One of the easiest DIY jobs is working with caulk. But the lowly caulk gun doesn’t get the credit it deserves!
A caulk gun may not be the flashiest tool in your shed. But it plays an important part in preventing drafts, leaks, and making things look nicer.
You may never have given a caulk gun a second glance. They are simple to use, have a single job, and last for decades.
Is it time for you to invest in a new caulk gun?
You might think that you’ll head down to the hardware store and pick up the first caulk gun you see (or the cheapest, or the name you know best, etc.).
But that would be a mistake.
All caulk guns are not created equal!
If you have a big job coming up (re-caulking your bathroom, for example), you want one that won’t make your hands cramp up or cause you to curse like a sailor because it jams frequently.
I once borrowed my father-in-law’s caulk gun.
I discovered the difference between an OK caulk gun and a superior “wow, that made this job easier” caulk gun.
I never realized how easy a job could be when you have a tool that works well, even if we are talking about a lowly caulk gun.
Want to find the best caulk gun without buying 3 or 4 before you figure it out? Sit back and take a load off, I’m about to fill you in on all the facts about caulk guns so you can make a more informed decision.
When it comes to caulking guns, Newborn is the biggest name around, and for good reason. These are quality-made caulking guns that are super easy on the hands and work like a charm.
The Newborn 250 offers a steel revolving frame that causes the cartridge to rotate for an even beading.
There is a large zinc alloy handle and trigger that not only prevents corrosion, but the large size and ergonomic grip are fantastic on the hands.
No more cramping!
This is a professional-grade caulking gun with an 18:1 thrust ratio. This means you need to use less force to get the same amount of product dispensed.
It also comes with a built-in tube piercer.
I love the smooth operation of this caulking gun. It’s strong enough to use with premium adhesives and my hand never gets tired.
What I Like
- The incredibly smooth operation makes even large jobs easier
- It feels sturdy and high-quality in your hands
- It makes even difficult compounds such as adhesives or polyurethane come out easily
What I don’t like
- It’s made in China, not US
- I found multiple complaints that the tube piercer doesn’t work or breaks off easily
- I read a few complaints about the spring on plunger breaking within a few months
You might find that this caulking gun has you complaining that it is too easy to use! Don’t let friends borrow this one because they won’t bring it back!
The Best Caulk Gun for Trim
The name alone tells you something about this gun: it’s dripless!
Whenever you do trim work, one of the biggest annoyances is a gun that leaves excess caulk and drips all over your pretty trim!
It’s an extra step and can get messy cleaning up caulk.
This is a composite gun, which is great for those who sometimes forget and leave their caulking guns outside or if you frequently work in wet weather.
Composite means no rusting and it’s 40 percent lighter than steel caulk guns.
The Dripless ETS2000 is a contractor grade, heavy-duty, caulking gun with an ergonomic grip to help keep your wrist from hurting.
I like this gun because let’s face it, dripless is great! You don’t need a ton of caulk when doing trim and the 12:1 thrust ratio is just right for most jobs. It features a rotating barrel for a super even bead, especially around corners, as well as a tube seal puncture device.
What I Like
- I find the dripless feature is nothing short of fantastic
- The ergonomic handle is easy on the hands
- The composite construction makes it lightweight, yet sturdy enough to use every day
What I Don’t Like
- Again, it’s made in China and not the US
- It may not be 100% drip-proof with some types of thinner materials
- A few users felt that the gun is too lightweight to be durable
Personally, this is one of the best guns I’ve found for doing trim work.
The Best Caulk Gun for Liquid Nails
If you have ever found yourself needing to apply Liquid Nails or a similar adhesive, you know how stinking hard it is to get that product out of a regular caulk gun.
If you do a lot of work with adhesives, this is a solid option for you.
The Red Devil Extreme has a thrust ratio of 26:1. That makes this the easiest gun you will ever use, no matter how sticky the compound is that you are working with.
This amazing caulk gun is also dripless and has a revolving barrel to keep your product flowing smoothly. It includes a seal punch and ladder hook, along with a super easy-grip handle to go along with that 26:1 thrust ratio.
This holds the standard 10-ounce tube but they do offer a larger 13″ version if you are using the 28-ounce size. I know many adhesives come in larger tubes. If that’s your case, you can still use this outstanding caulking gun.
