In Depth: Caulks, Sealants & Adhesives
Dealer knowledge is key to helping buyers match up building materials with the right caulk, sealant, or adhesive.
The caulk, sealant, and adhesive aisle at any lumberyard may be one of the most overwhelming— rows and rows of colors, formulations, and applications. It’s also a category that, despite its less flashy nature, is ever evolving with new ingredients and innovations.
To best assist customers, whether pros or consumers, it’s imperative that dealers gain a deep understanding of the caulks, sealants, and adhesives they sell—and those that match up with the rest of their inventory—and can help them make the right choices for each job and task.
Understanding the Differences
Though often lumped together, caulks, sealants, and adhesives each have their own properties and roles.
Adhesives are designed to bind two things together, explains Mark Hembree, Senior Marketing Manager for adhesives and sealants for PPG Architectural Coatings, such as putting up paneling or tub surrounds.
Caulks and sealants are both intended to fill gaps, he says, but perform differently. Sealants have some flexibility and can expand and contract, ideal for applications where it needs to move with the substrate. Most sealants also have waterproofing in them, he notes, while not all caulks do.
“A common misconception is thinking all caulks and sealants are the same or can be used for any application,” says Jenny Johnson, Group Product Director for caulks and sealants at DAP Products. “That’s not true as there are many different grades and classes of caulks and sealants. It’s best to use a sealant specifically formulated for the application, such as a window, door, and siding sealant. You don’t want to use a painter’s grade caulk for this type of job as it’s not designed to stand up to the demanding application. Typically, the best product for the job is a higher-grade formula specifically for that application. These sealants can be more expensive, but will deliver better long-term results.”
DAP Extreme Stretch, a recent introduction from the company, is a premium elastomeric urethanized sealant that offers superior durability and adhesion and superior flexibility to prevent cracking by filling gaps up to 2″ wide.
One of the biggest influences in the development of new caulks, sealants, and adhesives are the changes in the materials they are created to work with. As innovations in siding, subflooring, and other categories emerge, caulk/ sealant/adhesive manufacturers must adapt their formulas or develop new ones that are compatible and perform as expected.
Building material manufacturers “continue to innovate in those areas, so the need for an adhesive or a sealant to be able to adhere to that substrate or to what it’s coming in contact with is very important,” says Hembree. “Our focus has always been on the development of adhesives and sealants that will work as new building materials and surfaces are developed.”
One material trend Hembree’s team is responding to is the proliferation of more coated materials, such as siding, that provide weather protection or color fastness.
Huber Engineered Woods took matters into its own hands, developing an adhesive for its own AdvanTech subflooring. Huber’s research indicated that squeezable adhesives are sometimes a challenge because they may be difficult to gun in the cold, so they developed a foam adhesive that uses a pressurized can to “release” the adhesive rather than it having to be forced out by the user’s strength. It also goes eight times farther than traditional adhesives, says AdvanTech Product Director Mike Pyle, bonds to wet and frozen lumber, and offers a consistent flow for a cleaner appearance.
“When we go out and talk to builders and dealers, we’re not just there to sell them a new glue, we’re there to sell them a whole system,” Pyle notes. “Builders have enough to worry about. If you can take one less pain point off their plate, there’s a real value to that.”
Similarly, Smart Vent Products recently introduced a product specifically for its foundation flood venting systems. A hybrid product, HurriBond adhesive/caulk is suitable for indoor and outdoor use, and is sandable, paintable, and fast-curing.
The efforts of caulk/sealant/adhesive manufacturers to complement building materials includes color coordination, an important feature for applications such as siding, windows, and roofing. In many cases, manufacturers’ R&D teams work directly with their building material counterparts to develop hues that match or complement specific brands and product lines. As such, it’s easy for dealers to stock the colors that coordinate with the building materials they sell.
Clear and paintable/stainable options can supplement applications where a matching color may not be available.