The 10 Best Caulking Guns
Choosing A Caulking Gun
Pneumatic caulk guns require the use of an air compressor or air tank, which can be a limiting factor.
They can be used anywhere, and with practice, they let their operator dispense nearly endless amounts of caulk in smooth, steady lines.
Using a good caulking gun makes finishing the construction or remodel of a bathroom, kitchen, or any other space that needs seams sealed against water a pleasantly easy project. Caulking guns help their users apply an even amount of material at a constant rate, leaving behind a clean, functional space. This basic, affordable tool is an essential part of any professional builder's arsenal, and is a good idea for the homeowner (or the handy renter) to keep around, as well.
Most caulking guns operate using a pistol grip shape complete with a trigger-style handle squeezed by all four fingers at once. They allow for generous distribution of caulk with each squeeze and are easy to control with your grip strength serving as the source dispensing power.
For the person with limited hand strength caused by age, accident, or illness, however, these hand-operated caulking guns may not be the best choice. So, too, might the contractor or remodeling professional who goes through dozens of tubes of caulk in a given work week consider another option: the powered caulk gun.
Caulking tools that use a power source other than your hand fall into one of two categories: the electrically-operated tool, and the pneumatically-powered variety.
Battery-operated caulk guns reduce the strain put on the fingers and forearm of the operator, yet are rather heavy when compared to basic caulk guns, which might be a drawback for some people. They can be used anywhere, and with practice, they let their operator dispense nearly endless amounts of caulk in smooth, steady lines.
Pneumatic caulk guns require the use of an air compressor or air tank, which can be a limiting factor. They are lighter than batter-powered units, though, while still offering the same ease-of-use.
Proper Caulking Technique
Before you commence installing new caulk around a bathtub, sink, toilet, or in the gaps between tile, you need to remove as much of the old and worn-out caulk as possible. For new fixtures and/or tile, make sure the surfaces where you will be working are as clean and dry as possible, as dust, dirt, and moisture can prevent a proper bond. Use razor blades, the tip of a screwdriver, and brushes with stiff bristles to remove old caulk and grit, and consider running a high-powered vacuum around the area you have prepared.
Make sure to thoroughly clean the shaping tools as soon as you have finished using them.
When you cut the tip off of a tube of caulk, do so at an approximate 45-degree angle for applying caulk to seams with 90-degree corners, like you'd find around the rim of a tub or the pan of a shower. An opening of around 1/8-inch should be sufficient for these and similar projects. For applying caulk between tiles (or for other fine applications, such as woodworking), try a more acute angle and a smaller hole; a 60- or 70-degree cut off the tip and a 1/16-inch opening will allow for more precise distribution of caulk into smaller gaps.
Any experienced contractor will tell you that one of the best tools for proper caulk installation is a moistened finger. There is often no better way to help create a smooth, rounded, and seamless bead of caulk than by slowly and steadily running your finger along the corner or crack the material is filling. Most types of caulk are perfectly harmless to human skin, though you should be sure to wash your hands thoroughly to remove any traces left behind before they dry. You can also don a tightly fitting rubber glove to keep your hands clean while shaping the seams and strips you have dispensed. Just make sure to dip it in water frequently while you work.
There are also multiple caulk shaping tools available that can help you create a crisp, clean edge in fresh caulk. Most are made from plastic that is sturdy and rigid, but that will not scratch tile, porcelain, or other plastic components. Make sure to thoroughly clean the shaping tools as soon as you have finished using them.
To trim caulk that has dried, use as sharp a knife as you can, and trim the caulk in long strips. You can also use sand paper to lightly buff away small patches of caulk that strayed from their intended borders. If you think you will have trouble applying a smooth and steady bead of caulk, consider preparing the work space with masking tape leaving only the intended areas exposed.
How To Choose the Right Caulk
A caulking gun is a perfect example of an item that is absolutely useless on its own. You can use a caulk gun productively in one way only, and that is to distribute caulk from a tube. (Coincidentally, the tube of caulk designed for use in a caulking gun is worthless without its purpose-built counterpart; they are almost impossible to use by hand.)
It cannot be painted, however, so consider it for out-of-sight applications, like the area around a garbage disposal or the pipes behind the toilet.
For most projects, a general purpose caulk made of an acrylic-latex blend will serve admirably. This material resists water, is generally flexible, even over time, and is low-cost. Consider a quick-drying option for an area you cannot avoid using for a protracted period, such as a kitchen sink. Note that some acrylic-latex caulks respond well to paint, while others are best left unpainted as painting may lead to cracks and flakes as it shrinks over time. (This is usually the case with cheaper options only, though.)
Silicone caulk is highly flexible and completely waterproof, making it perfect for use around drains, faucets, and so forth. It cannot be painted, however, so consider it for out-of-sight applications, like the area around a garbage disposal or the pipes behind the toilet. Silicone caulk is also good for use in areas where the temperature fluctuates, as it resists expansion and contraction.
Finally, for outdoor caulking projects such as sealing gutters or filling gaps in a window frame, try butyl rubber caulk. This thick material is waterproof, flexible, and resilient, standing up to the ravages of weather, motion caused by wind, and impacts from falling twigs, pine cones, and other debris. Butyl rubber caulk tends to give off lots of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), so work with it only in a well-ventilated area and consider wearing protection over your mouth and nose.
When selecting a caulk, don't overlook the simplest factor: make sure the product you are considering will fit in the caulking tool you own or are considering buying. (This consideration is of special importance if you chose a non-standard unit, such as a miniature caulking gun.)