Construction Materials-Better Alternatives to Silicone

Silicon (notice the spelling difference from “silicone”), is number 14 on the periodic table of elements and happens to be second most abundant element in the earth’s crust.  It was first isolated as an element in the 1820’s and has since been used to create products we use in everyday life.  It is used in semiconductors and photovoltaic panels.  Silicon dioxide, or silica, is used in concrete and in the production of ceramics.  Silicon is also used to create silicone, a manmade compound with many applications.  It is used in the medical community (think implants) and as a lubricant used in both industrial applications and for food preparation (non-stick cookware).  What this article will focus on though is its use in the construction industry, as a sealant.

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Construction Design-Caulking 101-Sealant Chemistry

Part 3 of the caulking 101 series.

You’ve done the work, installed that new bathroom vanity and countertop.  You’ve got the plumbing hooked up and tried out the faucet, yep, everything works.  All that’s left is to seal the countertop to the wall, that finishing touch that completes the installation.  Is that bead of sealant simply cosmetic or is it to prevent water from flowing behind the countertop and vanity possibly causing damage?  Do you use a cheap caulk from the hardware store?  Maybe some silicone?  Which product is right for this job?

Probably the most difficult decision for any caulking job is knowing what to use when and where.  With so many choices, walking down the caulking aisle in any hardware store can make your head spin.  With this post, we are going to talk about the chemistry of sealants, just the basics, enough information so you can make an informed decision the next time you need to choose a sealant.

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Construction Design-Caulking 101-Terminology

Before having a conversation with someone about a specific topic, you really should know the subject matter, the definitions and terminology related to the topics being discussed.  Talking about sealants and caulking is no different.  In the coming blogs, we will be chatting about many different topics with regards to sealants, this thing we are calling caulking 101.  This blog post is the prerequisite for those conversations.

Caulks, sealants, adhesives-what are the differences?

Caulk is a type of sealant that has less movement or flexibility to other sealants.  It’s often used as a cosmetic solution instead of a true “keep things out of a joint” product.  To caulk or caulking can also be used as a verb, the application of a sealant.

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Construction Materials-Sealants

This post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor website.

I once heard Dr. Joseph Lstiburek use the term “pookie”, which made me chuckle.  He was referring to a fluid type product used to seal something.  In construction, we use a lot of different caulks, sealants, and adhesives, all of which are available in some sort of tube or bucket.  A walk through the caulking isle at any hardware store or lumber yard can make your head spin, what to use when and where.

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