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Should You Caulk Trim Before Or After Painting

Caulking trim on a house

Being a homeowner, we always have maintenance to do around the home and often it seems like it is never ending. You are definitely not alone if you are feeling this. One thing we have to think about is the proper steps and order to do a project so it is done correctly. Have you noticed that your trim needs replacing, or it is coming off the walls? Should you caulk trim before or after painting? It should be done after using paint primer and the repairs are made so it looks more professional.

Let’s take a look below at what we should and should not do with our trim.

Sealing trim on a window with caulk after painting.

Why Caulking is Necessary

Caulking is a common supply for projects in the home and used to fill gaps that exist between two items, such as trim and boards for a wall or sealing around sinks. It is also used on doors and windows to seal them, as well as bath tubs and showers.

What Happens If You Don’t Caulk

Some homeowners may think that caulking is not important, but it definitely is. Let’s look at what can happen if you don’t keep up with caulking in the home.

  • Drafts of cold air can get into the home, and then the winter months the heat escapes. Additionally, the cooler air escapes in summer. This results in higher bills for electricity.
  • Bugs and insects make their appearance. You may notice more bugs and insects in the home so this will be a good time to check the sealants in the home.
  • Dust is able to make its way inside.
  • Exterior caulking wears down then you will have moisture and rain that can come in. Unfortunately, this happens behind the trim, between boards of siding, and then it gets to the drywall. Once this happens, water stains, mildew, rotting wood and mold begin to appear. Additionally, there may be damage to the floors.

When To Caulk

Always remember that caulking should be done after everything else for the job is completed. You want the caulking to blend in with the trim and look as if it is part of the trim. Priming your paint surface first can help the paint stick to the surface of the trim. Once the primer has been applied you can caulk the trim. This will give it a natural and professional look even after you paint the trim.

Caulking gun is used to apply caulk after the surface is painted.

Type of Caulk to Use


Latex caulk can be used for projects that are indoors. This is because it works well with the temperature changes in the home as well as it can be painted and you can choose the colors you want to use. Lastly, it can be cleaned with water easily.

Acrylic Latex Caulk

Acrylic latex caulk is another type of caulk. It is good for long term projects, as well as indoor projects. This type of caulk combines acrylic resins and latex. Additionally, it is good for windows, doors, trim, and siding. This type of caulk is strong so it can be used for a variety of projects.

Silicone Caulk

Silicone caulk is great for projects that may be exposed to the weather elements or even wear and tear. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as a clean up as the others so be cautious when using it.

It is important to note that you should never mix the various types of caulking materials. Each one has certain areas in which they work best and if you mix them, they won’t be effective.

Step By Step Caulking

Now that you have chosen your caulk to use, you can start your project. Here are the materials below that you will need.

  • baseboard and/or trim to be installed
  • caulk that is best for your project
  • water
  • paper towels

Here are the tools you will need:

How Can I Complete This Task

Let’s take a look below at the steps needed to successfully caulk your trim.

  1. Always make sure you have a clean surface. If there is old caulk on the surface, take the time to remove it. You can also use an old rag to remove dirt from the surface so that when you are using the caulk, it can adhere to the surface.
  2. Time to use the water bowl. This step involves setting up the water bowl by putting a few crushed up paper towels in a small bowl. Then, add enough water so the paper towels are now damp, but not soaking. You will be using the bowl to dip your fingers in to add the caulk and prevent it from sticking. This also will allow you to find a finish that is smooth for the caulked areas.
  3. Use a razor blade to cut the nozzle on the caulking tube. You will cut about 1/8″ to 1/4″ away from the caulking tube and at a 45-degree angle. It will also depend on the size of bead you want as to how far you cut it away. Cutting this angle will allow you to make a smooth bead in application. Are you wondering what a bead is? It is a line of caulk. If you want a smaller bead, you will cut the nozzle about 1/8″. If you want a wider bead, cut off more.
  4. Break the inside seal of the tube. You can do this by using a utility knife to slice the tip at a 45-degree angle. It is a good idea to slice at a good angle so the caulk can flow through evenly. Then, release the spring to the metal rod and pull the rod all the way back. This allows you to insert the caulk tubing and push the plunger against the bottom of the tube. Now it is time to apply caulk to the trim.
  5. Apply the caulk to the trim. You will do this by starting at one end of the trim.. Then, at a 45-degree angle, place the nozzle of the caulk where the trim meets up with the wall or the gap. Pulling the trigger of the caulk gun slowly, make sure you use enough pressure to get the caulk out of the tube and it starts to fill in the gap.
  6. Simultaneously, squeeze the trigger and move the nozzle along the gap and fill it in with a bead of caulk and making sure it is even. It is best to do this in sections, especially if you have a large project. This is because the caulk will dry before you can smooth it out and you don’t want that to happen.
  7. Smoothing the caulk is next. This doesn’t require a special tool except for your finger. Moisten the fingertip in the bowl of damp towels. Then, very lightly, take your finger and run it along the length of the bead. This will give you an even finish. You want to have a smooth bead but not take off the caulk you applied.
Caulking gun is used to apply caulk.

If you have excess caulk, use your finger to take this off and put the finger in the bowl to clean it. You can also re-dab your finger if you need to smooth out more caulk. When you finish smoothing out the caulk, repeat the process and let it dry. Not sure how long it takes to dry? Caulk can take 24 hours to cure and 30-60 minutes to dry, depending on the type of caulk you are using.

Check out the video below for more information about caulking and filling.


If you are attempting to complete this project yourself, the cost of materials can vary based on how much caulk you need and what tools you will purchase. The national average for caulking the interior of a home is $200 to $500. This cost can go up depending on the size of the home and the labor charge of your local handyman. You will also note a higher charge if you need caulking on the exterior as well as the interior.

Recommended Maintenance

Now that you know more about caulking, there is some recommended maintenance you can pay attention to around the home.

While caulking, if you notice that you have paint on the hardwood floors, there is hope! You will need to do a lot of scrubbing and then also use paint thinner and denatured alcohol to get the paint off.

Since water intrusion can happen if the caulk is dull, one way to help avoid this is landscaping to keep water away from the home. You can grade the land so it flows away from the home. Also, have the gutters that keep water away and from pooling near the home.

Lastly, mold can start forming in the home due to humidity and water intrusion. Also, if you have a shower window that is not waterproofed make sure to get it waterproofed. The last thing you want is water coming in and causing mold to grow.

When to Contact a Professional

Contact a professional if this is a job that you are not physically able to do or just don’t have the time to do. A professional can search your home for any water intrusion and see if you have caulking needs. Caulk does wear out so it does need replacing from time to time.


If you need caulking throughout the home, it may be time to go ahead and have a home inspection done to make sure there aren’t other issues. Your home is an investment and you want to keep it protected as long as possible. Hiring a professionally licensed handyman is a good idea if you don’t have the time or skills.

Call Waypoint Property Inspection to inspect your home in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Orlando, Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and surrounding areas.