What I Like
- Super ease of use, even with the stickiest adhesives such as Liquid Nails
- It’s nearly 100% dripless
- It includes all the extras that a professional gun should have but some do not
What I don’t like
- Another one made in China, not the US
- I found it may not be 100% dripless with thinner types of material
- A few users complain that the trigger broke after a few months
If you plan on doing any type of adhesive work, such as paneling, fake rock panels, or tile, the Red Devil is a great option.
Seriously, this little tool is a lifesaver.
How do I choose a caulking gun?
If you’ve always just picked the cheapest caulk gun you can find, you don’t know what you’ve been missing!
Those cheap-o caulk guns will not only make your hands tired and cramped, they waste caulk, make a huge mess, and jam frequently.
Inexpensive caulking guns make you pull on a trigger to exert force on the tube. Caulk then comes out the other end.
It seems easy enough. But as you’ve probably noticed, the caulk continues to flow due to the pressure that is being exerted, even if you remove your finger from the trigger.
Ugh. It’s a mess sometimes.
A professional caulk gun will stop dispensing caulk once you release the trigger. It also has a punch built into the unit so you don’t have to hunt for a nail to break the foil seal.
Look for a handle that has a cutting device to cut the end off the tube. Also look for an easy pull trigger so your hands don’t become tired.
There are even battery-powered caulk guns if you have difficulty using traditional caulking guns, as well as pneumatic ones that connect to your compressor.
Depending on your wallet and what you need, I recommend looking for a caulk gun that says “professional ‘or “contractor grade” on it.
You will find your job is much, much easier.
What size caulking gun do I need?
Despite common belief, it’s not the size of the job, but the size of the tube of caulk that will determine the size of caulking gun you will need.
Most tubes of caulk that the average DIYer will encounter are a standard 10-ounce tube that fits 90 percent of the caulk guns on the shelf.
But some tubes come in a much larger 20-ounce size. One of the largest, commonly referred to as a sausage gun, takes a large 28-ounce tube.
There are also smaller tubes of specialty caulk that sometimes require a mini-caulking gun. But most will work with the regular 10-ounce caulk gun.
How do you use a caulking gun for the first time?
Assuming you will be using a standard size tube of caulk and a regular caulking gun, you will need to take the following steps:
- Remove the cap from the caulking gun and puncture the inner seal
- Cut the cap so that you dispense the amount of caulk you intend to use and replace the cap
- The caulk gun should have a metal lever on the back behind the handle. Twist it and pull it back until the plunger meets the end of its travel
- Insert the tube into the gun
- Pull-on the trigger until the caulk begins to come out. You can use the release handle, behind the trigger, to release pressure
If you want more detailed instructions, this article offers drawings and more information.
Why is my caulking gun not working?
There are several reasons why your caulk gun may not work. Check the following:
- Check that the seal on the tube is pierced
- If the tube was previously opened, check that the caulk has not dried and hardened inside the tube
- Test the spring on the plunger. The spring may be worn out and is not putting enough pressure against the tube
- Clean the area around the trigger, plunger, and spring. If caulk has accumulated in these areas, they may prevent the gun from working, Soak the gun in some mineral spirits for a few hours, remove any caulk that you can still see, then try again
In my experience, the first two answers are the most common. I’ve either forgotten to pierce the tube or the caulk has become hard.
For many DIYers, you will find that keeping a variety of tools that all do the same job can make a difficult job easier.
I’m betting you have more than one type of hammer or shovel. Why not consider having several different types of caulking guns?
I love the Dripless ETS2000 for trim work. I haven’t found a better caulking gun, even though it may not be 100% drip-free if you use some thinner types of materials.
If you were only able to purchase one caulking gun, I would go with the Newborn 250 Super Smooth Caulking Gun.
This reasonably priced gun might be heavier than the Dripless brand, but you can literally toss this into your toolbox, and nothing will dent the steel frame.
I know some people have issues with Made in China stuff, but this gun does not feel cheap or China made.
The Newborn 250 is strong, powerful, but it’s so easy on your hands. The difference between this gun and one of the cheapie models is huge.
The Newborn 250 is definitely worth it if you do a lot of DIY jobs around your house.