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Wainscoting and Caulking

Posted by PinesEverywhere (My Page) on
Wed, May 15, 13 at 18:23

I am posting this in the Woodworking, Paint and Remodeling forums. The picture below is a close-up of Wainscoting that I am attempting to “clean-up” and “paint”. The section shown has been primed. Someone suggested that I caulk the gaps.

But I recently read on a “Caulking” site that you should NOT caulk Wainscoting panels as they will shift almost up to 1/8” depending on climate, settling, etc. This shifting (or poor initial craftsmanship) has left inconsistent gaps that are really unsightly under my bright painting lights. I don’t know if the panels have shifted ALL that they will shift (30 yo home) …. Or …. If they shift seasonally based on temp and humidity.

Anyway, should I:

#1 - Not worry about the gaps because I’m the only one noticing them under bright lights and/or because continuous shifting will occur with these panels
#2 - Caulk ALL of the outer gaps regardless of how WIDE and how DEEP they are
#3 - Caulk just the gaps that are really DEEP and that show a crevice where no primer/paint can adhere

I was prepared to do #3 but my concern is that the caulking will “shore-up the DEPTH of the gap” considerably leaving the other gaps with the intended depth and shadow. My thinking is …. I should caulk ALL of the outer gaps to make the depth/shadow very shallow and consistent … or … just leave them alone as designed or as shifted.

More facts:
- The WORST gaps are 1/8” Wide and almost 1/2” Deep showing a crack/shadow that won’t fill with primer
- Some gaps are 1/8” Wide with a 1/4" Depth and are spottily holding the primer/paint in the groove
- About half of the gaps are PERFECT at a 1/16” width and 1/16” depth which hold the primer/paint in the groove splendidly.

What a mess. I hope this makes sense. Did I mention I hate caulking? LOL.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Wainscoting and Caulking

#1 - Not worry about the gaps because I’m the only one noticing them under bright lights and/or because continuous shifting will occur with these panels

I would only caulk the ones that actually show( with normal lighting) after priming
BTW, you are getting too anal about this.(IMO)

I would bet that NOBODY would ever notice( except you)


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RE: Wainscoting and Caulking

Christophern wrote:

"BTW, you are getting too anal about this.(IMO)"
"I would bet that NOBODY would ever notice( except you)"

You crack me up. Thanks for the advice. I'm going to slither another coat of primer in those groves for good measure and re-evaluate under NORMAL lighting. I also have some divots and sanding yet so I am happy not to caulk these grooves unless absolutely urged to do so -- so Thanks.

P.S. I thought the wallpaper stripping and dry-wall repair/prep in this room was the biggest challenge -- boy was I wrong. I still have problems awaiting with an old bay window -- so I'll likely be back posting about that soon. Eee Gads. Maybe I'll be done by the 4th of July.


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RE: Wainscoting and Caulking

Wood will expand and contract continuously as the seasons change and your HVAC is used. You will not stop it nor should you attempt to. I agree with Christophern's advice.


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RE: Wainscoting and Caulking

Thanks millworkman -- I'm feeling better about leaving these alone.

I read that the caulking may actually split the wood itself with any shifting. Paint, on the other hand, will just separate or flake.

I'm happy with your added advice. Tx.


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RE: Wainscoting and Caulking

caulk expands & contracts with wood movement.

I've never seen any splitting caused by caulk.

just my .02

best of luck.


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RE: Wainscoting and Caulking

Thanks energy rater --

I was confused about caulking in this particular application.

This is the snippet from the article I was referring to about caulking wainscoting in particular.
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"It is always best not to depend on caulking as a fallback for haphazard workmanship. Cut trim and clapboard joints tightly, or scarf them with overlapping miters so they don't gap excessively. Also, never caulk around panels in woodwork, such as a raised panel door or wainscot. These panels are designed to move freely in their framework during seasonal changes-as much as 1/8 for a 12 panel. Caulking them in place could spell disaster because today's stronger caulks will often allow the wood to split before they break their bond. If you absolutely cannot stand to look at a gap that is expected to move seasonally, run just a slight bead of caulk along the surface, but never inject it underneath the joints of the paneling.
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Unfortunately, I have a case of poor craftsmanship that I am attempting to make moderately better. Thanks for chiming in one and all!

Here is a link that might be useful: The Short Course on Caulk, by Noelle Lord


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