Color-Matched Caulk Repairs

With a little ingenuity, you can custom color your own off-the-shelf caulking. January 14, 2008

Someone at our church has asked for my help. It seems the large alter which was repainted with a creamy white latex about 8 years ago is developing some cracks in the corners where the different layers of wood join. Aren't there white wax sticks or putty sticks that can be blended and pushed into cracks? I can blend soft putty to match fairly well, but actually haven't seen the problems up close yet. From my description, what would make the best repair without repainting the entire alter, which is huge - 25' x 12' high - with extensive layering and detail.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor P:
Could you use a white caulk, say something elastic?

From the original questioner:
Caulk was my first thought, due to elastic properties, but it will dirty over time if not painted, and getting the paint a perfect match may be very tricky.

From contributor K:
I think I would caulk and plan on repainting the whole thing. It would be safer than trying to patch match and having a color shift in the future.

From contributor R:
Since you did say that you don't have plans to paint the entire altar, I would either apply a soft putty that matches the latex color, or a colored latex caulk. Who cares if you've got to do it again in another six or eight years? Look at it as altering the altar, kind of like a "Persian Flaw" that George Frank talked about in his first book.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I'll get a look at it tomorrow and I can know a lot more. Seems to me they make caulk matched to some paint, but don't know who carries it.

From contributor R:
Make whatever color caulk you want!
A) Get small tube of caulk.
B) Cut off the bottom of the tube.
C) Remove all the caulk from the tube.
D) Mix water based colorants into the caulk until you're happy with the color.
E) Put the caulk back into the tube.
F) Close up the bottom with duct tape.
G) Snip off a little of the tip and caulk on.
H) Remove excess caulk with damp rag.

From the original questioner:
You know, I was wondering why that couldn't be done... as long as you don't let the caulk dry out. You mean the squeeze tube, right?

From contributor R:
Yes, the small squeeze tubes. If you leave a little colored caulk out of the tube when you're spooning it back in, you can fold over the bottom of the tube and wrap some duct tape around and around. It really does create a good seal. I've never had a tube dry out unless I forget to replace the top.

From contributor J:
Or just find a matched caulk from Kampel. Lots of woodworking product distributors carry it.