IN DEPTH: Caulking & Adhesives
New material choices that provide benefits to contractors also create challenges for assuring that caulk and adhesive options will work successfully. Manufacturers are responding to those needs and others with products that offer more flexibility to meet a wider array of challenges. Determining which options offer added benefits and save customers time creates the biggest opportunity for dealers.
“Building materials and install techniques continue to evolve in residential construction,” says Bill Sobon- ya, senior brand manager at OSI. “The variety and types of siding materials that come in contact with each other on a home don’t expand and contract at the same rate, creating pressure on flexibility and adhesion requirements of sealants.”
Adds Mark Stypczynski, manager of technical specifications for architectural coatings, adhesives and sealants at PPG Architectural Coatings, “New materials move in different ways in response to temperature and moisture changes. Composites and expanded PVCs, as well as new laminate materials, all are different. They require different properties than were accepted in the past. Caulk has to move a little bit better to adjust to those movements.”
Loctite 2 in 1 Seal and Bond Premium from Henkel Adhesives combines the bonding strength of an adhesive with sealing properties. It serves as an all-condition sealant, with high adhesion and low odor for interior or exterior projects of all types. It can bond and seal a variety of materials including wood, brick, concrete, PVC and fiberglass.
Ashley Haag, marketing manager for sealants and waterproofing at BASF Corp., agrees. “New substrates create challenges for sealant manufacturers,” she says. “For instance, there is more use of polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) -coated metals, which provide weather protection, but many sealants don’t adhere well to it. The more materials a caulk will adhere to, the more it simplifies the decision for the installer of what product to buy to work with the wider variety of substrates being used today.”
The BASF MasterSeal NP 1 ProPak sausage, (aka the Sonolastic NP 1), is a one- component, high-performance, non-priming, gun-grade, elastomeric polyurethane sealant that requires no mixing, saving both time and money. It typically requires no priming to bond to many materials, including concrete and masonry.
Manufacturers are working to meet those needs. “The market wants one formula that can work with all materials simultaneously,” says Mark Hembree, senior marketing manager for adhesives and sealants at PPG. “Our goal is to stay on top of substrate trends as they develop and create sealants that work with whatever is made available for projects.”
Hybrid Options Grow
That leads to new formulations that can handle more and different applications. “There has been an ongoing trend with formulation types,” says Pete Rippee, Loctite product manager at Henkel AG & Co. “We’re noticing more attention being given to MS-polymer products, which can offer the benefits of both latex and silicone and provide more versatility. They’re premium products that achieve better results and offer more flexibility.”
Adds PPG’s Stypczynski, “Polymers are gradually moving away from silicones to more hybrid formulations, including MS-polymer, STP and STPE. They offer better properties in many ways than silicone formulations but have a curing mechanism similar to silicone and have the paintability and toughness of polyurethanes. We see more of their use right now on the larger-scale commercial-construction side.”
OSI’s QUAD MAX sealant for windows, doors and siding was designed to offer high performance through flexibility, strength and durability. It is said to perform under harsh weather conditions, including freezing temperatures, intense heat, strong winds, rain and snow. It is the flagship product in OSI’s “Tougher Than the Elements” line of products.
Loctite’s Rippee agrees. “The new formulations are good for everything— interior and exterior projects and wider temperature ranges. The big companies are coming out with products with these formulations for every application, creating a premium option for every project. The market is definitely headed that way.”
Adds BASF’s Haag, “Hybrid technologies have been around for a while, but they’re definitely increasing in popularity now. The most popular products continue to be the time-tested ones with a strong brand name, which have a history of quality and support from manufacturers. Builders don’t want to change until they’re sure a new product offers them true benefits. But the quickest-growing category is definitely hybrid-technology products.”
Contractors are realizing there can be value in premium products. Specialty and premium-level products are seeing growth of about 10% per year, notes Bruce Johnson, director of marketing at Sashco. At the same time, the moderate category has remained flat and low-end products have fallen about 4%.
