Caulking and Wet-Sealing, What’s the Difference

Caulking and Wet-Sealing, What’s the Difference

As building owners, property managers, maintenance managers and contractors, we need to understand the importance of weather-proofing a building and what the best options are for our particular buildings. Hence, we will share some of our expertise to assist you in this endeavor.

Caulking is considered the application of any type of sealant, whether it be urethane, silicone, latex, etc., used to seal joints of adjacent substrates or surfaces of any types of materials similar or dissimilar. Wet-sealing means specifically using a “wet” silicone sealant to “wet-seal” adjacent joints of similar or dissimilar types of materials.

Traditionally, most applications where silicone is used include glass to frame and frame to frame joints on curtain walls, storefronts, windows, skylights, etc. This is still the case today, but silicones have rapidly in the last decade become the preferred choice of many contractors, architects, building owners and managers for re-caulking or wet-sealing existing glass systems, entry ways, masonry (including stucco and exterior insulated finish systems (EFIS)) and concrete vertical and horizontal expansion and control joints.

The primary reason for this is that silicone does not break down as quickly as urethane sealants from UV rays and have a greater movement capability (elasticity) that allows better, longer lasting seals not subject to cohesion and adhesion failure as quickly as urethane and thus less replacement costs in the long run due to less maintenance and they come with twenty (20) year manufacturer’s material warranties from GE and Dow Corning among others. The down side is that it is more costly for the material (and you do pay for the warranty as well!) and it takes more labor to properly prepare the joints being re-sealed when opting for silicone in lieu of urethane sealants since they are incompatible materials, for they do not bond together. There are some hybrids on the market though that still need to establish a long-term proven track record that may work with either silicone or urethane but I am not very comfortable, yet, using them for most applications.

So, we hope this brief overview helps you in your profession. Next time you have a re-caulking and/or wet-sealing project and/or leaks are upsetting your tenants and jeopardizing a renewal lease agreement or you simply need assistance in planning, budgeting, or inspecting, chasing, and stopping leaks contact the experts, Utmost Renovations, and we will be glad to assist you promptly.

Mark Huffer, is President of Utmost Consulting and Utmost Renovations. He is a BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) Instructor on building envelopes. Mark is a leading authority on Building Restoration and Historic Preservation.

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