Tooling Caulked Joints

Tips on achieving a clean caulk line. April 30, 2006

I'm doing a reception desk for a Hilton Hotel. The finish is Clawlock primer, with resistant satin topcoat. The front of the desk has applied moldings in a box pattern. I am priming and then caulking the moldings with an acrylic latex caulk. The problem is raking out all those caulk joints so they don't look caulked. I'm using water to remove the residue, but sometimes it removes the caulk. Is anyone using anything different to caulk moldings before finishing?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
Use White Lightning caulk and cut a very small opening in the tip. Try to apply a smooth bead that will only need a quick tuck into the corner with your finger. Ideally, there will be very little excess to remove. You'll find that the caulk makes a big difference. I sometimes use a smooth, damp rag stretched tightly over my fingertip. You'll use a lot of rags, but it saves a lot of finger washing. Work fast, preferably in a cool environment (gives you a bit more tooling time). Never use sponges or terry rags (they'll reach down into the corners and remove too much caulk). A damp rag is okay, but washing the caulk in is bad (it dilutes the caulk, leading to excessive shrinkage, and it leaves too small of a bead behind, leading to joint lines). It is a skill and some patience is required. Good caulk is an important first step.

From contributor S:
I choose to caulk prior to priming, which allows the caulk to hang in void better. Also, when you're wiping with damp rag, the raising of wood fibers help the cause.

From contributor E:
Go to Lowes or Home Depot and in the paint department, they sell a small plastic piece, 1"x1"x3", made especially for working a corner caulk joint. They work great. We use them all the time. Just make sure you keep it wiped off. I think it's $1or $2.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the info. I'll try the White Lighting. Next time I'll caulk first before priming, and I'll try that tool because the inside corners are the hardest to get right.