Do You Caulk Or Paint First?

So, you are a newbie painter. You decided not to hire a professional to finish up that home project and do it yourself. Like any clever DIY enthusiast, you went and did what everyone in 2024 does when they want to do something: Go on the Internet and doom scroll until you either find your answer or tailspin, whichever comes first.

This excursion on the interwebs led you to everything you need to know about painting and finishing up your house. Now, this step called caulking has popped up. And you are not sure whether to caulk or paint first. That’s because every source you read or watch says something different.

Firstly, we must applaud your enthusiasm and gusto for such a massive undertaking. Secondly, tell you no; you are not crazy. Yes, sources do say different things about which step comes first. Thirdly, we are here to get you all straightened out.

So let’s get into caulking or painting. Which one are you going to do first?

What Is Caulking?

Think of us as Mr. Miyagi to your karate kid. However, this subject is not as cool and as life-and-death as that scenario. 

When you caulk, you are simply using a flexible material that typically comes in a tube to plug:

  • Holes
  • Gaps
  • Cracks 

That is around windows and doors and perhaps other areas in the house. The whole point of caulking is to ensure you don’t have to have a bucket and a mop every time it rains due to the leak. Also, it ensures that you won’t be freezing during the winter months because the draft goes through the gaps between the window and your wall.

Typically caulk is applied directly from the tube, or you can use a caulk gun.

What is Painting?

On the other side of the equation, we have painting. Painting essentially involves grabbing a can of the appropriate paint. And slathering on a coat or two using a brush, roller, or sprayer. 

Pining is usually done to make a surface aesthetically pleasing by adding a color that compliments you and your space. In addition, it protects your surface from wear and tear.

So, Do You Caulk or Paint First?

Now we come back to where this conversation started in the first place. Do you caulk or paint first? The answer to that question is it depends. Now I know what you are thinking you came here to get your brains unscrambled, not be given an inconclusive answer. 

To put it simply, there are factors that you must consider before you make this decision, and we would like to take you through them.  

Is Your Surface New or Old?

Let’s go through some expert advice, shall we? If you are starting with a brand-spanking new surface, then it is best to begin with caulking first before you paint.

We recommend this because when you caulk, you create a smooth surface that then allows your paint to appear smoother. If you try to paint first and then caulk, you might end up with an uneven look, with some areas of the paint looking thicker or bumpier where you’ve added caulk afterward.

Also, caulking can help seal off any gaps or cracks hiding beneath the surface. When you paint first, you might miss these areas and end up with the same drafty or leaky spots you were trying to cover up in the first place.

However, if you’re repainting a surface that’s already been caulked, such as an interior wall, it’s generally okay to paint first. Just be sure to inspect the caulked areas first to make sure everything is still sealed tight. If you notice any cracks or gaps, it’s best to re-caulk before painting.

The Type of Caulk You Are Using

Another thing to consider is the type of caulk you’re using. There are different types of caulk for different applications, and some can be painted over while others cannot. If you’re using a paintable caulk, you’ll definitely want to paint over it once it’s dry. But if you’re using silicone or other non-paintable caulk, you’ll need to caulk after painting. Here’s our favorite paintable caulk

The Order of Your House Remodel

Finally, consider the order in which you’re doing your home improvement projects. If you’re tackling several tasks at once, it might make more sense to caulk first so you can paint over everything at once. For example, if you’re redoing your bathroom and you need to seal around the bathtub and shower before painting, it might be easier to caulk first and then paint the walls and ceiling all at once.

At the end of the day, there is no definitive answer to whether you should caulk or paint first. The materials you’ll be using and the type of remodel you’re doing will provide the answer to this question.

With that said, there are still some helpful little nuggets to guide you toward the right decision for you.

  • If you working with a new surface, begin with caulking first 
  • If you are working with an older surface, you can paint first, then look over the surface, making sure there are no cracks. Then caulk.
  • Ensure that you check if your caulk is paintable or not and apply it accordingly
  • Like the scouts, always be prepared and make sure you have a remodel plan and make your caulking or painting fit into that remodeling plan

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it possible for me to patch-test an area of my home to decide if I should caulk or paint first?

If you still don’t know if you should caulk or paint first, maybe think about working on a test area.

Yes, this is sort of similar to what you would do if you were patch-testing a product to see if you were allergic. Doing this will allow you to gauge if you should caulk or paint first and save you from possibly making a huge mess that is difficult to clear up later.

  • Do I wait for the caulk to dry before painting?

Yes, you have to wait for the caulk to dry before painting. This rule applies when you caulk after you paint. 

As our novice painter, you must remember that caulk takes a while to dry and cure. The caulk drying time ranges from a few hours to a day. The following factors affect this drying time:

  • The atmospheric conditions in your home 
  • The type of caulk you are using

You can, however, speed this process up by:

  • Buying a quick-drying caulk
  • Use a dehumidifier, a fan, and space heaters. To make the atmosphere more favorable toward your caulk drying

Conclusion

We have come to the end of the whether to paint or caulk first debate. We hope we have given you a workable idea that you can run with. To summarize, the answer to this question ultimately depends on:

  • The surface 
  • The material you are working with 
  • The kind of remodel you are doing

At the end of the day, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, as every project is different and specific to you. That is probably why you got so many confusing answers to your question and why this article is not entirely straightforward either. 

However, we do believe we have provided a helpful guide to help you decide what you need!

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