Are Baseboards Supposed to Be Caulked?

I get asked a lot if it is important or not to calk a home’s baseboards. Many do it yourself home owners often hope to save time by being able to skip this step.

So are baseboards supposed to be caulked? Yes, there are three main benefits of caulking baseboards in your home. The first is for the aesthetic appeal, it creates a smoother transition between surfaces. And the second is to protect against possible water damage. The third is because it has been shown to help protect against insect infestations.

Caulking baseboards entails applying a sealant along the edges of the floor to seal the gaps between the floor and baseboard or the spaces wall and the baseboard. There are two significant reasons for caulking baseboards.

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1. Aesthetic appeal

Sealing the spaces between the baseboard and the floor or the wall enhances the cosmetic appearance of a home. Caulk seals the gaps and develops a smoother transition between surfaces, which improves the appeal of a house. Unsealed spaces appear unsightly and often indicate poor installation.

2. To protect against water damage

Occasionally, water can sip into the spaces between the floor and the baseboards. The water can cause the baseboard to rot or harbor mold. Water can freeze between the baseboards and the floor or wall and cause damages to the home. Caulk serves as a sealant that prevents spillage of water (mainly from wiping of the floor) from getting below the baseboard to cause it to expand or rot.

3. To protect against insect infestation.

Having cracks in baseboards allows insects like cock roaches, ants and spiders to come into a home. Also bed bugs live in crack in baseboards. If you don’t give insects a way to get in, or any places to hide, you will have less residing in your home.

Where and How to Apply Caulk to Baseboards

At the top of the baseboard

You apply this on the top ridge of the board where the board touches the wall. The caulk addresses the problem where the baseboard does not contact the wall close enough. Caulk on the top of the baseboard is often purely cosmetic, concealing the small gaps between the wall and the board to give a nice finish.

At the bottom of the baseboard

You apply this along the floor line where the baseboard meets the tiles. As time elapses, gaps start developing under the baseball. Caulking along the floor prevents the baseboard from frequently getting wet from water spillage.

Seal the entry for insects

Open gaps and crevices along the baseboards form entry routes for insects such as ants. Caulking the cracks and spaces is easy, cheap and a durable than using sprays and powders to protect against home invasion by bugs. Caulking is a onetime expenditure and works better than the repeated pest control treatments. The unsealed spaces also provide hideout places for insects within the house.

Others of the contrary opinion think that caulking baseboard is ineffective. Building structures continually shift due expansion and contraction as well as floor settling in the first few years after construction. These movements can break, cause cracks on the caulk or cause the baseboards to retract from the wall. The result is often unsightly. Thus, if you caulk the baseboards, you will probably re-caulk them for the entire time you occupy the house. However, the benefits of caulking the baseboards outweigh not doing it.

Wood flexes and changes position depending on temperature and humidity. Moist areas of the house will have their baseboards expand due to high humidity. Caulk is a flexible material that allows the wood to move without breaking the seal. Thus it is advisable to caulk the top and bottom of the baseboards with the right caulk that will compress and stretch according to the movements of the baseboard.

Use the appropriate type of caulk

There are various types of caulks in the market. The different kinds of caulk formulation have varying strengths and weaknesses. The variation makes some type suitable for certain tasks than others.

Latex Caulk

This caulk dries within a short time and expands to fill cracks better. Latex is ideal for indoors because of low odor and is also easy to clean with water. Latex caulk comes in an array of colors. When dry you can completely conceal latex caulk using paint. Latex is however not durable and tends to wear out when exposed to varying temperatures, wear, and severe weather.

Acrylic Latex Caulk

This caulk is ideal for long-term projects. The formulation consists of a combination of latex and acrylic resins. This caulk offers the benefits of latex caulk but with some improvements. The inclusion of acrylic improves the caulk’s durability and flexibility. It is thus ideal for indoor environments with a lot of wear and tear.

Siliconized Acrylic Latex Caulk

This caulk is ideal for tough jobs and can withstand extreme temperatures. Acrylic latex caulk is sturdy and remains intact on exposure to varying temperatures, severe weather, and heavy wear. It is the best when it comes to durability. The downside is that you cannot pain the caulk and you will have to condone the caulk’s clear appearance. You will also find it difficult to clean it up using water. This implies that it is difficult to clean spills that may occur during the application of acrylic latex caulk.

Never combine different kinds of caulk

The idea of combining different types of caulk to improve caulk’s properties is misleading. The combination will just turn out defective. Manufacturers formulate each caulk to work on its own. Combining the different caulks may yield a product that will not adhere to the surface or offer any protection. Use only one type of caulk.

Use a wet rag

Use a damp cloth then wipe with your finger to smoothen the bead of the caulking. Smoothen the caulk immediately. If you delay, the caulk will get lumpy, start to skin over and difficult to manipulate.

Always prepare your working area

The initial step in preparing your work area is to clean the baseboards and the floor. Any particles, dust, grease or grime can incorporate into the caulk and make it unsightly. Important to note is that the dirt can hamper the capability of the caulk to adhere to the surface on which you want it to stick. Then eliminate obstructions. Caulking is a challenging task, and you do not want any frustrations. You do not want to redo the job.

Remove furniture and other obstacles from your working area. Keep children and pets away from your working space. As part of the preparation, have water and several rags. You may also need a household cleaner within quick reach. Mistakes occur during caulking. When they happen, you can use water and your rags to rectify them. You can use the rags as knee pads for comfort. Household cleaners are essential especially when working with silicone based caulks. Water alone cannot adequately clean the caulk.

Ricky Kesler

Ricky Kesler has been an avid DIYer for years. Recently he's really taken to home security, but he has a lot of experience with all sorts of projects from Plumbing to Electrical and Framing to Tiling.

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