What’s the Difference Between Butyl and Putty Tapes?

few difference between butyl and putty tape

Butyl tape and putty tape are the two most popular types of tapes for their ease of use and versatility when it comes to home repairs and vehicle maintenance.

Although many think these tapes serve the same purpose, they actually differ in pricing, surface adhesion, durability, and flexibility—with one being better than the other overall.

One reason Butyl tape is more expensive than putty tape is that their purposes differ to some degree, with the putty tape being used more often for plumbing issues.

Granted, they can both be used for similar problems at times, but butyl tape excels in sealing areas in RVs, campervans, mobile homes, and many other vehicles.

To learn more about these two tapes, when to use them, and how to use them, here’s the breakdown of butyl tape vs. putty tape you should go through.

What is Butyl Tape?

Butyl tape is a pliable, solvent-based sealant with a strong initial tack. It can bond to most surfaces—including those where moisture is present and can create a problem.

Some of these surfaces where the butyl tape adhesion is excellent include glass, plastic, aluminum, galvanized metal, fiberglass, rubber roofing, wood, etc.

Butyl tape, when applied correctly (on a clean, dust-free surface), provides an excellent airtight and waterproof barrier between the substrate and the tape.

The good thing about butyl taping is that it will maintain durability and flexibility even through extreme temperatures and other environmental conditions.

Furthermore, it does not dry out quickly and also lasts for years, saving you time and money on expensive repairs and future installations.

The Downsides

One main drawback to using solvent-based butyl tape is that exposure to chemicals like gasoline, turpentine, and mineral oil will weaken it over time.

Additionally, as it oxidizes with age, the color may fade slightly, and some varieties may stick to their backing in warmer weather conditions.

It is also believed that the toxic cancer-causing chemicals present in certain butyl tape could be hazardous with long-term exposure.

And that’s the reason why it is often used interchangeably with another name.

What is Putty Tape – How it’s Different?

Putty tape sealant is a rubber-based product used primarily for sealing plumbing joints. However, it can also be used to temporarily block off roof leaks.

This type of tape is similar to butyl tape and is essentially a pliable roll of putty with removable backing paper that can easily be used to fix a plumbing crack and create a waterproof seal on surfaces such as glass, metal, plastic, and wood.

If you want your putty tape to stick, make sure to apply it to a clean and dry surface.

If the tape starts oozing, don’t worry; simply use a plastic knife or credit card to trim off the excess without damaging the surface beneath.

The Downsides

Although putty tape comes at a lower price, the main drawback is it can dry out quickly.

This affects the integrity of the seal, which is why the jobs done with this type of tap only last for about a year before needing to reseal.

Since this tape is petroleum-based, it also leaches chemicals that can be damaging to an EPDM rubber roof.

Why is Butyl Tape Prefered More than Putty Tape?

Although it has a few drawbacks, butyl tape is still beloved by do-it-yourselfers and construction pros.

It seals the flanges on roof vents for RVers and can seal the cracked parts of your boats, motorhomes, travel trailers, and cars, even when they are exposed to quick movements and vibrations.

Butyl tape also protects exposed wood, such as joists and beams, from moisture damage in your home.

To get a tight seal, you can also use these taping materials on heating ducts or on deck screws, bolts, and fasteners to prevent moisture penetration, molds, rust, and rot damage.

Butyl tape also makes it easier to install windows with odd curves. That said, caulking can be simpler to use if you have previously installed windows that now have leaks.

You can check my article on butyl caulking to get an idea of what it is and what it’s used for in general.

The Bottom Line

The key to understanding which tape – putty or butyl – is best for the job lies in evaluating what kind of repair or construction you’re dealing with.

If it’s a quick fix that doesn’t need to last long, the putty tape should do the trick, though in most cases, butyl tape trumps it.

Butyl’s increased strength and ability to withstand time make it ideal for anyone needing a reliable solution.

Because this tape is flexible and less likely to dry out, it won’t crack (when moved) and will stay put on whatever surface you use it on.

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