DIY is a fun way to get involved in home building projects in Metro Detroit. DIY is a grey area in plumbing. Many plumbing projects are best left to the professionals. Of course, there are some which can be tackled efficiently with the right tools and know-how.
At Motor City Plumbing & Drain, we receive plenty of questions about caulk and plumber’s putty. They seem straightforward but are often used improperly. Not sure if you’re using putty and caulk, right? Check this out.
What is Plumber’s Putty?
Plumber’s putty is a malleable oil-based compound with a texture like clay. Molding the putty to plumbing surfaces creates a watertight seal. Plumber’s putty is often used in bathroom and kitchen fixtures, such as:
- Shower heads
- Sink faucets
- Bathtub drains
- Kitchen sink basket strainers
After applying the putty, wipe off external excess to make the seal invisible. Plumber’s putty stays soft after application.
What is Caulk?
Caulk is another plumbing material made from latex and a mix of acrylic ingredients. Caulk seals bathroom seams like the space where your shower meets the wall or toilet meets the floor. It’s also used in external settings to weatherproof homes.
After drying, caulk remains firm, like dried glue. It creates a strong but flexible seal against water.
The seals in your bathroom, and other home zones with plumbing, should be re-caulked once every 5-years. After this, the seal begins to break down. If water gets into these seams, it could cause mold, mildew, or damage to your walls.
Common Misconceptions About Putty
Plumbers use putty so often that we sometimes forget it isn’t a common tool for homeowners. This leads to some confusion about where and when to use it, including:
- Putty is a Fix-All: Plumber’s putty is sometimes called “plumber’s duct tape” and is considered a fix-all. This isn’t so. It’s a very specific tool used to protect plumbing seals from water.
- Putty Works on Any Surface: This putty doesn’t work to seal pipes or joints the way Teflon tape or PVC primer does.
- Putty is the Same as Caulk: The two mediums aren’t interchangeable. Using putty for caulk won’t protect seams in your bathroom the way caulk will. It could result in a mess.
- Putty Works on Grout: Speaking of messes, the one other area putty gets confused is grout repair. The oil base in your plumber’s putty will stain porous surfaces. Smearing it on granite or marble will be a big mess.
Common Misconceptions About Caulk
At Motor City Plumbing & Drain, we see our share of caulking mishaps. Knowing the right and wrong way to use caulk will help you avoid these.
- Caulk Can Be Used Anywhere: Caulk seals plumbing to walls to reduce leaks and water damage. It isn’t meant to be used on pressurized fixtures or pipes.
- No Need to Clean Before Caulking: One of the worst problems homeowners experience during caulk DIY is peeling. The misconception here is that the surface doesn’t need to be washed and dried before caulking. Caulk won’t stick to wet or dusty surfaces.
- You Can Get it Wet Right Away: Caulk isn’t usable right away. After applying, it takes 24 hours to completely cure before it can get wet.
- Caulk Remains Malleable: Caulk stiffens when it dries, although it doesn’t become hard and brittle. It can’t be removed and reapplied.
When to Toss the Putty
Even when you’re sure a project calls for plumber’s putty, there are instances where it shouldn’t be used. Putty should remain malleable throughout its life. To use it, plumbers roll the putty between our fingers to shape it. If you begin rolling the putty and it flakes or cracks, toss it out.
Using old putty simply won’t work. Not only will it be a frustrating and fruitless experience, but if it does somehow mold to a flange, it’s sure to break off.
The good news is it takes a long time for putty to dry out. You’ve got about 2-years on the shelf after opening it before putty will harden.
Contact Motor City Plumbing & Drain to Learn More
We’ve been working closely with home and business owners in Metro Detroit for years. It’s important to us that our clients understand the importance of properly maintained plumbing fixtures.