Caulking materials such as silicone can be difficult to paint over because they are smooth and not very porous. If you try to paint over them, the paint has trouble gripping onto the caulk and simply slides right off.
However, if you still need to paint over silicone caulking, there are two options available.
The first method is to remove the old caulking material by cutting or scraping it out and then applying new paintable caulk to the surface. However, this process might be challenging, mainly if the silicone caulk is fresh and not fully cured.
Another possibility is to apply paintable caulk over the existing silicone caulk instead of taking it off. The new caulk will stick to the old one, and you can paint it afterward. I believe this is the most straightforward method to address the issue.
Cutting Non-Paintable Caulk
If you choose the first option, to remove the old caulk and have it reapplied, you need to take some care in how this is done so that you do not damage the surface around.
The first thing to do is score the caulk with a sharp knife, ensuring that you only cut through the top layer of the caulk and not into the surface below. Once you have scored the caulk, begin prying it out with a putty knife or another sharp object.
After you have removed all of the old caulk, apply a new layer of paintable caulk and allow enough drying time. Once dried, you can paint it with the color of your choice.
During the entire process, work very slowly and cautiously so that you do not damage the surface around the caulk.
Painting Non-Paintable Silicone Caulk
If you decide to choose the second option, to cover the non-paintable caulk with paintable caulk, there are a few steps you need to follow to get the job done right.
Here is a detailed step-by-step process on how to do it:
Step 1) Make sure the surface is clean.
The first step here is cleaning the surface around the silicone caulk because any dirt, grease, or grime will prevent the new caulking from properly adhering.
Use some mild soap and water clean the area. If the area is extremely dirty, consider using an all-purpose household cleaner such as 409 or Windex.
Step 2) Apply painter’s tape.
Next, apply painter’s tape along the edges of the caulk to create a clean line. It will prevent paint from getting onto surfaces you don’t want.
Step 3) Apply the caulk.
To apply the paintable caulk, cut the tip of the tube at a 45-degree angle, making sure the hole is no larger than 1/8 inch. Begin at one end of the surface and run a smooth, slow bead of caulk along the surface.
After applying the caulk, use your finger to smoothen it out for a polished appearance. Apply a second coat if necessary, but make sure it’s also smoothed out to ensure even drying.
Step 4) Remove the painter’s tape.
Removing the painter’s tape before the caulk dries is crucial to avoid the caulk sticking to the tape, which can make it tough to remove later.
Additionally, be sure to clean up any excess sealant (using a damp cloth or paper towel) from surfaces where it is not needed.
Step 5) Allow the caulk to dry and paint over.
To ensure proper painting, wait for the caulk to dry thoroughly, which may take 24-48 hours, depending on the type of caulk used. Once it’s dry, apply paint as usual, using a paint that is safe for the type of caulk you use.
Generally, for latex-based paintable caulks, you can use:
- Latex Paints
- Oil-Based Paints
- Shellac-Based Paints
Keep in mind that depending on the type of paint you choose for the surface, you may need to apply the primer first. If in doubt, you may consult the caulk manufacturer’s instructions to see if this is a necessary step.
What Will Happen if You Leave Caulk Unpainted?
Freshly applied silicone caulk on window trim looks fine when first applied. Over time, however, it can change color, become brittle and even crack.
If you choose not to paint over the decorator’s caulking, it will eventually discolor (become yellow or brown) even faster. Also, if the caulk is located in an area where there is a lot of water or moisture, it can begin to degrade and crumble over time.
In some cases, the unpainted caulk may even start to get mildew that can be difficult to clean and remove later.
Paintable caulk, on the other hand, is designed to be durable and withstand the elements, so it’s always best to paint over it to help extend its lifespan.
Why Should You Not Paint Directly Over Non-Paintable Caulk?
Many times homeowners will try to paint directly over non-paintable caulk in an effort to save time. However, I do not recommend this option for several reasons.
Firstly, non-paintable caulk is not meant to be painted over and will not adhere properly to the paint. This can cause the silicone to crack, peel, and flake off over time.
It’s also essential to note that not all paintable caulks are compatible with all types of paint. For example, some latex-based caulks can only be painted over with latex paints. If you use an incompatible paint, it will not adhere correctly and will start to peel and flake off quickly.
The bottom line
Attempting to paint over non-paintable silicone caulk is a time-consuming process that often results in poor results.
If you want to color, it’s always best to use a paintable caulking material like acrylic caulk and then paint over it to achieve the best results. This will ensure that the caulking and paint you put adheres properly and last many years without getting cracked.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.