Caulk of the walk


By Marla Boone

Contributing columnist

No, it’s not a misprint. I really do mean caulk. Everyday, mundane, gap-sealing frustrating caulk.

Here we are in the year 2024. We have airplanes that land themselves, cars that drive themselves, and narcissistic bloggers who promote themselves. What we do not have is caulk that will be obedient or even remotely compliant to us. I realize that aiming to be the master of caulk is setting the bar pretty low. But you have to start somewhere and where I’d like to start is with a tube of caulk that is usable. Well, usable twice. Anyone armed with a tube of caulk, a caulk gun, and a box knife with which to begin the operation can usually be successful at the initial foray into caulk-dom. Opening the caulk, I mean. It passeth understanding how anyone can get a bead of caulk to be smooth, seamless, and confined to an area that does not include one’s clothes or hair. I have had more hints on the use of caulk than I can remember (and perhaps, just perhaps, this is part of the problem).

“Smooth the caulk with a wet cloth,” I am told. “Dip your finger in water and run it along the caulk,” I am urged.

Do you know what wetting the caulk does? It transfers the caulk to yet another surface (see above about clothes and hair) on which it is lumpy and unmanageable. Getting the bead of caulk out of the tube and onto the desired surface (not clothes, not hair) is another matter entirely. If you make a tiny hole in the end of the caulk, it takes a person with Olympic weight-lifter credentials to squeeze it out. If you make a large hold in the end of the caulk you have a gooey mess that is not, technically, able to be contained. Better just to cut your losses and sell the house in which you’re trying to fix something. It will be easier. And faster.

That sums up the drama of the first opening and usage of the caulk. This is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy compared to trying to use a tube of caulk that has been previously opened and stoppered up with who knows what. In an attempt to keep the opened caulk from turning into cement, I have seen the cut-off ends of the tube plugged with dry wall screws. I have seen them plugged with 3-inch heavy-duty screws that require an insertion bit designed by Martians. I have seen them not plugged at all but sealed with duct tape. What these three items have in common is their utter lack of functionality. If you thought expressing a thin bead of caulk out of a small hole was difficult, try to express any size, any amount of caulk at all out of a previously used tube.

The first thing you have to do is remove the item with which the tube was plugged. This is usually a twelve on a one-to-ten difficulty scale because the caulk has hardened around the item that was supposed to keep it from hardening. This is not a good sign of things to come. If, by some miracle, you are able to remove the plugger, you are inevitably faced with removing the plug. Of caulk. It is amazing to consider the sheer variety of items I have stuck into the little plastic necks of caulk tubes in an overwhelmingly ineffective attempt to get the plug of caulk out. I have used yet another type of screw. I have used cuticle sticks. I have used ice picks. This last makes any audience wildly uncomfortable, not to mention distant.

Eventually, of course, I just give in and cut more and more off the neck, trying to get to a portion of the caulk that hasn’t made that dire transformation from semi-solid to it-couldn’t-be-more solid. When I finally do reach some usable caulk, the hole in the tube is so huge, the caulk comes out by the cupful. All the moist fingers and damp rags in the world aren’t going to tame that hot mess.

Now, who would like to buy a slightly sticky house?

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.

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