Should You Caulk Before or After Painting? (We Tried Both!)

One of the most effective ways of sealing cracks and holes in wall surfaces is caulking. When painting a room, you may notice that the caulking is old, stained or not covering the surface as it once was. But the million dollar question remains: Should you caulk before or after you paint? 

While this is dependent on the surface and how much caulking needs to be done or replaced, it is most common that you caulk before you paint, so that you don’t need to repaint the surface again post caulking. If you caulk after you paint, you will need to do touch-up your work, so many people will like to avoid that extra step. 

Let’s discuss the benefits and downfalls of caulking, whether it be prior to painting or after. There are definitely perks to both processes, so this should help you to decide what works best in your scenario. 

Why Do I Need Caulk?

Interior caulk is a necessary tool because it prevents water seepage and damage to various surfaces. There are a number of common areas in which you’ll want to caulk to seal some open holes and spaces. Some of these areas include:

  • Around sinks
  • Bathtubs
  • Holes where plumbing is commonly used
  • Backsplashes

These areas are regularly caulked to eradicate any holes and prevent your rooms from water damage. They also give off a nice look while serving a purpose which is why caulking is such a common household practice. 

Don’t forget about your other rooms though. Trim joints, most frequently found at the bottom of your walls where the surface meets the molding are another regular place that needs caulking. Exterior caulking is also used to seal holes in the trim, among other exposed areas. 

Caulk can be used on a number of different materials as well such as wood, metal, brick, porcelain and more.

Should I Caulk Before Painting?

Caulking before painting ensures you won’t have to paint the same surface twice which is inevitably a time saver. Anyone who paints home interior knows that time is of the essence- if you can avoid an extra step to an already tedious process, chances are, you will. 

It will also hide any unnecessary caulk exposed and any cracks in the surface you don’t want to show in your final reveal. Caulking is also a relatively easy process, so anyone can do it. If you caulk before, you are saving time above all else. 

Benefits of Caulking Before Painting

Let’s dive into some of these benefits of caulking prior to painting. From hiding the caulk and cracks and cheating that extra, unnecessary step, there are certainly a good amount of perks to doing the caulking first. 

1. Painting Hides The Caulk 

Caulking first means that the paint will conceal any traces of caulk, offering a smooth finish to the surface you’re working on. This is pretty self explanatory- who doesn’t want to be finished after a long painting process?

Whether it be on your wall or to conceal a gap in the molding, if you caulk first you don’t have to go back later and touch it up. 

2. Hides Any Caulk Cracks 

Once cured, caulking can crack and flake off. If you have evidence of cracks in the caulk, painting over it will conceal that flaw. If you’re just hiding little holes and gaps, you can paint right over the cracks so no one will ever know they are there. 

3. Anyone Can Caulk Before Painting 

Caulking is a simple process that requires zero experience. Even if you’ve never caulked before and don’t own a caulking gun, the caulk container makes it easy to apply with a skinny tip at the end. You don’t even need a lot of supplies. Your caulk and a pair of gloves to keep it from getting all over you while you work. 

Anyone Can Caulk Before Painting 

While a steady hand can help, caulking can be pretty forgiving and you can remove excess pretty effortlessly. So, even if you’ve never caulked, you can get the job done just by following a few simple steps. 

Disadvantages of Caulking Before Painting

One of the biggest disadvantages to caulking before painting is if the surface area you’ve chosen to refinish is exposed to a lot of dirt and dust, it will stick to that area even after you paint. The dirt can be pretty difficult to remove once you’ve made the final step to paint. However this disadvantage is commonly overlooked because many do not want to caulk after they’ve completed painting. 

Should I Caulk After Painting?

If you’re leaning towards caulking after painting to get some steady hand experience in, it is not entirely uncommon.  One common practice that is regularly done in households worldwide where caulking comes after painting is a bathroom. This is because most of the caulking is done to prevent water damage and seepage. You can easily follow a straight line when you caulk post painting and its great practice for future painting needs. 

Benefits Of Caulking After Painting

There are several advantages to caulking after painting. Most commonly, the caulk can be resilient to dirt and particles that might stick to the surface, ensuring you won’t have to clean as often. It’s effective for future maintenance work and also a bit easier to get a straight caulking line when you caulk after painting. Let’s discuss further. 

1. Quite Resilient To Dirt and Dusty Weather 

Caulking after painting is a great tactic to prevent dirt and dust from sticking to your surface. Dirt and dust can cause a buildup and a nasty, dirty appearance to your fresh, newly painted area. Avoid that by doing the caulking post painting, as long as you are certain that you can make it look professional and appealing. 

2. Effective for Future Maintenance Work 

Ever heard the phrase, “ Practice makes perfect?” This is applicable to caulking! If you caulk after you paint, you are training your hand to make the perfect, appealing lines and fills that will be exposed regularly in your home. This practice is great for any future painting ventures. 

3. Easier to Get The Perfect Caulking Line 

Now that you’ve painted, your straight lines should be very visible. This can be both a perk and disadvantage if you can’t master the straight line. However, you can follow lines easier now that the job is nearly complete. If you’ve got a steady hand, you can tackle those straight lines head on with your caulking gun or dispenser. 

Disadvantages of Caulking After Painting

One great disadvantage to caulking after painting is that you may have to go back and touch up paint in areas where caulking is uneven or exposed that make it look sloppy or unfinished. Caulking is visibly seen so if you don’t think you can handle a perfect, straight line, you may not want to do this after painting. 

What Kind Of Caulk Should I Use?

Now that you’ve decided when you’re going to caulk, now you’ll have to figure out which caulk works best for your space. There are six different varieties, all used for different scenarios. These are the types you might ponder:

  • Water based caulk is most commonly known as the quick dry formula, needing only one day to completely dry. 
  • Silicone caulk is the most versatile when it comes to curing on different surfaces. It is also extremely flexible. 
  • Polyurethane caulk expands when it dries so it’s perfect for those large gaps. 
  • Oil Based Caulk is best for exterior surfaces
  • Latex Caulk is the easiest to apply and is perfect for bathroom fixtures. Don’t expect much flexibility from this variety though. 
  • Butyl rubber caulk is perfect for roof patching and other exterior surfaces such as windows. 

How Do I Caulk?

Caulking is a simple task that requires no experience. Gather your materials which will be a pair of gloves and your caulking container with tips. Follow these simple steps to complete your caulking as necessary: 

  • Make sure your surface is clean and dry. Use masking tape to cover any surfaces you want to avoid.
  • Hold the caulking tube at an angle that is comfortable for you and follow in a straight line. Different angles will be used for different spaces. 
  • Keep the tip clean- this may require frequent wiping to ensure it doesn’t get lumpy as you fill your lines and holes. 
  • Cover your tip so that the product doesn’t dry out. Let dry and go back to fill anything you missed as needed. 


Overall, the surface that needs caulking will be the deciding factor of how you go about the process. If you are looking to seal for potential water damage, some may caulk after they paint.

If you need to seal holes or gaps in your walls, you may caulk before you paint to cover any excess or unwanted visible caulking. There are perks and benefits to both and now that you have the knowledge, you can decide what works best for you.

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