“That trend is reflected in our conversations with builders and homeowners,” he says. “They are investing in higher-end products due to better access to information on the value that those provide. They increasingly un- derstand the technology and the importance of the features that provide longer-term performance. We’ve always aimed at the high end, so we’re doing well now and have a loyal contractor following.”
Touch ‘n Foam Professional heavy- duty construction adhesive was designed for fastening gypsum wallboard to wood framing. The all-weather, one-component gel-foam condenses into a high-strength gel adhesive that is said to yield 10 times more strength than traditional adhesives while installing quickly and allowing for fewer fasteners.
Explaining new products’ benefits creates a challenge for manufacturers. “Gel-foam construction adhesives have been on the market for a few years, but we have a lot of work ahead of us when it comes to informing contractors and homeowners about the benefits of polyurethane-based gel-foam construction adhesives,” says Eric Lowenstein, director of marketing for Convenience Products. “However, LBM and other retailers are starting to better understand the technology and the benefits, and they play a big role in passing along this new approach to contractors.”
Separating the wheat from the chaff can be difficult, but a dealer who can do so can add value for customers. “We’re seeing more of what I call ‘advertising technology,’ in which companies use lots of words to make their products sound impressive,” says Darci Kunard, brand manager at Sashco. “They put a miniscule amount of some chemical into the caulk so they can make it more complicated and add that word to its name.”
That approach doesn’t fool knowledgeable customers. “We take the approach that customers don’t really care about that, they want to solve a problem,” she adds. “They don’t know what the terms mean anyway. Our goal is to provide education on what products are best for each application. More education is needed to explain the differences between caulk products and what factors are important. Quality and high performance do make a difference.”
In general, a good rule of thumb is that the heavier the tube, the higher its performance. “Higher-performance products have fewer fillers in them,” Kunard explains. “Heavier tubes mean there’s more caulk and less of other components.”
Kwik Seal Ultra, a premium siliconized kitchen and bath sealant introduced by DAP, was engineered with new sealant technology to repel water, liquids, soap scum, stains and dirt so the sealant is easier to clean and stays looking fresh. It cures in four hours and cleans up with soap and water. It comes in 10.1-ounce cartridges and 5.5-ounce squeeze tubes.
Adds BASF’s Haag, “Hybrid technology is definitely growing and leading to new product options and versatility. But not all hybrids are created equal. Each company has its own approach and formulation, and they don’t all work the same due to different movement or adhesion capabilities. Independent validation helps to confirm the performance of formulations from various manufacturers.
Key Contractor Benefits
Customers have key needs that go be- yond basic performance. “A common theme for most preferences in caulks and sealants is time savings without sacrificing quality,” says Jenny Johnson, group product director for caulks and sealants at DAP Products Inc. “That’s a very important factor, especially for the pros. They want to be able to finish the job faster but not worry about callbacks. Time savings comes in the form of faster time to paint, being able to expose it to water or rain faster, and being able to apply it in extreme temperatures.”
Adds OSI’s Sobonya, “Contractors have two needs. They need to be able to apply the sealant in all outdoor conditions and temperature extremes, so it will consistently and smoothly extrude from the tube any time. They also want high performance. They want the sealant to stick and flex to the evolving number of building materials available.”
Flex is a key ingredient, notes Sashco’s Kunard. “Stretch is important, but it also has to rebound. It’s a matter of elasticity rather than just flexibility. Caulking needs to expand and contract with temperature changes. Builders also have to consider good joint design. The size and depth of the joints matters, and large ones have to be filled with a backer rod first, not with more caulking, or the caulking won’t be able to handle the movement.”
Another key factor is the caulk’s ability to “gun out” smoothly, the industry’s term for applying caulk from a typical cartridge applicator. “Sealants that are easy to gun out and smooth into place are desired,” says DAP’s Johnson. “Some products, such as silicone and polyurethane, can be difficult to gun out, and some are stringy.”
Being able to gun out product at any temperature and work it easily are draws, Kunard agrees. “They want to tool it and smooth it and work with it in other ways. It has to be temperature stable, as contractors will leave it in the truck overnight and then find it’s not workable in the morning.”
