Caulk. If you're 13 years old (or me), you giggle when you say it unless you emphasize the "L." For the rest of the world, caulk is one of those household items that you don't learn to properly respect until you undergo a sizable home renovation project. Before that, it's just the gooey stuff you put around your bathtub, shower and sink to keep water from leaking out and rotting the walls and floors. But caulk holds far more of our world together than you'd ever guess. From the aforementioned bath and kitchen applications to keeping ships watertight, caulk is used to smooth the seams between your baseboards, walls, molding and trim inside your home. It's used for insulation, water mitigation and noise reduction. It is even smoothed over the nail holes in your trim to make the heads invisible once painted. This means many versions are paintable, which is likely why you would never guess caulk was there making everything appear seamless.
Other than a caulking gun, which can be found inexpensively ($5 - $20) at any local hardware store, there aren't any special tools you need to get. Rags, your fingers and patience are your best friends for this job.
As with many other home improvement items, you'll be inhaling some pretty nasty gasses while applying caulk to your desired project. Typically it's made of silicone, polyurethane, polysulfide, sylil-terminated-polyether or polyurethane or acrylic sealant, all things you don't want to inhale continuously in your home. Fortunately low-VOC alternatives are becoming more and more common. Before you break out your caulking gun, check out these eco-friendly resources for your next home improvement project.
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(Image: Michelle Chin. Originally published 2010-08-10)