Caulk: Its History and Many Uses Around the Home
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Caulk: Its History and Many Uses Around the Home

Home and construction uses for caulk. A brief history of caulk.

Have you ever painted a room or any other part of your home? Have you ever done any woodwork? How about tile, roofing or gutter work? If so you had your hands on some caulk a time or two. Have you ever wondered where or how it was invented? I did a quick Google search and found that Sir Walter Raleigh discovered what is now known as Pitch Lake on the island of Trinidad in 1498. He used the pitch found there to seal his ships. I remember as a child in elementary school being taught that dugout canoes, used by early Americans were sealed with amber or pitch. So I would say that prior to modern day caulk, as we know it, pitch or amber were the way to go when it came to sealing cracks. Around the mid 1500's sealing wax was invented and was mainly used to seal letters but was also used in canning, the sealing of kegs and a variety of other things. I suppose lead could have been considered a type of caulk as well. Because of it's pliable nature and low melting point it also was used in canning and of course for smelting pipefittings together in the plumbing industry.

But when trying to get a grip on where modern caulk came from, as we know it... You know... the ten-inch tubular cartridge type that we find in every hardware or home supply store. I found myself on the DAP website. DAP's company page explains that in 1865 Mr. Robert Dicks and his partner Elmer Wiggin were producing sealing wax for food canning out of Mr. Dick's garage. It was after Mr. Dick's death in the early 1900's that his son John began producing putty and caulk in large quantities, but it wasn't until the 1950's that caulk was introduced in disposable cartridges like the ones we see today.

Since the "50's” caulk has come a long way. In 1964 DAP developed latex caulk and then acrylic latex caulk. These were advances that made the caulk softer or more pliable to work with and once hardened, easy to paint. Then in 1980 further advances in silicone technology followed these advances. Today virtually every crack or hole found around the home or in the building industry is filled with some type of caulk. There is latex painters caulk, silicone caulk, window and door caulk, bathroom caulk, roofing caulk, and window glazing in caulk tubes. There is even caulk for concrete and asphalt. Being in the seamless gutter business, I use caulk just about every day. The type I use is Geocel 2200. Geocel is a tri-polymer narrow seam sealer used mainly on aluminum products but its uses around the home are too many to list. Have you had any new countertops installed lately? If so you'll find that colored caulk is becoming very popular around the kitchen these days. It matches virtually every countertop nicely. It is important to remember that caulk is really made for smaller holes and cracks. When applied to cracks or holes larger than a quarter of an inch the caulk will undergo shrinkage or cracking and it may not harden properly. When applied to a large vertical crack it may also drip or sag. It is recommended that you use another type of solid filler such as wood, plastic or steel to fill the bulk of the void and then to finish with a thinner layer of caulk. Also, it takes a steady hand to apply caulk properly. If you squeeze your caulk gun too firmly you will most certainly have a mess on your hands. It takes a steady hand with constant movement and just the right amount of pressure on your caulk gun to lay the perfect bead. This will come in time with the right amount of practice.

The point is that whether you are a handy man doing minor repairs or a builder in charge of a major erection you cannot deny the many uses of caulk and the contributions it's made to the home and building industry. 

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Comments (5)

You know, Paul, I have used this stuff ever since I was old enough to hold a putty knife or caulking gun, but I never gave its history a thought until reading this article. Very interesting.

Any idea how to remove mold that grows on the calk between bathroom tiles? Apart from scraping it all out and starting again?

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Petal, Try spraying down the area with diluted chlorine bleach and then covering the area with papertowels. Leave the towels stuck to the moldy areas and wet them down with the chlorine solution every half hour for 4-5 hrs and then wipe away residue.

Thanks I'll try that.

thanks for the very useful information.