posted on September 01, 2010 00:06
As a countertop fabricator, I have been using silicone to glue countertops to cabinets and splashes to the walls for over 20 years. Silicone works wonders and sticks to practically anything. It stays flexible to provide movement for the countertop as temperature changes and the building shifts. Silicone is the perfect adhesive for the countertop industry.
But we often asked ourselves, “What is the difference between a $2.50 tube and an eight dollar tube.” Come to find out it’s not as simple as price alone. While price can be a big factor in determining quality, purchasing your silicone from a reputable supplier is the best approach. There is really no way to determine quality by the look of the product.
TYPES OF SILICONE
RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) silicone falls into three basic categories:
- Silicone – this includes Acetoxy one-part silicone which come in a variety of formulations for a variety of applications, and Neutral Cure Silicone also a variety of formulations for a variety of applications.
- Polyurethanes – primarily sealants, these are included because a lot of silicone users are trying to get a one-part Acetoxy product to perform as a Polyurethane which have high adhesion and tensile strengths. Polyurethanes are also available in a variety of formulations for a variety of applications.
- Water Based – this is where your Acrylics are found and come in a range varying from an affordable paintable product to a more upscale product that is flexible enough to maintain a seal while allowing the joint to move, is mildew resistant, and still be able to clean up with water.
As fabricators, we want to do two things; we need to first stick the countertop and splash to the cabinets and wall. Second we need to use the silicone as a sealant where the splash meets the wall and countertop.
Gluing the top down, a moderate priced 100% clear silicone works best. The product stays flexible as the counter materials moves with temperature and humidity.
Sealing or caulking to conceal joints and gaps is where the real debate starts. Some like to use translucent, some like opaque. Others like silicone with particulate that matches the countertop material perfectly.
Translucent products historically work on a plus or minus 10 on the Pentium Scale meaning that a translucent gray will work on about 20 different shades of Gray. The translucency of these products does more to make the seam more inconspicuous versus a non-translucent product that has more of a gloss finish and can promote that same seam or joint.
The biggest advantage with acrylic silicone is that these are primarily water based products that can be painted. Clean-up is as simple as using a damp or wet cloth. Where the splash meets the wall is a practical application for an Acrylic.
Opaque colored silicone can be matched to exact sheet color specifications creating a perfect match. Many prefer opaque because it will fill and conceal and gaps and joints.
Clear, 100% Silicone – Adhering counters, splash and panels to cabinets and walls. We typically purchase mildew resistant because the silicone will never be seen.
Translucent 100% Silicone Adhesive – We buy Axiom silicone for caulking between countertop surfaces like the splash and deck, works great for caulking showers as well. Translucent tends to blend the two surfaces together disguising the joint. Plus, with only eight colors, it keeps the cost down. These eight colors seem to match virtually all the different brands and colors of solid surface, quartz and granite.
Acrylic – Anywhere our countertop material touches a painted surface, except a cabinet, we use the acrylic. The main advantage is the customer can paint the silicone to match the wall. It is difficult to get paint to stick to 100% silicone. We like to match the wall color as close as possible just to make our installation the best it can be. Color Rite makes many colors to match the color of the wall and are readily available.
There are many silicone companies out there, but most acquire the base silicone product from one of four companies. They are then repackaged and private labeled. The industrial grade silicone is 100% silicone. Although the product you purchase says 100% silicone, they are not always the same. Silicone can be cut with solvent, degrading the quality. Cutting with solvent does not necessarily mean the silicone will not work for the intended purpose, but be weary of thin, runny silicone.
Make sure you purchase the correct silicone type for the each application. Use 100% silicone for sticking things together, acrylic for sealing when water cleanup and paintability is required.
After all is said about silicone, you will find that almost everyone has a different answer. Hopefully I have provided enough to get you through the confusion so you can develop your own system.
Thanks to the Bruce Adhesive team, Adam Meinke owner of Color Rite Inc., Al Thiemke, owner of Axiom and Dani Homrich of Dani Designs. They provided great information and are all active in the countertop industry. Visit their websites for more information.
About the Author: Andy Graves is the owner and operator of Olive Mill Manufacturing Inc. in Anaheim California. Olive Mill specialized in residential and commercial countertop fabrication/installation. Graves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Visit his website: www.OliveMill.com