When You Need Seal A Leak, Look To These Expert-Recommended Caulking Guns

caulk gun
The Best Caulking Guns for Home Repair ProjectsTrevor Raab

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Water getting places it shouldn’t is always a problem, whether it involves roadway flooding or a leak in your bathroom from a poorly sealed substrate. While there are some home maintenance tasks that don't always require immediate attention, keeping up with insufficient caulking is not one of them. Unless you want to deal with a larger (and more expensive) project down the road, you’re going to have to seal those cracks, gaps, and joints with flexible, elastic caulk.

A dedicated caulking gun allows you to apply the sticky, gooey product quickly and cleanly, and as long as the gap you’re working with isn’t wider than a ¼-inch thick, it should completely block moisture or airflow. The pistol-style design of caulk guns makes them comfortable to hold and operate with two hands, as well as load with proper caulk packaging.

Most caulk guns are powered manually — by the user squeezing a trigger — but they’re also available in automatic battery-powered options. These automatic options tend to be more expensive, but they do require less effort to operate, which can be a boon if doing lots of caulking or if you suffer from arthritis or other hand issues that make it difficult to squeeze with your hands.

Best Caulk Guns

The Expert: As a former residential and commercial carpenter, I’ve used my expertise and knowledge to write about DIY, tool, and home products for Business Insider, Family Handyman, and CNN Underscored. I’ve used caulk guns in a variety of home DIY and renovation projects over the years — most recently to replace some cracked grout around my backsplash — as well as for applying heavy-duty adhesives on construction job sites. I also have experience using a range of caulk gun types, from bottom of the barrel skeleton tools, to high-end automatic machines. As someone who's seen some rough caulking jobs over the years, and suffered through my own learning curve while starting out, I appreciate how big of an impact a reliable and user-friendly caulk gun can be.

What To Consider

Depending on the type of caulk you plan on using, the scope of the project, and your own personal expertise, some caulk guns are a better fit than others. Make sure to familiarize yourself with these factors before making your purchase.

Gun Types

There are two basic types of caulk guns, manual and battery-powered, each of which have their own pros and cons. (Other automatic versions exist, like corded electric and pneumatic, but those are much less common).

Manual: Manual caulking guns are the most common, and work by inserting a caulk cartridge inside the barrel, and squeezing a trigger to dispense its contents. Every time you squeeze, a plunger rod presses forward into the caulk container, forcing more out of the tip as you apply it. This design makes it easy to dispense the precise amount of caulk you need, although depending on your strength level, caulk type, and project scope, it can result in sore forearms.

Battery-Powered: These automatic caulk guns look similar to manual versions, but they use an on-board battery to operate the plunger, which requires less effort by the user. These are significantly more expensive, but if you have a large project, the energy saved could be worth the investment.

Thrust Ratio

It’s important to know what kind of caulk, sealant, or adhesive you’re going to be using. These materials can come in different levels of viscosity, so it’s important that your gun is able to generate the pressure necessary to push the material out of the tube.

This “thrust ratio” is conveniently stated on almost all caulk gun descriptions, which makes it easy to choose the best one for the job. Thrust ratio — which details the pounds of force applied to the caulk tube for every pound of force applied on the gun’s trigger — ranges from 3:1 for thin materials all the way up to 28:1 for extremely thick products. As a general rule, most residential projects can get away with a thrust ratio of 10:1.

Caulk Packaging

The caulk used in caulking guns comes in either a hard plastic tube or cartridge, or a soft mylar “sausage pack”. Plastic tubes are the most common, and fit in most standard caulk guns, but the leftover tube is less convenient to dispose of than the thin foil disc of an emptied sausage pack. Sausage packs lack the rigidity of plastic, and require an enclosed barrel to stay contained while being squeezed.

You also need to make sure that the size of the packaging is compatible with your gun. While most caulk tubes are 10 ounces, they can range larger, which requires a longer barrel. Some caulk guns are versatile enough to accept both cartridge and sausage packs, as well as different sizes of each.

How We Selected

We’ve used countless caulk guns over the years, from sealing bathrooms and kitchens, to using liquid adhesives on heavy-duty construction projects. I used this experience, as well as extensive research into well-known review sites, message boards, and user reviews, to help curate this list of the best caulk guns you can buy. I made sure to include a range of styles in our picks too, including both models that use traditional caulk cartridges, as well as those that are designed to accept sausage packs. Regardless of the type or size of the caulk you’re using, you should find something that works for you and your budget.

Newborn 930-GTD Smooth Hex Rod Caulking Gun

Simple to use and durable enough to last a long time, you really can’t go wrong with this Newborn caulk gun. Its rubber-padded handle and ergonomic trigger are comfortable to grip and squeeze, and should help cut down on hand cramping and forearm fatigue.

