How to fill in a crack in a wall

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You can walk the walk, but can you caulk the caulk? We don't know what that means either, but master contractor and author Ed Del Grande will show you how to fill in a crack in a wall using a tube of caulk.

How to fill in a crack in a wall
Ed recommends water-based caulk, which cleans up with water. It’s also paintable, so you can paint over it to match the wall. And, the caulk is a little pliable, so as the crack expands and contracts, the caulk will move with it.

  1. Cut open the tip of the caulk at an angle; match the size of the hole with the width of the crack.
  2. Push (don’t pull) the caulk down into the crack to make sure it goes well into it.
  3. Dip your finger in the water, and smooth the caulk with your finger.
  4. If you make a mess or have excess caulk to clean up, use your wet paper towel to remove it.
  5. Wait about a day and paint over the crack, if necessary. Though it may dry in as fast as an hour.
Transcript LISA: I’m Lisa Birnbach for howdini.com. Does it ever seem like your house is falling apart at the seams? So what do you want to do? Call a professional, right? Wrong! We’re going to talk to Ed Del Grande, author of House Call, who’s going to help us do it ourselves. Hi Ed.

ED: Well yeah you can do this yourself…

LISA: Hah-hah.

ED: Big trick is, this is what the pros do is get the right material for the job. Now you see this caulk over here?

LISA: Uh-huh.

ED: This is water-based caulk which means you can clean it up with water; you can also smooth is out with the water. And more importantly it’s paintable, so in case the wall is a different color than the caulk you can paint it to match it right in.

LISA: Okay great. So it’s just sort of like you squeeze and go?

ED: Well, yeah let me show you right here. You got a big expansion crack and what causes an expansion crack is just the house expanding and something’s got to give. So caulk is a great material to solve this problem because the caulk will be a little bit pliable. So it should expand and contract with the wall.

LISA: Oh fantastic.

ED: So first we’ve got to size it up. See how it has a cone over here?

LISA: Yeah.  

ED: That small goes larger? Well match it up with the crack. You see that’s a very small crack.

LISA: Right.

ED: So when we cut the tip you’re going to have to go right to the end of that tip. And let’s make it nice and tiny. And cut it down, get a knife or a scissor. You just cut right through it.

LISA: Do it at an angle?

ED: Do it at an angle, and I’ll tell you why: because you don’t want to pull the caulk. You want to push the caulk down and that gets it right in the crack.

LISA: Uh-huh.

ED: I’ll show you here. We’ll start off with the crack, now start squeezing it, see how it’s coming out?

LISA: Oh yeah.

ED: And we’re just pushing it right down. See how it’s coming out. Look at that. Like magic right?

LISA: Looks like fun.

ED: Yeah. Well now we have that filled in with the first coat. Remember it’s water-based. Get some water; dip your finger in there. Now watch this, you’re just going to smooth it right up. See it takes the excess off?

LISA: Yes.

ED: And that’s it. Just go all the way up and when it dries you can paint it. And have some paper towels handy and it’s as easy as that.

LISA: So it’s not a messy job?

ED: It can be a messy job, but you have to know how to work with the caulk. As a matter of fact you can dip the paper towel in there. Let’s make a mess right here on the wall just for fun. Suppose you spilled some here on the wall.

LISA: Oh silly Ed.

ED: Yeah I haven’t done that in a long time. But with the wet paper towel what’s that? See it?

LISA: Wow, because it’s water-soluble.

ED: It’s water-based, right.

LISA: How long does this kind of caulk take to dry?

ED: usually it can dry in about an hour. What I like to tell people is let it sit for the day, then come back the next day and paint it up.

LISA: And if you’re lucky it’ll dry close enough—

ED: Yes.

LISA: Or if the crack is unobtrusive enough it’ll dry close enough that you won’t have to paint it.

ED: Right. Absolutely. And even if it’s a squiggly crack, like this crack is a little bit squiggly here.

LISA: Yes.

ED: You can just…you don’t have to go right in it, but you can work it in with your finger. See that?

LISA: Yeah.

ED: And you know the trick I told you with the wet paper towel? Dip it in there again, wipe it up there, nice and slow, and wipe it down if you have to, and there you go.

LISA: Really I’m never going to have to hire you now.

ED: Hah-hah I think I put myself out of a job.

LISA: I think you did too. Thanks so much Ed.

ED: You’re welcome.

LISA: I’m Lisa Birnbach for howdini.com.
meet theexpert
  • Ed Del Grande

    Ed Del Grande Master Contractor Ed Del Grande is a master contractor and plumber and the author of House Call: Foolproof Tricks of the Trade from a Master Contractor. He hosted Ed the Plumber on the DIY Network and currently writes a home improvement newspaper column.
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