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Factors to Consider When Buying a Caulk Gun

Caulk Gun in Concrete
As with any investment, a little pre-purchase planning can yield a tool that becomes your go-to problem solving device. The factors to consider when buying a caulk gun are easy to understand and useful when looking at the many options manufacturers now provide.

Caulking guns are found in factories, auto repair shops, and even in some food processing plants. But most of their applications involve construction. By reviewing these factors with your White Cap professional, you can pick out the best caulking gun for each application.

What Work Do You Do?

Contractors use caulking guns to install air barriers, roof flashings, windows, and curtain walls. Some specialized contractors use caulking guns to chink log homes, secure segmental retaining walls, and repair concrete cracks. And now masons are speeding up their work by using caulking guns for grouting, point of brick, and masonry.

Each of these applications can be made more efficient by a properly matched caulking gun.


What Material Will You Be Placing?

Contractors use caulking guns to place caulks, sealants, and adhesives. And while these common construction materials may be packaged in similar containers, they are very different. Take a look at your list of materials and try to determine what the most prevalent products are on your projects. There may be physical variations between products that will influence your caulk gun purchase decision.

For starters, construction materials vary in their formulations and can affect the caulking gun’s thrust requirements during placement. These formulations are often comprised of silicone, acrylic, latex, epoxy, urethane, and even cementitious materials.

Construction material categories also include specialty products designed for adhesive, asphaltic, concrete, roofing, and firestop applications. A caulking gun can be configured to efficiently place these and other specialty materials.

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How Stiff is Your Material When it Comes Out of the Caulk Gun?

Viscosity is the measurement that describes a fluid’s resistance to flow. If a material is slow to move, it has a high viscosity. A low viscosity material means it’s thinner and flows easily.

There are some general guidelines when trying to estimate a construction material’s viscosity. For example, if a material’s label says it is best used for bathrooms, kitchens, inside molding and trim, outside windows, and siding, the material is a high viscosity. If the label says the caulk is for masonry, roofs, shingles, cracks in concrete, or is a construction adhesive, then assume it is low viscosity.

Some caulking manufacturers offer a useful comparison of caulking guns to the viscosity of material they best dispense. They typically classify a material’s viscosity based on formulations in four levels: low, medium, high, and very high, and suggest the proper tool for that material.

How much effort do you need to make your bead?

Matching the caulking gun’s power to push out a construction material’s viscosity is probably the most important aspect of your caulking gun’s selection process. You want to purchase a tool that provides a clean bead on the substrate without straining your hand muscles.

Caulking gun manufacturers refer to a gun’s needed effort as the caulking gun’s thrust ratio. The higher the thrust ratio, the more powerful the gun. Caulking gun thrust ratios can range from a ratio 6:1 up to 26:1. A 6:1 ratio is fine for latex caulks, but adhesives, butyl and silicone caulks have a higher viscosity and require at least a 10:1 thrust ratio for proper application. Your best choice for a common caulking is a 12:1 ratio.

caulk gun nozzle

Do You Want a Drip or Non-Drip Tool?

Contractors hate waste, thus one of the most frustrating aspects of using a caulking gun is dealing with the run-on that occurs from the nozzle when completing a bead. There can be several factors that contribute to this problem but sometimes it’s just the nature of the material’s physical properties such as viscosity, compressibility, and temperature.

In most situations, you can manage the mess by adjusting the pressure on the recoil plate with your thumb. Also, you can help reduce this drip by quickly removing the tube sausage or releasing the pressure when the bead is completed. 

If you want to try to eliminate waste, many manufacturers offer a dripless caulk gun. These units are designed to automatically pull back the plunger when the gun’s trigger is released. While it is a bit more costly, this design does a pretty good job of stopping the material flow. A caulking gun with a full-time non-drip feature is, by design, inefficient. The first 1/4 to 1/3 of each trigger stroke is wasted motion bringing the ejector or piston back into contact with the material and repressurizing it before any new material flows out the nozzle.

Remember That the Caulking Gun is the Heart of a System

With a little preplanning, you can easily zero in on the right caulking gun for most tasks you and your teams do. Make sure you reach out to your White Cap professional to help you. A key part of a successful caulking gun purchase is to consider which accessories and options you need to implement the best caulk gun system for each project.
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