Caulking the Backsplash Joint

Pros describe how to apply a neat, clean bead of caulk. June 16, 2005

How do you get the caulking to look good where the backsplash, end splash and countertop come together? When I caulk there, it just never looks right.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor R:
If the splashes fit the top and one another as tightly as they should, almost no caulk should be visible. I like to first glue the backsplash with fat ovals each foot, slap it home, then pull it off to let the glue flash off for a good tack. Strings of glue messing up the counter can be avoided by rocking out the top edge and lifting vertically about a foot. Then roll the splash over backwards and set it down onto its top edge. Run a fat bead of clear caulk on the counter where the splash will be set. If I put it on the splash, I always smear it around. Replace the splash, apply whatever pressure method you like, and repeat with the end splash. Now you can scrape up the wet squeezeout and wipe, or wait until cured and cut it with a putty knife. The box corners should clean out completely. I like to use a razor or chisel with a light hand.

From contributor J:
We use color caulk and the person I work for likes to see a bead of caulk, but it is hard to get the inside corners to look right.

From contributor H:
Here's a couple of techniques. When applying with the gun, stand the tip up almost perpendicular with the joint. In other words, don't lay the tip back at an angle. You don't want caulk squeezing out the sides. Balance your pressure on the trigger with your movement and you should not even have to touch it. You use the tip to almost scrape the caulk in place. Keep the tip perfectly clean. If caulk starts squeezing out around the tip, stop and clean it. You can usually start and stop anywhere without it showing, if you are laying down a nice fine line. Wait for the opposite corners to set before caulking up the backsplash - don't try to do it all at once. You can also use masking tape for difficult areas. Takes some time, but after the caulk has set, you peel the tape for a clean line. You get the best job, however, just applying it correctly. There are some beading tools for heavier applications, but they are hard to find. A tight convex joint is better in kitchens, anyway.

From contributor P:
Assuming that you're already tooling the caulk (pressing the caulk into the seam with a wet finger), use a piece of mica (2"X 2") to scrape the excess to leave a nice joint. Simply belt sand each corner to a slightly different radius, and use which side fits the application best, wiping the tool clean with a wet rag often.

From contributor L:
After I set the top in place and get it positioned, I place the backsplashes against the wall and scribe a pencil line on the top at the front edge of the splash. After marking the splashes, I pull out the top, clamp the splash along the pencil line, and drill pilot holes about every 12 inches from the bottom of the top, up into the splash. I then remove the splashes, pull out the top, and coat the bottom of the backsplash with colored silicon latex caulk. I then re-clamp the splash in place along the pencil line, and run screws from the bottom of the top up into the splash. This pulls the splash down tight against the top and squishes out the silicone. This assures a water-tight seal and adds rigidity to the top. I then take a wet sponge and wipe the seam between the splash and the top where the caulk squeezed out to remove all traces of caulking. The top is ready to go back in place. Where end splashes meet backsplashes, I coat the end of the splash the same way with caulk but use no screws into the end of the splash. This takes slightly more time, but I end up with a joint minus any visible caulking bead, a water-tight seal, and a stronger countertop that is virtually all one piece. Works for me!

From contributor N:
Whenever I caulk, I use a damp sponge and have a bucket of water to rinse the sponge out. It is like using your finger, but less messy.

From contributor S:
Avoid using ratchet drive guns. The spring clip drives make it easier to control the flow and stop. Newborn model #102D is cheap and works nicely.

From contributor L:
Contributor S, I don't think it's really less messy, I'm just able to get the corner of the sponge tighter in the joint and remove more caulking from view. My fingers are just too big.

From contributor B:
The easiest way to get a consistent caulk bead is to use denatured alcohol. Use a spray bottle, cut your caulk tube tip with a slight angle, lay your bead as even as possible, then mist the caulk bead with the alcohol and wipe with your finger. The caulking will only stick where you put it. This is a fast way to caulk and is very consistent.