How to properly run a sealant bead

Does it matter how a caulk/sealant bead looks? Does it matter how well a welder can lay down a weld bead? Does it matter how crisp and professional your landscaping looks?

Yes! At least to most people that care about details. And that’s really what its all about, details.

You may have heard the mantra in the building industry to “Caulk & paint to cover what ain’t”. Unfortunately, that’s too often the case when it comes to covering the many gaps at building material junctions. There really is an art to a proper caulk job just like there is an art to many things worth doing right. Some people say you need to push the sealant; some say pull. Some may say tool the bead with a caulk bead tool; others say tool it with your fingers. Some don’t like getting messy; some know how to manage the mess with the right cleaning solution or solvent.

What I don’t see a lot of is people using tape and I can’t understand why not. Painters tape is relatively inexpensive and it really doesn’t take that long to tape off what you’re sealing. What you’re left with is an absolutely clean, crisp line that looks sharp, looks professional, and looks like someone cares. I’ve run into many a professional painter who said that “taping is for the DIY’er”, or “taping just takes too long”, or “I can do just as nice a job with a pin-hole tube tip”. However, the results speak for themselves. I made a deliberate effort awhile ago to inspect a new home build where the local, professional painter tried to caulk all trim shadow lines with a pin-hole tube tip. What I discovered is the obvious fact that not all trim will lay the same against the wall and thus there will be varying degrees of gap sizes. Since there is varying gap sizes, there will be varying amounts of sealant needed. Where there is varying amounts of sealant needed, there will be wavy sealant lines after tooling. If you’re ok with that, great! However, the crispness of finish lines can really make or break an otherwise good trim installation. The benefit of tape is that you can still be left with a clean line even with varying gap sizes and amounts of sealant needed to fill the gap.

So here’s our standard Crossroads Construction trim (or other material) finishing policy.

  1. Ensure trim & other building materials are installed correctly according to mfc. instruction
  2. If necessary, clean all surfaces or joints to be sealed with appropriate cleaner
  3. We’ve found that yellow Frog Tape works the best on most surfaces, including freshly painted surfaces, without damage or peeling paint. Simply install straight runs of tape on 1 or both sides of your proposed bead at a distance that seems reasonable per application. For trim shadow lines, this is usually about a 3/32″ away, and for other applications, such as the shower below, an 1/8″ or greater from each corner is about right.
  4. Apply the sealant and tool with a finger that is kept clean by an appropriate cleaner
  5. Pull the tape before the sealant sets/dries, and…
  6. Presto!

A few additional things to consider are whether you’d like to final paint before pulling the tape and obviously what kind of sealant to use per application. Most types of painters caulks can be painted and the tape pulled, but be careful of letting elastomeric sealants cure before pulling the tape back off. The main thing is that you still don’t get more than necessary in the joint so that the tape can break away without pulling sealant with it.

Panelized, Swanstone, hard-surface shower panels requiring minimal, quality, elastomeric corner sealant for adequate waterproofing.