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Caulk or Sealant: Which is right for your bathtub?

caulk or sealant.
by Badeloft | March 29, 2020

Almost as important as buying a new bathtub is understanding how to maintain it. And the first step to maintaining any bathtub and bathroom is understanding which adhesive or sealing agent is right for the job. Today we will be discussing the main differences between caulk and sealant and which is right for your home. 

What are the main differences between caulk and sealant 

In general, both caulk and sealant are more or less interchangeable, as they refer to the same group of sealing agents. The two are interchangeable because the method of application is through the use of a caulking gun. Sealants are classified as caulk, and the main difference between the two is the material that is used.

Sealants tend to be constructed from a flexible material such as silicone and are generally water resistant and are generally for indoor use. Caulk on the other hand can refer to a number of sealing agents, made from silicone, latex or acrylic and is more for outdoor use.

caulk or sealant.

What are the main uses of caulk and sealant for a bathtub?

For installing a bathtub and repairing a bathroom, caulk and sealants are your friend. They provide a sealing agent that acts as both a light adhesive as well as a water seal of sorts. Below are some of its uses in the bathroom.  

  • Sealing cracks
  • Light adhesive for joining sections of wall together
  • Can create a solid base between the walls of the bathroom and your bathtub
  • Can revitalize pre-existing tile surfaces
  • Useful for creating a watertight seal for key sections in your bathroom.
  • Can stabilize wood and other materials, creating a stronger foundation
  • Helps prepare an area to be painted
  • Can save old wallpaper walls from peeling.

How do you know which to use for a bathtub and showers?

In general, sealant is the prefered sealing solution for bathtubs and showers, as it is more water resistant than traditional caulk. Silicone sealant forms a watertight seal that is resistant to heavy temperature changes. You can also use a hybrid acrylic latex silicone caulk, which provides you the benefits of both worlds-highly resistant sealant that can be painted over. 

What is caulk?

Caulk is an umbrella term for a number of sealing agents, ranging from an array of materials from silicone, latex or acrylic. Generally, caulk is applied the same way that sealant is applied-using a caulking gun to repair cracks or join surfaces together. The advantage of caulk is that it is easy to apply, easy to remove and is recommended for many outdoor projects. The last benefit of caulk is that it can be painted over, allowing for a more seamless look in the bathroom. 

what is caulk.

 Pros and Cons of Caulk

Caulk and sealant are very similar, with the exception that sealant is generally typically silicone based where caulk comprises a wider variety of materials. Below are some of the pros and cons of using caulk for your bathroom. 

Pros:

  • Easy to apply
  • Can be painted over
  • Comes in a wide variety of material

Cons:

  • Will turn brittle and crack
  • Cannot handle high temperature changes
  • Is not ideal for porous surfaces

What is sealant?

Sealant is a type of caulk, typically constructed from a flexible material, usually silicone. The advantage of this material over normal caulk is it’s flexibility, allowing it to fill over awkward or intrusive angles, while still providing a strong bond. Whereas caulk hardens and becomes rigid when it dries, silicone does not, allowing it to be a stronger material in terms of resisting water and mildew, when compared to caulk. The primary negative to sealant however is that it is much more difficult to apply, with improper application leading to water pockets or holes that could be problematic down the line. It also can’t be painted over, and so it is quite visible.

Pros and Cons of sealant 

Sealant provides a sealing agent that is much more water resistant to caulk, but also is harder to apply. Below are some of the pros and cons of using sealant for your bathroom repair projects.

Pros:

  • More water resistant than standard caulk
  • Flexible material, allowing for more versatile applications

Cons:

  • Harder to apply than standard caulk
  • Will still degrade in a similar time frame than standard caulk
  • Harder to remove after application
  • Cannot be painted over
  • Strong odor

Are there any additional options for your tub? 

When it comes to sealing your bathtub, there are two general solutions-either caulk or putty. Grout is also an acceptable solution, but it is much more permanent than either caulk or putty so extreme care must be placed before you use it. Caulk as mentioned previously, has a few issues but is generally the most used method of sealing cracks and adding additional supports to your bathroom.

Putty or plumber’s putty is another option, but it is more used as a temporary measure of sealing up cracks and is more intended for pipes than actual foundation. As a whole, the most preferred method is a hybrid caulk of acrylic, silicone and latex. This hybrid compound provides all the benefits of both normal sealant and caulk without any drawbacks. 

Tips on applying you adhesives

When applying caulk or sealant, it is best to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your mixture. All caulk has a general temperature limit and will usually list whether they are more suited for outside use or indoor use, so it is important to follow the instructions before application. 

  • Clean your bathroom and get rid of any external debris
  • A clean surface allows the caulk to adhere properly
  • Using a caulking gun, apply a small bead and run it through the length of the crack you are trying to repair
  • Allow the caulk to set and dry
  • After the caulk has fully dried, you may paint over the surface. 

Caulk and sealant are both great at providing a quick fix for any bathroom. For those looking to have an easy DIY solution in their home, it doesn’t get any more basic than applying the right adhesive. So long as you understand their strengths and weaknesses, they will save your home from greater headaches down the road. 

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