A silicone caulking gun on a countertop with someone finishing a silicone joint line with their finger in the background.

How To Apply Silicone Caulk

Originally contributed by • last updated 5/28/2021

Easy-IntermediateDifficulty
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Applying silicone caulk, glue, or sealant is the final step in finishing that stunning kitchen or bathroom project.

Silicone adhesive does wonders creating clean, finished lines in a freshly tiled shower, bathtub, or backsplash.

Silicone caulk also creates a watertight barrier to protect the areas behind walls from damage at tile joints.

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We’ll show you a few methods on how to use, apply, and smooth silicone caulk. We’ll also demonstrate how to use a squeeze tube and a silicone caulking gun.

This way, you’ll find the ideal approach to use for your own DIY project. Let’s get started!

Do not apply silicone caulk until grout is completely dry.

What Type Of Silicone Caulk Should I Use?

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The type of silicone you use depends mainly on the tiles and other surfaces you’re working with.

You want the silicone to match the color and be suited for the given material.

Find a silicone that is suited for the material, both in its type and color.

General-purpose or builder’s silicone adheres to most surfaces. It is also durable and will provide a waterproof seal in joints.

Info: If you want to use clear silicone, we recommend using translucent white. Translucent white is a clear silicone caulk with a foggy tinge to it. You can’t see right through this type of silicone, but it appears clear. This type of silicone will do a better job at hiding joint lines than plain clear silicone caulking.

How Long Does It Take For Silicone To Dry?

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Typically, silicone caulking takes 24 hours to cure.

However, we recommend following the manufacturer's instructions in regards to drying time for your choice of silicone caulking. You can most often find this information on the label.

How To Apply Silicone Caulk

01/10

Cut Silicone Caulk Or Sealant Tube

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Using a silicone caulk or sealant gun can be a messy undertaking if you don’t follow a simple procedure. And that procedure starts with how you prepare the silicone gun.

Start by cutting the tip of the silicone adhesive/glue tube at a 45-degree angle. Use a utility knife to cut the silicone caulk tube.

Info: The angled cut acts as a guide and helps smooth out the bead of silicone during the initial application. It also lays the silicone caulk down flat.

Tip: Make the opening in the silicone caulk or adhesive as small as possible. This ensures you don’t use too much excess silicone, which will make finishing much easier.

How To Apply Silicone Caulk With Painter’s Tape

If you’re new to applying silicone caulk, it can be pretty intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be! A little extra preparation can go a long way.

By using painter’s tape, you can create a perfect joint line without worrying about potentially making a mess.

If you’re hesitant about using silicone caulk/sealant, then this easy and cautious application method is for you!

02/10

Tape The Joint

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To start, adhere the painter’s tape to both sides of the joint you’ll be filling with silicone caulk.

Leave a gap between the top and bottom, or left and right of pieces of tape, so that the joint line is exposed with roughly a 1/16” extra on both sides.

Info: Joints that need silicone sealant in a bathroom shower or bathtub include the area where the tiles meet the tub or floor, the top of the tiles, and any corners. In the kitchen, use silicone caulk underneath the cabinetry, where the tiles meet the countertop, at any corners, or where tiles meet the wall.

03/10

Apply Silicone Caulk

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With the silicone sealant in the gun, slowly pump the silicone gun to apply the glue to the tile joint between the tape in your bathroom shower, bathtub or kitchen.

Keep the angled side of the cut silicone nozzle pointed towards the joint.

When pumping out the adhesive sealant, apply at a 45-degree angle so that the cut side of the nozzle is flat against the joint.

Work from one side of the joint to the other until the entire joint is filled and the silicone is evenly distributed.

04/10

Smooth Silicone Sealant

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It’s now time to smooth the silicone out, to create a clean, finished line.

You won’t need any special tools for this, just your finger. ‘But won’t the silicone glue stick to my finger and make a mess?’ We’re glad you asked!

To prevent the glue from sticking to your finger, first wet your finger with a solution of water and dish soap. The mixture should be about 50-50 water and dish soap, but it’s not an exact science. Simply make sure the solution is nice and slippery, with no bubbles.

The soapy solution creates a barrier between your skin and the silicone. This prevents one from sticking to the other.

Only using a very slight amount of pressure, run your finger across the entire line of silicone in the joint. The goal is to smooth out the silicone.

Tip: If there is any resistance as you move along the silicone, or you have a build-up of sealant glue on your finger, dip it back into the soap and water solution. If the silicone is still sticking, add more soap to the water.

05/10

Remove Tape

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Once the joint is smooth and the silicone looks uniform throughout, remove the tape.

Remove the painter’s tape on both sides of the joint while the silicone glue is still wet. It needs to be removed right after you applied the silicone caulk and smoothed it out.

The tape prevents having any excess silicone glue on the tiles.

06/10

Finish The Silicone

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With the tape removed, dip your finger back into the soap and water solution, and very lightly run it over the joint one last time. This will smooth out any marks left by the tape.

And with that, you’ll have a beautiful silicone caulk line in the joint. All with no messy silicone glue stuck to tiles where it shouldn’t be, or adhesive all over your hands! How great is that!

How To Apply Silicone Caulk/Sealant (Freehand)

If you’re more experienced in your knowledge of how to apply silicone caulk, then you may opt for the freehand method.

07/10

Apply Caulking (Freehand Technique)

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With the silicone sealant in the caulking gun, apply the glue to tile joints in your bathroom shower, bathtub or kitchen tile.

Keep the angled side of the cut silicone nozzle pointed towards the joint.

When pumping out the adhesive sealant, apply at a 45-degree angle so that the cut side of the nozzle is flat against the joint.

Run a steady bead of silicone across the joint.

08/10

Finishing (Freehand Technique)

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Once the entire joint is filled with silicone, run your finger across the freshly laid silicone caulk to smooth it out. This will create the finished line.

To avoid having the silicone stick to your finger, wet your finger with a mixture of water and dish soap before smoothing the joint out.

How To Apply Silicone Caulk/Sealant Without A Caulking Gun

Not all of us have caulking guns. Or perhaps we only need to silicone a small area and don’t need one of the larger tubes.

Luckily, you can purchase smaller squeeze tubes which are perfect for small projects.

Here we’ll show you how to use silicone caulk in a squeeze tube.

09/10

Applying Silicone With Squeeze Tube

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Utilizing the same techniques from above, run a bead of silicone from one end of the joint to the other.

In this case, instead of gently pumping the silicone caulking gun as you move, gently squeeze the tube with even pressure.

Again, we want an even amount of silicone throughout the entirety of the joint.

Info: You can use silicone caulk squeeze tubes with the painter’s tape technique, as well.

10/10

Silicone Finishing With Squeeze Tube

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Dip your finger into a solution of water and dish soap.

Move your finger across the silicone joint, from one side to the other, until it’s smooth and uniform.

That was easy! You now know three techniques on how to use and apply silicone caulk. Not only that, but you also learned how to smooth silicone caulk without making a mess!

Now get out there and finish your DIY bathroom shower, bathtub or kitchen tiling project with style!