Abject Failure

I've been a homeowner for six years. In my short tenure as the lord and second-in-command of my modest castle I have learned many skills. I have bent EMT, sweated pipe, unclogged drains, put in kitchen cabinets, run BX, telephone and CAT5 lines through my walls, made plaster repairs, drilled through a foot of brick, installed AC circuits and built a couple of simple custom woodworking projects. And then some.
But...
I can't seem to get the hang of one seemingly simple skill: Caulking. I see guys do it, a nice even bead, smoothed with a finger, beautiful. When I do it it looks like some sort of kindergarten craft project gone awry. I'm probably a little bit more inept with silicone than with latex, but it's a subtle difference.
I used to think I was just using too much, which was true, but I still make a lousy looking job of it with less. It WORKS, mind you, but looks bad.
Tips?
Greg Guarino
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Don't feel too bad. There are 12 step programs for those of us who can't get the hang of it. I can't, either, nor could the people who owned this house before me. There are places in the bathroom where it seems they shot the caulking from across the room. :-)
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don't use too much, and use the back of a plastic spoon to smooth it.
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Charles Spitzer wrote:
snip / / / /

You mean you're not supposed to spit on your finger and then wipe the unused part on your pant leg?
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Well, I'm with you. Most times it looks bad. The only tip that I have ever had was from a friend that is a glazer. He always pushes the tube instead of pulling it and moves it at a constant rate depending on how big he cut the tip. As soon as you stop you push the button on the back then wipe the tip before you start again. His come out perfect and need very little tooling, I think it's a practice thing. The rate that you move it seems the most important.
CR
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my guess is that you're cutting too much off the tip, so you have way too much caulk because its flowing out too fast. people seem to cut that thing so they got a hole the size of a pencil. pros can get away with this, us lesser people cannot. cut less of the tip, leaving a smaller hole, and work slower. i like to work with a hole about the size of a round toothpick.
randy

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snipped-for-privacy@verizon.net (Greg G) says...

They only thing that should ever touch caulk is the nose of the caulking tube. Cut the tube on an angle with a very sharp utility knife, to a perfect conical section, which will be an ellipse just as wide as the widest part of the crack you are caulking. Feed just enough caulk to fill the ellipse and tool it with the narrow end of the ellipse. Never stop. You can slow way down, or speed up, but do not stop. Do not hurry. Do not use too much caulk. The best caulk joint is nearly invisible. Watch the underside of the nozzle, where you are going. Pay no attention to where you have been, it's too late. Buy a caulking gun with a one button pressure release, and use it every time you lift the gun.
--
http://home.teleport.com/~larryc

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Breath-a in, breatha-out. Caulk-a on, caulk-a off.
Ummm.. .very good, you!
Now, show me: SANDA DA FLOOR! Show me: PAINTA DA FENCE! Show me: ACAULKA DA TUB! Ha Ha Ha - you wet behind da ears, grasshopper!
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Caulk-a YES, OK. Caulk-a NO, OK.
Caulk-a eh.... BOOM!
--

Christopher A. Young
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Greg G wrote:

I know that the "real men" on this newsgroup will not agree with my advise :) But, to make real nice caulk lines use masking tape. Put in on both sides of the joint, caulk, smooth, pull off the take. Works (perfectly) every time. Takes a bit longer, but much less time than it takes to explain to your wife why it looks so bad when you do it the "real guy" way.
--
Bob van der Poel ** Wynndel, British Columbia, CANADA **
EMAIL: snipped-for-privacy@uniserve.com
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On Mon, 17 Jan 2005 15:55:07 -0700, Bob van der Poel

