Not long ago, our choice of caulks, sealants and adhesives was pretty limited—and pretty toxic. Today, increased interest in tighter structures, better indoor air quality and energy conservation has led to the development of less-hazardous versions of these products. Manufacturers are finding ways to reduce and eliminate the harmful chemicals that caulks, sealants and adhesives once contained—without reducing performance.
Typically, these newer, greener products cost roughly the same as the premium versions of their traditional counterparts. The products are relatively free from harmful chemicals and easy for anyone to use—and they can help make your home quieter, more efficient and less toxic.
When do I use it?
Caulk bridges gaps and seals building materials on your home’s interior and exterior. You can also use it for aesthetic purposes—for example, running a bead of caulk down a piece of molding where it joins a wall makes the materials appear more homogenous. Sealant prevents moisture migration and remains perpetually flexible, making it best for keeping out liquids or gases. Adhesive goes beyond fastening to actually bond materials together, strengthening walls, floors and ceilings and making them appear monolithic.
■ Caulk all exterior trim (such as around windows and doors) where it joins the building’s exterior finish (such as siding or stucco) to prevent water and air intrusion.
■ Use adhesives on drywall and subfloors to reduce the need for fasteners and make a building stronger and quieter.
■ When new windows and doors are installed, fill the space between the millwork’s outside frame and the building’s framing with minimal-expanding foam sealant made for that purpose.
■ Seal gaps where walls meet floors. In new construction, seal these interfaces with a product such as OSI GreenSeries’ Draft and Acoustical Sound Sealant. You should reseal during any remodeling project that requires removal and reinstallation of baseboards. It is an easy DIY project.
■ Seal masonry products where necessary and prevent formaldehyde offgassing from sheet materials (drywall) with AFM Safecoat’s liquid sealants—or, better yet, seek out formaldehyde-free materials.
• DON’T neglect your home’s indoor air quality. Using greener caulks and sealants instead of conventional options can lower the VOCs released into your home’s air.
• DO use more caulk and sealant than you think you need for best performance and durability.
Greenguard Environmental Institute
is a building contractor and journalist based near New York’s capital region.