Home Improvements

How Stuff Works: Caulk vs Sealants

When it comes to the tools of the trade, it’s incredibly easy to get turned around. Between all the different types of screwdrivers, and wire strippers that look like pliers, it is easy to get confused about how everything works. 

Caulk vs sealants are the perfect examples of products that are used interchangeably, since both fill joints and seams. But there are some key differences and similarities you need to be aware of. Keep reading to learn more!

How They Are Applied

One of the main reasons people use caulk and sealants interchangeably is because their application is very similar. Both are applied using a caulking gun. This means people assume sealant is a type of caulk too.

Elasticity of Caulk vs Sealants

The main difference between caulk and sealants becomes apparent when you look at the elasticity of both. Caulks tend to be fairly rigid once they are dry, so they are used in areas that don’t expand and contract too much. 

Sealants, on the other hand, are made to be flexible even once they’ve dried. This makes them ideal to use in areas prone to expansion and contraction. The areas this is most likely to happen are places exposed to heat changes. 

caulk vs sealants - hands pulling an elastic band between them

Different Intended Purposes and Settings

Because of these differences in elasticity, caulk and sealants are designed for use in different areas of your home.

Caulk is best suited to indoor areas that aren’t exposed to many temperature changes. Some areas caulk is often used are:

  • Light fixtures
  • Baseboards
  • Cracks in furniture
  • Wood

caulk vs sealants - wooden frame of a house having caulk applied to it

Sealants are best suited in bathrooms and kitchens as they are more likely to get wet. Sealants are also a good option to use on windows and doors to create a better seal and adjust to temperature changes from outside weather.

caulk vs sealants - close up of window panes with visible sealant around the edges

Frequently asked questions

What Are the Pros and Cons of Caulk?

The biggest pro for caulk is that acrylic caulks are paintable. Smears can also be cleaned up with water before they harden, making it much easier to create a clean look.

The limited elasticity is the biggest con when it comes to caulking. If you use caulk in areas prone to expansion and contraction, the caulk can crack.

caulk vs sealants - bright pink paint and paintbrushes in a bowl, on a pink table with a pink backdrop

What Are the Pros and Cons of Sealants?

Silicone sealants are extremely flexible, allowing them to create a watertight seal in areas that experience temperature swings.

Unfortunately, sealants aren’t paintable, and you need a solvent to clean up any messes. Some sealants also give off powerful fumes when they are applied.

When Should I Use Caulk or a Sealant?

The location you’re working on will help you determine which product to use. 

Caulk should be used if:

  • Areas where baseboards or tiles meet walls
  • Areas that need to be painted
  • Any area where two hard surfaces meet

Sealants should be used if:

  • The area is prone to contracting and expanding
  • The area experiences varying temperatures
  • The area tends to get wet

caulk vs sealants - pile of nozzles for a caulking gun

Understanding When to Use Caulk vs Sealants

The first step to becoming a DIY pro is understanding when to use different products. 

Knowing when to use caulk vs sealants is tricky since they seem so similar. If you’re ever in doubt, you can book an expert contractor to help you with any and all projects you have in mind!

You’re in good company