Caulking a Window: What You Need to Know

To caulk a window, choose the right caulk, wait for the right conditions, and remove any old caulk before applying new sealant, allowing 24 hours to dry.
Written by Andrew Biro
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Caulking your windows helps keep the inside of your home protected from the elements. Learning how to seal windows yourself is a good skill to have and can save you both time and money—as long as it’s done correctly.
An improperly caulked window can let in air and moisture leaks, resulting in higher electric bills, mold growth, and even potential water damage to your home. Caulking right the first time will help prevent future headaches down the line.
Your first time caulking a window can be tricky, but with a little practice and the proper know-how, you’ll be able to seal your windows in no time at all. That’s why home and
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Picking the right caulk 

Before heading to your local home improvement store, it’s best to know what types of caulk you’ll need—you have many choices, and trying to figure it out on the spot can be daunting. 
Consider the location of the window you’ll be caulking and then decide what material of caulk will work best. Here are some of your options: 

Silicone or latex?

Caulk is usually made out of one of two materials: silicone or latex. Both have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to sealing windows.
  • Silicone caulk is the most common when it comes to windows, as it is very flexible and will expand and contract with your home. Silicone requires less maintenance and will not crack over time, but it is harder to work with and cannot be painted over.
  • Latex caulk, on the other hand, is much easier to apply and remove and can be painted over when it dries. The trade-off is that latex does not last as long and will start to crack over time.
Siliconized-latex caulk also exists. As the name implies, it’s a combination of the two materials—meaning it’s easy to apply like latex but also has silicone’s durability.

Window location

The location of your window also dictates what conditions your caulk must be able to withstand.
  • Interior windows should be sealed with a caulk that does not emit toxic fumes and can be painted over. An interior latex-based caulk is your best bet.
  • Exterior windows are subject to the elements, including water, temperature fluctuations, and harsh sunlight. Use a caulk that is explicitly designed for exterior surfaces.
  • Bathroom windows tend to experience high levels of humidity on the inward-facing side, so you’ll need to use an interior caulk that is water- and mold-resistant.
Key Takeaway Keep in mind the location of the window and any conditions it may be subjected to when choosing the material and properties of your caulk.

Deciding when to caulk

Once you’ve purchased the caulk you need, pick a time to start sealing your windows. For the most part, interior caulking can be done whenever, though bathroom windows should be dry and free of condensation before applying sealant. 
Exterior windows are more finicky. You will need to pick a day that is dry and mild, with high temperatures not exceeding 90 degrees and lows not dropping beneath 40. 
Wet or damp conditions will not allow the caulk to adhere properly, and the forecast should not call for precipitation in the days following as the caulk will not dry correctly. 

Prepping the window

You will have to prep the windows before adding new caulk. Remove any old caulk using a putty knife or razor blade. A heat gun and/or caulk remover can help make the old sealant easier to remove. 
Never put new caulk right over the old caulk, as it will weaken its sealing capabilities.
After any old caulk has been removed, clean the surface you’ll be applying caulk to. This can be done with a damp rag or sponge, followed by a quick drying and final cleaning with a bristle brush. This ensures there dirt and debris will not interfere with applying the new caulk.

Caulking the window

Once the window is prepped, follow these five easy steps to caulk your window:
  • Cut the nozzle: cut the tip of your caulk cartridge at a 45° angle. Most nozzles have markings on them that indicate where to cut for different caulk line sizes.
  • Caulk the window: hold the nozzle parallel to where you’re caulking and apply 2-3 foot lines of caulk at a time, keeping even pressure the whole way.
  • Smooth the bead: as you apply caulk, take care to smooth the bead down with your finger or flat spatula. This helps the caulk adhere better.
  • Clean: if you make any messes when caulking, clean them up immediately, as dried caulk is hard to remove. 
  • Let it dry: once the caulking is done, leave it to dry for the next 24 hours. Do not touch the caulk during this time to avoid leaving indents.

Does home insurance cover window replacements?

Unless your window is damaged by one of the
named perils
listed in your homeowners policy, home insurance will not cover the cost of its replacement. 
This means you will have to pay out of pocket to replace drafty or ill-fitting windows, but can rely on your homeowners plan to replace windows damaged by hail, wind, theft, and other recognized perils.

How to find cheap homeowners insurance

Make sure you have a protective home insurance policy to protect yourself financially—and know that good coverage doesn’t have to break the bank.
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To remove old caulk from your windows, use a heat gun or caulk remover solution—both of which can be found at your local hardware store—to help break down the sealant. After it has been loosened, old caulking can be slowly scraped away with a palette knife or razor blade.
To caulk an exterior window, purchase exterior caulk and wait for a day that is dry and mild. Remove any old caulk and clean the surface before applying the new. Cut your nozzle to the correct length and begin laying down a line of caulk, holding the tube parallel to the area you’re caulking, keeping even pressure. 
Clean up any messes as they happen and smooth the bead of caulk down as you go. Let it dry over the next couple of days.
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