What Is Painter’s Caulk? The Cheapest Sealant

There will probably come a time in the life of your home where you need to use some type of sealant. Whether you are making home repairs, replacing walls, or building a new house, you’ll need some type of caulk.

painters caulk

Painter’s caulk is a safe choice for small, interior projects. But it doesn’t work for all types of projects. Let’s take a look at what painter’s caulk is and other options so you can find out if it will work for you.

What Is Painter’s Caulk?

Painter’s caulk is a siliconized acrylic latex caulking compound that is used for interior projects and repairs. It can fill holes, adhere to most surfaces, and dries in an hour or less in most cases. It’s a great idea to keep some on hand.

This is easy because it’s one of the most affordable caulking compounds. Some caulk can cost twice as much, so painter’s caulk is a steal for small projects because you won’t have to spend much money to keep it.

Keep in mind that painter’s caulk is a type of caulk but isn’t to be used to refer to all types of caulk. Caulk itself is a sealer that can be made from many different materials but is usually applied via a caulking gun filled with a caulk cartridge. 

Painter's CaulkView in gallery

How To Use Painter’s Caulk

Painter’s caulk is one of the easiest types of sealants to use. You usually apply it with a reusable caulking gun for ultimate control. Cut the top of the nozzle the width of the bead you want to caulk. A bead is the width of the stream.

If you have different widths of gaps, then start by cutting the nozzle to accommodate the smallest gaps. Then cut a little larger for the next size, and so on. This way, you can use the same bottle for all of the gaps.

After you cut the nozzle, you can slowly and steadily apply the caulk. You can either use a damp finger or paper towel to gently smooth any rough edges or to wipe away any excess. It only takes five minutes to skin, so do this as you go. 

Also, put a nail or something similar in the tip of the caulk nozzle to keep it from starting to harden if you set it aside for a few minutes. But never leave it for more than a few minutes even if you “seal” the nozzle. 

When To Use Painter’s Caulk

Because painter’s caulk is so affordable, it’s hard not to buy it as your only caulk. If it works, then perfect! If not, then you didn’t waste too much money. But to be safe, here are some of the main reasons to use painter’s caulk.

  • Sealing Joints – sealing small joints is a great use for painter’s caulk. This includes the gaps between wall coverings or rafters. It creates an airtight seal that is easy to work with and a wonderful texture. 
  • Repairs – painter’s caulk is perfect for keeping on-hand for repairs. If it’s all you keep on hand you can even use it for uses that it isn’t ideal for. This is known as temporary caulk which can hold until you can get something more appropriate.
  • Door And Windows – sealing around doors and windows with painter’s caulk can work well. However, it’s best to only seal the vertical joints that won’t move much with painter’s caulk and save the moving joints for another sealant.
  • Adhesion – painter’s caulk can be a great adhesive. Although they will never be liquid nails, they can hold thin materials together and fill gaps that liquid nails may leave since it’s easier to paint over smoothly.
  • Painted Areas – speaking of painting, the painter’s caulk is named painter’s caulk for a reason. It is the easiest to use and most non-conspicuous type of caulk you can get. Meaning it looks great when painted over. 

When Is Painter’s Caulk A Bad Idea

When Is Painter's Caulk A Bad IdeaView in gallery

Painter’s caulk isn’t always a good idea. After all, it does have its downfalls. It may work well for small interior projects, but there are a few cases where it is less than ideal. Here are reasons not to use painter’s caulk.

  • Wet Areas – painter’s caulk is not great for high-moisture areas. Instead, find a bathroom caulk that is silicone-based as it will be resistant to water. Painter’s caulk is for dry areas that can be painted over.
  • Exteriors – simply put, painter’s caulk is for interior use only. Use silicone-based caulks for exteriors because it is more durable and most exterior caulks don’t need to be painted as they are more for practical uses.
  • Moving Joints – this includes horizontal joints above doors. Painter’s caulk isn’t very strong compared to other caulks and probably shouldn’t be used in joints or gaps that are susceptible to movement.
  • Wide Gaps – if the gap is wider than half an inch or so, they use a different type of filler. Painter’s caulk is for small gaps that make surfaces look smooth and aren’t noticeable when painted. Large gaps need something stronger. 

Related: The Best Spray Foam Insulation Kit – Most Useful Products For Homeowners and DIYers

Painter’s Caulk Vs. Silicone And Other Substitutes 

Narrowing down the different types of sealants and gap-fillers can help you decide which kind you need for your projects. Here are the most common types of sealants using the words you will see on cartridges and buckets. 


Caulk is a broad term used for many different types of sealers. Painter’s caulk is made from acrylic latex, making it good for small, dry projects inside. Because of its price, it’s popular for DIY repairs.

As for other caulks, most of the materials below can be used to make a caulk of some sort. But they can also be independent materials used in different forms to create great sealants in their own right.


The biggest difference between traditional caulk and silicone is that silicone is made to keep things watertight. While caulk is good at keeping things airtight, silicone is much better as a moisture barrier. 


Putty works more like soft cement than caulk. It is hand-moldable and is traditionally made from chalk and oil. Today, the formulas have changed, but the texture and purpose remain the same. For home repairs and wood filler.


Synthetic rubber and butyl caulks are very durable, resistant to mold/mildew, and can stretch better than any other type of caulk or sealant. Rubber is a very versatile and useful type of sealant wiht a working memory.

Spray Foam

Spray foams are a common type of sealant that works amazingly well for larger gaps to prevent air from flowing through. They don’t prevent water however and do expand as tehy cure so they are harder to use. 

Spray foam can be difficult to fully remove so keep in mind that it is permanent. Caulk on the other hand can be removed if done right. Here’s a guide on how to remove caulk

Painter’s Caulk FAQs

There are always questions to be asked about different types of construction materials. Knowledge is key to creating a masterpiece and not making many mistakes. Here are the most frequently asked questions about caulk. 

How Much Does Caulk Cost?

You can get a caulk for anywhere from $3 to $15 a bottle, depending on the type of caulk you get. But on average, you can expect to pay about 15 cents per linear foot. This means you measure the length of each area you need to caulk and times it by 15. 

Then, take that number and divide it by 60. That’s how much you’ll spend on caulk for an average-priced cartridge. So if you measure your 10×10 room and need to caulk the edge of it, then you will need 40 feet of caulk.

So take 15 times 40 which is 600. Divide that by 60 and you have 10. So you would pay around $10 for most caulk for that room’s perimeter. This formula isn’t guaranteed, but it can give you a good estimate. 

What If The Caulk Doesn’t Adhere?

If the caulk you apply keeps sliding or falling off, then it’s probably because of dust, dirt, or debris on the surface. Start over, but before you begin caulking, wash the surface well, then allow it to dry. Then try again. 

What Temperature Is Good For Caulk?

As long as it’s not freezing or extremely humid, the caulk can be applied. Anything below 40-degrees isn’t ideal and if it’s very humid, it won’t set right. So make sure it’s a decent temperature and you have a fan blowing if it’s humid. 

How Long Does It Take To Dry?

Most caulks will dry in less than an hour. Though there are a few caulks that can take up to 24-hours to dry. This is rare, so check the label on the cartridge to make sure. Don’t use the area until it is completely dry. 

Can Caulk Go Bad?

Though it won’t spoil, per se, it does harden and become unusable after a little bit. If you leave an open container out overnight, it will probably be ruined by morning. So don’t open it until you’re ready to use it.