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Interior Paint Problems: Caulk Failure

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Image of caulk failure.

                Window caulk wearing around the edges
            (Photo courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute)

Caulk may lose its initial adhesion and flexibility, which will cause it to crack or pull away from surfaces.

Caulk problems are commonly due to one of two errors: the substrate was not effectively prepared or the wrong paint was selected. Consider how and where the caulk is being used before choosing a product.

What Causes Caulk Failure?

  • Using a low-quality or the wrong type of caulk for a particular application. An example of this would be using latex or vinyl caulk in areas where there is prolonged contact with water or considerable movement of the caulked surfaces
  • Not properly preparing or priming the surface prior to caulking
  • Applying too thin a bead of caulk

How to Prevent Caulk Failure

  • Caulks and sealants have different properties. Select the proper product for the job and follow manufacturer's instructions
  • Use a top-quality water-based, all-acrylic, or siliconized acrylic caulk if you do not anticipate prolonged contact with water. These caulks are flexible enough to adapt to minor fluctuations in the substrate. They also adhere to a wide range of interior building materials, including wood, ceramic tile, concrete, glass, plaster, bare aluminum, brick, and plastic— even in areas where moisture is present
  • Proper surface preparation. Caulk requires a clean surface to perform effectively; remove all surface contamination, old, cracked or brittle caulk, loose or peeling paint
  • In most cases, the surface should be primed to give the caulk a good bond and to prevent the substrate from absorbing the liquid out of the caulk, which may cause improper drying and poor performance

Note: Silicone caulk should not be painted.

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