Are Modern Buildings Just Caulked Together?

wurdan freo

Is Caulk all that separates us from the elements? 

It seems the more details I look at the more caulk there is in there. 

And maybe it should be sealant. 

6-8" of huge precast wall panels...oh and a caulk joint in between.

3" insulated panels with intricate t&g seams with caulk everywhere.

Drywall inside corners - caulked.

Storefront windows... lined with caulk.

At $10-$35 a cartridge, Dow or Tremco might be a good investment.

Maybe it is a miracle material. Any thoughts?

Not to be confused with caulk and balls.

Feb 13, 14 12:24 pm

Drywall to separate us from the elements? LOL

Except for glazing, if it leaks without caulk it's a shitty detail.

Feb 13, 14 1:28 pm

"Except for glazing, if it leaks without caulk it's a shitty detail."

Amen, brother. Friends don't let friends design face-sealed building assemblies.

Feb 13, 14 1:52 pm

i don't think you're going to stick 2 precast or tilt panels together in a weathertight manner without caulk.  unless you count the foam backer rod as a proper sealant.

Feb 13, 14 2:09 pm

Rainscreen systems don't rely on caulk, yes?

Feb 13, 14 2:47 pm
Non Sequitur

Donna... depends. I've found myself adding notes on rain-screen details specifically asking for no caulking/sealant. It appears it is common practice that some guy with a caulk-gun runs around everywhere filling every hole after construction.

Gwharton, not sure how it is everywhere, but I know our insurances won't cover us in case we design face-sealed assemblies.

Feb 13, 14 3:09 pm
vado retro

i believe the correct term is sealant. what say you, spec writers?

Feb 13, 14 3:18 pm

This was in the ACSA journal not too long ago:

Feb 13, 14 3:29 pm

you could do that donna.  i was thinking more along the lines of double-Ts (though i don't think i've ever seen new double-T construction; that was before my day), or buildings where the tilt panel is the finished exterior face, and sometimes also the finished interior face in the case of warehouse or manufacturing.  there seems to be a lot of somewhat new stuff to stick to the face of tilt these days too.

vado, i thought the spec writer term was 'goo.'  i guess that's why i'm not a spec writer.  sometimes.

Feb 13, 14 3:32 pm

In the field it's called 'schmutz' as in, "Better put some schmutz in that joint."

Feb 13, 14 3:40 pm

I hate getting caulk blocked.

Feb 13, 14 4:14 pm

Just don't forget the "Backer Rod"

Feb 13, 14 4:33 pm
Saint in the City

Sometimes you'll be on a jobsite and see some really messy joints -- and you'll want to fix them yourself.  But you can't just indiscriminately use your tool on another guy's caulk. 

Feb 13, 14 5:52 pm

form follows caulking... or is it... caulking follows function?

Feb 13, 14 6:12 pm

Caulk is often used as a backup, which is fine and good practice. But many times I see problems because the caulking was done in such a way that it didn't let water OUT. Weepage is critical - one of the ways to keep water from getting in is making sure it has a way to get out.

Feb 13, 14 6:20 pm

It's "Caulking Follows Litigation" jla-x

Feb 13, 14 6:30 pm

i believe the correct term is sealant. what say you, spec writers?

Short answer: Yes, it's sealant.

Long answer: Years ago, sealants didn't exist. Caulk was the term from the ship-building industry to describe any oil-based joint filling material. As long as the joint didn't need to deal with any movement, it worked fairly well to keep water on the outside of both ships and buildings.

With the introduction of different building systems that required joints that were able to handle movement the joint fillers needed to respond, and modern sealants were derived. 

I've heard the term "caulk" in modern building refers to acrylic-latex sealants. The standard for those sealants, ASTM C 834, does not require testing for movement capability. In other words non-elastomeric.

MasterSpec makes the distinction that there are sealants classified as elastomeric, with base polymers of silicone, urethane, or polysulfide. Latex, solvent-release-curing, and preformed sealants are not classified as elastomeric.

