Like WD-40, silicone caulk is one of those home survival products that no modern-day toolbox is without.
The main reason for caulk's popularity? Sealing your home's windows and doors against air leaks will reduce your energy bills.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that when homeowners reduce their air leaks by caulking, they can save up to 10 percent on home energy bills.
Caulk can also prevent mold and water damage, keep out bugs and reduce outside noise, and keep the humidity at livable levels.
So whether you're a novice to caulking or need a refresher on how to do it, the General Electric Co. website gives a five-step process that's easy and worth the minimal investment of some time:
1: Buy 100 percent silicone caulk. Don't buy acrylic caulk, which will crack and leak over time.
2: Clean the surface. Use a wire brush or caulk-removing tool to clear the area of old caulk and dirt, and then wipe clean. You can also apply masking tape for a straight edge.
3: Insert cartridge: Cut the nozzle of the caulk tube to the desired bead size and insert the cartridge into the caulking gun. Squeeze the trigger, using even pressure, to apply the caulk along cracks and spaces inside and outside the house.
4: Smooth the caulk seal with your finger or a wet caulk-smoothing tool two to five minutes after application.
5: Store the tube and clean up. Replace the cap on the caulk tube or let the caulking material dry out at the tip and form a natural plug you squeeze out to use it again. Clean the area around the caulk using mineral spirits.
The GE website also provides some cool ways to test whether you've done a good job of sealing.
One of the methods is the dollar bill test. Place a dollar bill between the doorjamb or between the window sash and sill. If you can easily remove the dollar when the door or window is closed, you have not successfully sealed the leak.
To check out the GE website, go to www.caulkyourhome.com/how-to-seal.php.
Another good website for a successful caulking job is www.ehow.com/. It offers these tips:
Cut the tip of the tube to the smallest amount you think you need. You can make the hole larger but you can't make it smaller again.
Don't use a nail to plug the nozzle when you're done. Let the caulking material dry out at the tip and form a natural plug you squeeze out to use it again.
Don't try to caulk the entire door jamb at once. Smooth it out as you go. Caulking skins over quickly and then you can't smooth it out properly.
Don't rely on caulking to fill nail holes. It shrinks too much and will show in your finished job. Use spackling compound instead.
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; firstname.lastname@example.org.