The 10:1 thrust ratio is perfectly suited for use with most acrylic and latex products, and a helpful no-drip feature – the flow stops after each squeeze of the trigger – helps keep your work surface clean and neat.

There is a spout cutter on the unit itself (although it won’t give you a 45-degree cut like a utility knife), and a puncture tool that folds out of the barrel, allowing you to pop the seal of your tube quickly and easily. Plus, the curved end of the plunger acts as a handy ladder hook. These small features aren’t exactly essential, but together they combine to reduce time wasted searching for extra tools or the gun itself, streamlining your overall project.

Considering the attractive price and user-friendly design, this gun is a practical choice for pretty much anybody (unless you’re dealing with an ultra-viscous material).

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000BQS5GO?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10060.g.36652477%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Newborn 930-GTD Smooth Hex Rod Caulking Gun</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$11.39</p>

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Newborn 930-GTD Smooth Hex Rod Caulking Gun



Adjustable Caulk Gun

Save yourself time, space, and money by choosing this multifunctional Workpro model. Its dual thrusting system allows you to choose from 9:1 or 18:1 thrust ratios, making it well-suited for a range of viscosities. Alternating between these two settings is simple too— simply pull the trigger handle down for high flow or push it back up for low thrust. First-timers who just want to make sure their caulking job doesn’t turn into a giant mess will surely appreciate this feature.

A convenient no-drip regulator can ease off pressure on the tube to stop material from flowing. The rotating barrel also makes working upside down or in hard-to-reach areas less of a hassle, allowing you to position the cut tip however you like. The rubber grip on the trigger is nice perk, especially for extended jobs, and a spring-loaded thumb release allows for easy tube removal.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08T9JTHNK?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10060.g.36652477%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Adjustable Caulk Gun</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$21.99</p>

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Adjustable Caulk Gun



3939 13-inch Rotating Barrel Caulk Gun

10-ounce cartridges not cutting it? This 13-inch Red Devil caulking gun is compatible with 28-ounce versions, allowing you to work faster and more efficiently. The quick release lever further speeds up your process, so you can easily remove and insert cartridges without much hassle. It features a rotating barrel so you can easily reposition the tip as you work.

The 20:1 thrust ratio is a nice middle of the road option that covers a lot of materials, and a drip-free design helps keep your work surface and application area clean. This caulk gun isn’t compatible with smaller cartridges – but if you’re tackling a large project where it makes sense to buy large tubes, this is an efficient and heavy-duty option.

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3939 13-inch Rotating Barrel Caulk Gun



375-XSP Super Smooth

Boasting an impressive 26:1 thrust ratio, this Newborn option is sturdy enough to generate and withstand the high pressures needed for high-viscosity products. Made with a steel frame and heat-treated pressure rod, you won’t have to worry about cracked or bent components when pumping out polyurethane, epoxies, or mastic sealant. Additionally, the dipped handle offers a solid grip while you work.

The revolving barrel allows users to work uninterrupted, even when maneuvering around corners and into awkward spaces. I wish it included an integrated puncture rod like most caulking guns (it can be a hassle to track down a nail long enough sometimes) although the durable construction and smooth operation are a reasonable trade-off. The bright red color also makes it easy to spot in a cluttered garage or job site.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CLVAA24?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10060.g.36652477%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>375-XSP Super Smooth</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$49.99</p>

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375-XSP Super Smooth



2441-20 M12 Electric Cordless Caulk Gun

No one’s going to think less of you for using an automatic caulk gun, I promise. This 12-volt Milwaukee machine features a variable speed trigger and separate speed dial, allowing for total control over the rate of product being expelled. An anti-drip feature automatically reverses the plunger when you release the trigger, helping to ensure a clean workspace and eliminate waste.

I’m a big fan of the rubber handle grips on Milwaukee power tools like this one, which adds to its overall comfort during use. You can convert this gun to accept 20-ounce sausage packs with a separate kit, making it a versatile option. While this product isn’t listed with a specific thrust-ratio, it generates up to 400 pounds of pressure, which should cover the majority of products.

Although this model does not include a battery, it could still be a reasonable buy for anyone who already has a Milwaukee tool collection with extra M12 batteries lying around. While the unit is made with lots of plastic components, my experiences with Milwaukee power tools over the years have been positive. They hold up just fine as long as you're not abusing the products and errantly throwing them around.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AAGVZVW?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10060.g.36652477%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>2441-20 M12 Electric Cordless Caulk Gun</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$172.00</p>

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2441-20 M12 Electric Cordless Caulk Gun



620AL Sausage Pack Caulk Gun

If you’re interested in cutting down on cartridge waste, or prefer the efficient design and ejection of a sausage pack, this Newborn gun has you covered. Its enclosed barrel fits both 10- or 20-ounce sausage packs, and the convenient self-puncture cone eliminates the need for a utility knife (which can get messy). A heavy-duty ring cap then threads around that cone, creating a tight seal for smooth and efficient application.