I've also seen reference to the publication Sealants: The Professionals' Guide, from the Sealant, Waterproofing & Restoration Institute, that has the following definitions, but I don't have a copy to verify:

  • Caulking (verb): Process of sealing a joint. 
  • Caulking (noun): A material used for joint sealing where minor or no elastomeric properties are required. 
  • Seal (noun): A generic term for any material or device that prevents or controls the passage of water. 
  • Sealant (noun): An elastomeric material with adhesive qualities that joins components of a similar or dissimilar nature to provide an effective barrier against the passage of the elements.

However, MasterSpec and the ASTM standards still refer these products as "sealants" regardless of their elastomeric properties. And since that's primarily the source we use for specifying the products used in building these modern buildings held together by "goo," I still say the long answer is: Yes, it's sealant.

Feb 13, 14 10:16 pm

Quite the caulk aficionado Brian...Opps i mean sealant. 

Feb 14, 14 12:41 am

everybody is talking about their caulks 

Feb 14, 14 10:27 am

Brian Henry that post is dreamy.  I love that level of specificity, no pun intended.

Feb 14, 14 11:08 am

You can talk the talk, but can you caulk the caulk?

Feb 14, 14 11:09 am

+1, Miles.

So, a relevant question: I have a 1970's Modern building with large (3'x5') limestone panel cladding.  Panels are 4" deep.  They are caulked between panels, a +/-1" joint. Set within the wall are cast stone window surrounds that are mortared at joints with adjacent limestone panels.

So we're having water infiltration in the wall, and you can see where the caulk has (over 40 years) deteriorated, cracking and pulling away from the panels edge. In addition, we're severely under-insulated, with only a 1" cavity space. Do I call in a masonry contractor, or an envelope specialist?

Feb 14, 14 11:28 am

You are the envelope specialist. I'd start with a couple of masonry contractors and see what they say.

How far are you going - repair or rehab? Funny how many modern buildings have such short life spans.

Feb 14, 14 11:45 am

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking, Miles.  I am indeed the envelope specialist. How far we go will depend on how deep the pockets of our donors, bless them, are able to be.

Feb 14, 14 11:49 am

i have a theory.  about 100 years ago, buildings were made to last maybe 105 years.

about 60 years ago, buildings were built to last about 65 years.

20 years ago, buildings were built to last 25 years.

today, buildings are glued together with goo.

Feb 14, 14 12:46 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)


Feb 14, 14 1:06 pm
Today's goos are much better Donna. Call a sealant specialist and a Dow tech guy to reseal w the right Dow silicone. PM me and I'll see if I can remember the name of the sealant specialist. 1" joint will have also at least 1" of movement (potentially) so you need a sealant w at least 70% +\- movement capacity. Look at dows movement recs. I also have a calculator to share w you.
Feb 14, 14 1:18 pm

Most of the new development here - $5-10m spec houses - requires major maintenance and repair within 3-5 years. If it wasn't far caulk they probably wouldn't last that long.

Feb 14, 14 1:46 pm
Miles, I know we've had this conversation before, but no kidding, that house in NJ that I'm working on - same deal, built 2005, now complete renovation, some because of poor execution and just not finished..
Feb 14, 14 1:56 pm

A friend takes care of a bunch of houses. The latest is a 4-year-old $15m spec turd that has one problem after another: leaks, flooding, frozen pipes, etc. One day the owner said to my friend, "I wish I'd never bought this house." The PoS sat for three years unsold and the idiot thought he stole it for $15m. Buyer's remorse?

LOL, and more evidence that rich people are stupid in direct proportion to their wealth.

Feb 14, 14 2:12 pm

Caulk on the inside, sealant on the outside.

And Brian won the thread.

Modern buildings are pretty crappy, but many historic buildings I've been in are even leakier. 

Feb 14, 14 3:57 pm

i've never been there, but i heard the pantheon leaks.

Feb 14, 14 4:21 pm
Saint in the City

"Most of the new development here - $5-10m spec houses..."

Yeah, totally the same in my neighborhood...  wait, what?

Feb 14, 14 5:53 pm

two words. drainage and flashing

Feb 14, 14 9:09 pm

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