So obvious, but I never thought of that. I may try some of the other suggestions first, but I have a feeling that I have a congenital caulking disability. The tape sounds like the crutch I need.
Greg Guarino
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Just make sure it's the blue "painters" masking tape. I like the 2" stuff best, since I'm a slob
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Forget smoothing and masking tape. If the line looks uneven after applied, it was applied incorrectly. Secret is to *push* caulk on, after very clean right-angle cut across nozzle with razor. Hold the tube in both hands bisecting angle of two surfaces to caulk, hold it almost at right angles to the caulk line but slightly obtuse angle off vertical, so it is pointing slightly in the direction of application, then slowly shove the nozzle forward, regulating the squeeze rate so the cut tip passes over the just-applied buldging bead, flattening it. Get a really high quality caulk cartridge gun - the better ones have exquisite flow control with a big operating lever and an extra smooth operating ratchet, and release. Squirt out caulk so that there is just enuf excess to have the trailing side of the nozzle tip smoothe it out. For acrylic caulk, a wet finger can be used for fine smoothing. For silicone, you better just do it right the first time, as it is hell to re-smoothe, and looks nasty when flattened with finger or spoon, as it is so sticky. Also, use fresh room temperature caulk only, as it stiffens and is difficult to apply after a fairly short time.
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Greg G wrote:

Genetic defect :o) I have a similar impairment. I can paint a great looking picture, but cannot-to-save-my-life use a sash brush without the edge wandering all over the place.
Painters tape is THE answer to caulking nice and even. There is a tool for smoothing caulk but spit on a finger is better. I caulked baseboards after our new tile was put down and was very, very careful to plug tape down into grout lines so they didn't get mucked up. Helped contain the flood that followed not long afterward when a water hose on the washer broke. Kept baseboards from sucking up water, too.
If it is in bath, wipe joint with full-strength bleach, dry. Wipe with denatured alcohol, dry. Tape. Caulk. Smoothe. Push the tube, don't pull it. Pull tape right away so the edge settles. When you cut the tip of the tube, be sure to use a very sharp knife on a cutting board, and start too small rather than too big.
Hubby knows how to do everything but be neat. Patient as all get out. Spent six hours one day trying to sweat on a new hose bib. Couldn't get the steam to quit :o) I finally decided he deserved mercy - went down to the dock, which is a tad lower, turned on the spigot to drain the pipe. He was done in no time.
I am terrified of heights, and don't go higher than the second rung of a step ladder EXCEPT when it came time to paint the numbers on our condo at 2nd story level. Wasn't about to let him slop green paint on the newly painted white building :o)

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I'm not all that great, either.
Use clear caulk -- the bubbles are less obvious.
--

Christopher A. Young
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Greg G wrote:

Go to the hardware store. They sell a little plastic tool that you drag along the bead of caulk and it evens it out nicely. Costs about $4.00. I've been using one for a couple of years, and it works great.
Jo Anne
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On Mon, 17 Jan 2005 20:13:36 -0600, Jo Anne Slaven

A little plastic thingy that cost about 2 cents to make.

Can I interest you in a Ronco product?

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As someone else already mentioned, the angle of cut on the tube is important and you have to push the caulk into the crack, not pull the tube. Also, if you have a rough spot take a cup of water and keep your finger or spoon or whatever wet while you try and smooth it. Just takes practice.
Bobby
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scribbled this interesting note:

Some say pull it, some say push it, I say do it however works best for you. I prefer to pull the tube as opposed to pushing the caulk. I can make caulk look smooth and wonderful with no excess, no globbing, and be a nice and neat as you please.
Really, it is all in the angle of the cut and what works for you. Practice. Keep the tip of the tube absolutely clean. Keep a clean painter's rag close at hand to keep the tip clean. If you have to smooth a spot with your finger, spit is the best lubricant (just as it is in certain other activities!:~) And keep that finger clean as well! You don't know where it has been!:~)
Practice. Technique is all a matter of what works for you in combination with the aforementioned practice.
-- John Willis (Remove the Primes before e-mailing me)
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Hasn't been much of a problem to me but hubby makes a mess so I try to do the caulking and I've done loads all around the house on seams outside and around windows, etc. since we'd had ant and water damage on the siding. I cut the unopened caulk tube with a razor knife fairly close to the tip at a slant at approximately the size opening as the gaps I'm caulking. I then squeeze the caulk gun trying to have caulk come out at a rate that it fills the gap, and I pull it across the crack at the rate that caulk will continue to fill the gaps completely. I then smooth it with my finger and wipe excess into more of the gap and wipe leftovers with a cloth rag I keep handy and then continue again. I also am good at drywall joint plastering............ ares

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