parts of the world to refer to steps to make surface more "white", and it is also used to refer to plowing chalk into soil as part of applying manure - a step that has nothing to do with building maintenance.

If you live in a country where any of these words are used with a different meaning please CONTACT us to let us know about it.

Resources for Building Exterior Caulks and Sealants

Construction Sealant (Caulks) Suppliers & Products

  • Albion, 1250 North Church Street, Moorestown, New Jersey 08057-1102, 856-235-6688
  • Chemrex
  • Newborn caulking guns, distributed by Jamestown JD Distributors -

Polyurethanes and other high-performance sealants

  • 3M - 800-234-8068
  • Bostik - Chem-Calk urethane caulk - 414-774-2250
  • DAP - 800-543-3840
  • Tremco - Velcum urethane caulk - 800-321-7906
  • Macklanburg-Duncan - Sika and Sikaflex caulks - 800-654-8454 (widely used in sealing concrete wall and floor slab cracks in the radon mitigation industry)
  • OSI Sealants

These sompanies produce urethane caulks used widely on masonry surfaces and in the automotive industry.

Acrylic latex caulks

  • Dow Corning Sealants
  • Silicone sealants
  • GE Silicones Silicone sealant
  • Geocel Corp Acrylic latex, tripolymer, copolymer, Kraton, and clear sealants
  • Macklanburg-Duncan Acrylic latex sealants
  • OSI Sealants Inc Polyseamseal PVA-based caulk. Pro Series includes latex, polyurethane, and Kraton sealants.
  • Phenoseal vinyl adhesive caulk
  • Red Devil Acrylic, silicone, and butyl sealants
  • Sashco Sealants Big Stretch and Mor-Flexx water-based sealants, Lexel Kraton sealant
  • Sika Corp Complete line of Sikaflex polyurethane-based sealants, butyl sealant
  • Tremco Inc. High-performance, architectural-grade sealants,
  • UGL Acrylic latex caulks
  • White Lightning Tripolymer, butyl, polyurethane, silicone, elastomeric, and other high-performance sealants

Exterior Adhesives

  • Abatron Epoxy, BestBond polyurethane glue
  • Ambel Excel polyurethane glue
  • Elmer’s Products Yellow glues, ProBond polyurethane glue
  • Custom-Pak Adhesives Resorcinol and yellow glues
  • DAP Inc. Weldwood contact cement, resorcinol, and construction adhesives Resources 49
  • Franklin International Titebond yellow glue, Liquid Hide Glue, and construction adhesives
  • Gloucester Co. Inc. Phenoseal adhesive caulk
  • Gougeon Brothers West System epoxy
  • Gorilla Group Gorilla polyurethane glue
  • MACCO Adhesives Liquid Nails construction adhesive
  • SI Sealants PL400 construction adhesive
  • System Three Resins Quick Cure epoxy

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.


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