Easy cleanup also is a big selling point. Many stronger adhesive products require solvents to clean hands and applicators, slowing down the process. “What kind of value you can get, how well will it work and how messy is it when applying it are key factors,” says Convenience’s Lowenstein. “Reusability has always been important when it comes to polyurethane foam.”
Through the Roof roofing sealant from Sashco is designed for use on common roofing fixtures and materials, including flashing, cutter, vents, ductwork, chimneys and shingles. It is available in
a variety of sizes, including a Clear Quart container that emphasizes its transparent nature. It will stick to wet or dry surfaces in temperatures from 0°F to 120°F.
Another popular option for heavy users is squeezable packages coming onto the market, typically called “sausage packs.” “Our Pro Packs, or sausage packs, are becoming popular because they can reduce waste and help those who work with them every day,” says BASF’s Haag. “They’re easier to handle and can improve efficiency with that larger size. They’re definitely popular with professional caulkers.”
OSI’s Sobonya agrees. “The cartridge shape and size is standard for residen- tial construction, and that isn’t chang- ing. In the light-commercial market, of buildings five stories or lower, there’s more use of sausage packs because they’re larger and more convenient.” OSI will be launching a line of such packs later this year, he adds.
Convenience Products has had success with its straw-applicator approach, saysLowenstein.“It’s easy on the hands as there’s little to no fatigue. Plus, there’s up to 10 times more product in our pack- aging versus traditional 10-ounce caulk tubes and three to four times as much product compared to 28-ounce tubes. Contractors can continue working on their project with fewer stops to reload.”
Color Options Expand
As formulations expand, so too do color options for matching exterior products. “We’ve introduced new colors to our lines as siding colors change,” says PPG’s Stypczysnki. “We work contin- ually with siding manufacturers to match their colors. Our goal is to create products that offer an exact match to premium siding colors. The more that is spent on the siding, the more the customer wants the caulk to match it perfectly.”
Some manufacturers focus on making products that accept paint readily, knowing that matching every color option is impossible. “Paintability is important,” says BASF’s Haag. “More customers want to paint the caulk to match the exterior coating. Rather than try to match coating colors, many contractors just paint the sealant. Color is increasingly important as customers try to customize their look, which has led to the demand for more caulks that can be easily painted, along with customizable pigment-pack options.”
But painting isn’t always the best choice, points out OSI’s Sobonya. “When the product is painted and it flexes, the paint can crack, so we recommend a color-matched caulk. That said, if the contractor does want to paint it, we offer products that can be painted within one hour of their application.”
Transparent caulk offers a growing alternative. “Crystal clear caulk has become popular,” says Sashco’s Kunard. BASF’s Haag agrees. “There’s been quite a bit of grow thin clear products for us since we made our packaging transparent to make it apparent that the caulk is clear.”
Adds OSI’s Sobonya, “We consider ‘transparent’ to be one of many color options. We see its use in specialty applications. We have more than 200 color options to match any type of siding or window used, and transparent is one of them.”
With new formulations appearing, the chemistry and environmental impact of products, especially worries about volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can raise questions. Most of those have been allayed by now, manufacturers agree. “VOCs are not as much of a concern as before, as there has been a focus on meeting tight standards,” says DAP’s Johnson. “Some regions are more focused on VOCs in terms of the odors that are given off. People are definitely looking for greener products that are considered safer.”
As new materials and techniques arrive in the market, caulk and seal- ant manufacturers are working to en- suretheproductsperformasexpected and continue to meet new demands. “Caulks continue to evolve to create additional value for builders and homeowners,” says Haag. “We want to do anything we can do to make the products last longer and adhere to more substrates while increasing longevity and ease of use. Our goal is to create value for the contractors, helping them to lower labor costs and make them safer by creating products that are easier to use in every application.”
Adds DAP’s Johnson, “We’re always looking at ways to innovate with new formulations and enhancements to existing technologies. Each technology has its own unique features, benefits and drawbacks, and we want to find the best combination that is going to help our users deliver the best results. Customers are looking to save time and make their projects easier. Our job is to help them accomplish that. We want to do whatever we can to eliminate any extra steps while delivering premium products that will last and help them be more successful and more satisfied with their job.”