Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Caulk and Silicone

Sealants have been used in construction for millennia. Prehistoric people used natural materials such as earth, loam, mud, and reeds to seal the interiors of their homes. Sealants were first manufactured in the 1920s in the form of butyl, acryl, and silicone polymers. And by the 1960s synthetic-polymer based sealants started gaining traction in the construction scene. Sealants have changed a lot over years but the purpose remains the same – to seal the joints and gaps between two or more materials to prevent fluids from passing through the joints or openings. In the construction world, sealant is often synonymous with caulking which also serves the same purpose, but they are quite different.

The main role of a sealant is to prevent the passage of air and water into openings or joints to accommodate differential movement. They function as an integral component in protecting buildings.  You can make your home more energy-efficient by keeping air leakage to a minimum as possible. This is where caulking comes to the picture. Caulking is a barrier to prevent the passage of air, water, moisture, smoke, and dust. The main difference between a caulk and a sealant is the grade of material. The type of sealant used on a home project is determined by many factors including environmental conditions. Sealants are commonly made from silicone to seal the areas that are prone to contraction and expansion.


What is Caulk?

Every house has gaps and cracks through which outdoor air enters and indoor air escapes. Caulk is basically a sealing agent used to prevent the passage of water and air into joints or openings in your house. Caulking keeps the water from passing through the joints. Caulking gun is mostly used to apply caulking on the surfaces that need to be waterproofed. The gun is loaded with a cartridge of a toothpaste-like caulking compound which can be squeezed out after you press the trigger. The paste then can be applied carefully between the surfaces.


What is Silicone?

Silicone is one of the most commonly used sealants used in areas that are prone to expansion and contraction. It acts like a barrier to prevent the passage of air and water, mostly for bath seals and between the tiles. Unlike caulk, you cannot paint over silicone based sealants. Silicone sealants have excellent joint movement capabilities and they are more flexible so they can be applied on almost any surface you want both indoors and outdoors. Silicone sealants are the first choice of sealant in high-rise buildings.


Difference between Caulk and Silicone

  1. Basics of Caulk Vs. Silicone

Caulk is a filler and sealant used in building work and repairs to seal gap or seam to prevent the passage of air and water between two or more materials. It makes your home watertight and airtight to prevent the passage of air, water, dust, smoke, and moisture. Caulks can be applied to seal cracks in painting applications. Silicone is a type of sealant used mainly to bind surfaces such as metal, glass, and plastic together. As silicone sealants are more flexible, they are mostly used for DIY jobs to seal out water from all kinds of surfaces.

  1. Use of Caulk Vs. Silicone

Caulk dries quicker than silicone and it shows good resistance to weathering, but it’s less tolerant to movement than silicone based sealants. Caulking is a sealant but is fairly rigid when dry, which makes it ideal for sealing gaps or seams in areas with minimal contraction and expansion. Caulk makes your surface airtight and watertight. Silicone sealants, on the other hand, remain flexible for years which make them ideal for areas that are prone to expansion and contraction. Silicone has strong binding properties that can be applied to almost any surface both indoors and outdoors.

  1. Types of Caulk Vs. Silicone

There are many types of caulks used based on the area they are applied upon such as bathroom, kitchen, windows, roof, interior, and exterior. Some of the most commonly used types of caulks are acrylic latex caulk, vinyl latex caulk, butyl rubber, pure silicone, and so on. Acrylic is the least expensive and the most common type of caulk used to seal gaps in exterior sliding, and any paint can be applied over it. Silicone caulk is used as a basic sealant used to prevent passage of water and air. The most common types of silicone sealants are acetoxy cure, oxime cure, and alcoxy cure. Acetoxy cure is ideal for internal uses, whereas oxime and alcoxy are good for external applications.

  1. Applications of Caulk Vs. Silicone

Caulking is used to seal construction cracks in the body of the house, mainly between window frames and sliding. Caulking is commonly applied with a caulking gun that is loaded with cartridge of caulking compound. A toothpaste-like compound is squeezed out when the trigger is pressed and then carefully applied on the areas to be fixed. Oil-based compounds are common. Silicone sealants are the preferred choice for use in tall standing buildings and highway joints because of their extensive movement capability. It also makes a great sealing agent to seal the gaps between tiles, baths, sinks, bathroom fittings, and almost anywhere where waterproofing is needed.

Caulk vs. Silicone: Comparison Chart


Summary of Caulk Vs. Silicone

Both basically serve the same purpose – to keep the body of the house airtight and watertight – but there is more to caulk and silicone sealants than meets the eye. Because every house has gaps and cracks through which outdoor air enters and indoor air escapes which eventually causes a substantial loss of heated air in wintertime. Caulking is the basic mean to reduce this loss. If properly applied, it can reduce the air exchange rate by almost fifty percent. Silicone based sealants keep your home watertight by keeping the water from seeping in. It can be used both indoors and outdoors to seal joints between surfaces.

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References :

[0]Gehring, Abigail. Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills. NYC: Skyhorse Publishing, 2008. Print

[1]Panek, Julian and John Phillip Cook. Construction Sealants and Adhesives. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 1991. Print

[2]Mittal, K.L., and A. Pizzi. Handbook of Sealant Technology. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2009. Print

[3]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ephidryn/3091200674

[4]Image credit: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=146256&picture=silicone-mold-with-cake-batter

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