What’s nice about this gun is how versatile it is, both in type of caulk packaging you can use with it, as well as capacity. In addition to a range of sausage packs, it’s also compatible with traditional cartridges. It can even be used to suction bulk sealant out of a bucket. This multifunctional design makes it a great option for those who frequently use their caulking gun for a range of projects.

I’m also a fan of how this gun is available in a wide variety of colors, which can be handy if you’re working with others and don’t want yours getting mixed up.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B013WAXI9Y?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10060.g.36652477%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>620AL Sausage Pack Caulk Gun</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$56.15</p>

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620AL Sausage Pack Caulk Gun



PCL901K1 ONE+ Power Caulk Adhesive Gun

This Ryobi gun is well-suited for those who want the convenience of a battery-powered machine, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on one. At the pull of a trigger, this gun can generate up to 500 lbs of force, and a variable speed dial allows you to customize the discharge rate – perfect for those who want to reduce mess and ensure precise application.

A handy trigger lock prevents accidental activation, which would come in handy transporting this in a toolbox or bag. When it’s time for cleaning, the removable carriage makes it easy to wipe down or wash without worrying about the electronic components.

Best of all, unlike most automatic caulking guns, this one includes its own battery and charger, so no need for a separate purchase. For a little over $100, it’s tough to beat the value.

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.homedepot.com%2Fp%2FRYOBI-ONE-18V-Cordless-10-oz-Caulk-Adhesive-Gun-Kit-with-1-5-Ah-Battery-and-Charger-PCL901K1%2F320639503&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.popularmechanics.com%2Fhome%2Ftools%2Fg36652477%2Fbest-caulking-guns%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>PCL901K1 ONE+ Power Caulk Adhesive Gun</p><p>homedepot.com</p><p>$89.00</p>

820AL Elite Series Caulking Gun

Comfortable to use, versatile, and built to last, this 820AL Newborn model might be expensive, but I wouldn't consider it overpriced. Featuring textured and ergonomic rubber handles, this high-end tool is comfortable to grip and squeeze, increasing overall accuracy. Aluminum front and rear caps and a heat-treated plunger rod beef up its durability, ensuring its an investment that should last.

It’s capable of accepting both cartridges and sausage packs – of a range of sizes – and the 22:1 thrust ratio can handle high-viscosity products.

I also love the oversized ladder hook on this model, which is not only durable, but also simple to hang on your belt or ladder when you need a break. It’s not the cheapest model on our list, but if you have a lot of caulking to do, the ease-of-use, versatility, and overall durability could be worth the investment.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DQVLKMC?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10060.g.36652477%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>820AL Elite Series Caulking Gun</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$79.99</p>

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820AL Elite Series Caulking Gun



Caulk Gun Q&A With Expert Alex Rennie

What is the best way to seal a tube of caulk that has been opened?

Caulk cartridges aren’t designed to be resealed after they’re opened, but if you’re interested in preserving what’s still inside, you really just need to close the tip. You can accomplish this by simply squeezing out a little excess and letting it harden, then pull out this “lid” when you’re ready to use it again. Or, insert a long nail or screw that fits snugly inside – no need to actually screw into the nozzle, the wet caulk should form a seal – and pull it out with a pair of pliers later on. In a pinch, you could even use some rolled up blue painters tape to jam into the tip. These resealed tubes won’t last forever though, and may start to harden up after a few months.

How long does an unopened tube of caulk last?

Unopened tubes of caulk have a relatively short shelf life, so always check the expiration date before purchase. Most last about 12 months, and I’ve heard stories of even slightly expired sealants not drying properly after application, which is then a huge mess to remove. Using caulk after the expiration date may also void any warranties, so it’s best not to risk it.

What is the best way to clean caulk that has gotten somewhere it shouldn’t be?

The specific cleanup process depends on the type of caulk being used. Uncured (still wet) latex caulk can be cleaned up with a rag moistened with soapy water, while silicone caulk needs mineral spirits to get the job done. When dried, a razor blade and Goo-Gone can be used to remove unwanted caulk.

You can also prevent this problem altogether by creating a neat and clean bead of caulk in the first place. Try using painters tape to create an edge before application, then, any excess product ends up on the tape, which is then pulled off and thrown out. You can also use electrical tape for creating curved edges around sinks.

a person holding a caulk gun
Trevor Raab

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