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Choosing a sealant

For gaps exposed to constant damp, or where there is movement between two surfaces, sealants - also known as mastics or caulks - are waterproof fillers which remain permanently flexible to accommodate movement. Available in two varieties, acrylics which you can paint over and water-soluble sealants which are waterproof when wet and require white spirit to clean up excess.

Most sealants come in standard cartridges for use in a piston type gun, or in smaller tubes. There are a range of formulations designed for different jobs, but there are two main types:

Kitchen and bathroom sealants

A primary use of sealant is to create a flexible, waterproof join for kitchen and bathroom fittings and tiled surfaces. It is ideal for sealing gaps around baths, basins, shower trays, kitchen sinks and worktops.

Acrylic or silicone-based sealant is designed to be waterproof, mould-resistant, durable, easy to clean and is able to cope with gaps up to 3mm wide. It adheres well to most materials, including wood, aluminium, PVC and ceramics and comes in white, translucent and other popular colours for tiles and fittings.

Frame sealants

Acrylic or silicone-based, this is suitable for sealing gaps and joints between masonry and woodwork or metal, where movement occurs, for example between walls and staircases. It is suitable for sound and draught insulation around door and window frames.

Durable, weatherproof and easy-to-use, frame sealant can cope with gaps up to 10mm wide and is available in formulas for both indoor and outdoor use. It can be painted on to match surrounding surfaces.
Choosing thinners and brush cleaners

It pays not to cut corners on cleaning, stripping or washing surfaces before redecorating. Take good care of your paint equipment and surfaces with our guide to choosing the best solutions.

Sugar soap

A strong alkaline cleaner excellent for washing down, de-greasing and keying painted walls and woodwork prior to redecoration. It is supplied in concentrated crystal, powder or liquid form, to be dissolved or diluted in water before use.

Thinners/white spirit

Thinners are good for keeping your painting equipment clean and to dilute solvent-based paint and varnish which is too thick on use. Most oil paints can be thinned with white spirit. Turpentine substitute can be used to clean brushes but shouldn't be used to thin paints. Emulsions and acrylic-based paints must not be thinned with white spirit but can be thinned and cleaned with water.

Brush cleaner

This purpose made solvent is formulated to speed up the cleaning of wet paint brushes. If the paint on your brush has dried and hardened, stand the brush in brush restorer to remove the paint and condition and soften the bristles.

Paint stripper

Chemical paint stripper is suitable for softening paint or varnish to remove it from wood or metal. Replacing heating methods, it is ideal for stripping window frames where heat could crack the glass, or for creating a clear, wood finish where heat could scorch the wood.

Liquid or gel forms containing dicholoromethane will strip paint quickly and effectively, but are toxic if inhaled. Paste strippers, based on caustic soda take longer to work and can be used for stripping intricate mouldings as the paste forms a skin, which can often be peeled off without scraping.

Wallpaper stripper

A concentrated formula to add to warm water, this will soften wallpaper adhesive when soaking wallcoverings prior to stripping. Score the surface with coarse sandpaper first to aid penetration.