Silicone Sealant vs. Acrylic: Which Option Is Better?

plumber apply silicone sealant to the joint bathtubs and ceramic tile

Seals are used across different industries to fulfill specific purposes. Considering that different materials tend to try to intrude into spaces, you need a credible guard to keep them at bay and ensure that nothing goes through. 

Whether it’s in construction, building cars, or more, you need a proper seal that holds materials where they are and ensures that no unnecessary mixing is done. This is where sealants come in, and they sure come in very handy across the board. 

But, as it is with everything else that you choose in your operations, finding the right option is critical. And, when it comes to sealants, silicone and acrylics are easily the most popular. Let’s dive in to see where they differ.   

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Silicone Sealant vs. Acrylic: Understanding Your Options 

Before we get into comparing the two options, let’s really understand what silicone sealants and acrylic sealants are and how they operate. 

What Is A Silicone Sealant? 

First, we have the silicone sealant. Basically, this is an adhesive material that comes with a primary silicone body. For those who know, silicone is a synthetic polymer material that is made by the combination of oxygen and silicon – as well as additional materials like hydrogen and carbon that help to improve its general characteristics. 

With siliconized caulk, you have a material that helps to join surfaces together and also prevents the entry of specific intrusive elements – water, air, you name it. And, with silicone itself being relatively healthy, siliconized caulk has become a staple in several household and consumer goods. 

To make a silicone filling material, manufacturers generally combine the following elements: 

  • The Silicone Itself: Well, it wouldn’t be a silicone sealant without the primary silicone material, would it? The polymer comes with a silicone material, and as you would imagine, it’s important that you get a high-quality option. 
  • Additional Fillers: Manufacturers tend to add fillers to the silicone to help improve its properties – temperature resistance, strength, etc. Inert materials are usually applied here, so you have a lot to choose from. 
  • Plasticizers: Every sealant needs to stretch and be flexible. This is where plasticizers come in. With their help, the silicone filling is able to keep stretching over time, and it is also able to soak in movement without the onset of cracking at all. 
  • Curing Materials: In most cases, you will find a silicone sealant for wood being developed as either a one-part or a two-part system. For the former, you need moisture to help cure the material. But, for the latter, you would need to get some other curing agent to accommodate the additional materials. 
  • Adhesives: On its own, a silicone sealant for wood will be able to significantly improve adhesion between materials. But, you can also add some adhesion promoters to help improve these characteristics even more. When you need to stick to materials like plastic and glass that aren’t so adhesive, these promoters come in handy. 
  • Pigments: Mostly, pigments help to add a little bit of color to the mix. So, if you need a silicone filling for aesthetic purposes, the pigment ensures that this can be done. 

Exploring Acrylic Sealant

Now, let’s move to the other end of the spectrum – the acrylic sealant. 

Also known as an acrylic caulk, an acrylic sealant is a sealing material that mostly works for components like joints, cracks, and more. The material is known to be very easy to use, and it also comes as a versatile option. 

With acrylic caulk, you have a material that works best for indoor purposes. Its flexibility is notable, and the material easily sticks to opposing surfaces. Plus, with their quick curing time, acrylic sealants operate quite quickly across the board. 

Generally, the makeup of an acrylic sealant usually comes with some of the following components: 

  • The Acrylic Polymer: As you would imagine, it’s impossible to have an acrylic sealant without an acrylic polymer. Unlike the silicone variants, the acrylic polymers here are derived from acrylic acid- or, at the very least, acrylate compounds. These compounds come with three main elements- oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. 
  • Additional Fillers: Then, manufacturers are free to add calcium carbonate or other inert materials to serve as fillers. Their job, as it is in silicone polymers, is to optimize the properties of the acrylic sealers here. 
  • Thickeners: On their own, acrylic sealers tend to have low viscosity. This is why you need a thickener to help ensure that the sealant stays in one place once you apply it. 
  • Pigments & Curing Agents: Finally, you have the mix that rounds out the makeup of the acrylic sealants – pigments and curing agents. As you know, pigments help to add that sense of color that makes an acrylic sealant perfect for aesthetic uses. With a curing agent, you have a material that helps the sealant cure through evaporation.

Silicone Sealant vs. Acrylic: Which Is More Flexible?

Now that we’ve answered the question of what both materials are, we can go ahead to compare them based on some of the most significant yardsticks for sealant products. 

To start with, let’s examine the functionality of flexibility. This is important, especially when you need to accommodate material movement, expansion, or contraction. So, how do both materials compare in this regard? 

The Elastic Metric

First, let’s look at the elasticity of the materials themselves. Generally, a silicone silling exhibits high levels of elasticity – much more than an acrylic sealant. With a silicone sealant, you have a material that is able to expand and compress and still not lose any of its characteristic features. So, if you need something to help you seal shut those joints and other components, this is what you might want to choose. 

It is worth noting that an acrylic sealant also does well in this regard. But, this flexibility is only to a certain extent. When placed against silicone sealants, they can’t quite compete. 

They Accommodate More Materials

The flexibility of silicone also extends to its overall versatility. With a silicone filling, you have a material that works for wood, glass, metal, plastic, and so much more. And, to make it even better, they work even with material flexing. 

Acrylic sealants, on the other hand, mostly stick to traditional materials. You might find some difficulty sticking acrylic to wood, for instance, and this means that their versatility in functionality is somewhat limited. 

How They Handle Temperatures

When it comes to material fillers and sealants, one of the biggest contributors to flexibility is the ability to withstand different temperatures. And, on this front, silicone sealants win once again. Whether in high or low temperatures, a silicone sealant holds its own. So, if you need something that works in outdoor locations, this one has you covered. 

Think that sticking acrylic to wood is hard? Try doing so in high temperatures and outdoor environments. 

Managing Water Entry 

Finally, we should also note that silicone sealants tend to do better when it comes to resisting the entry of water. Even in wet environments, they don’t compromise on their characteristics and strength. 

Silicone Sealant vs. Acrylic: Comparing Adhesion Properties

What’s the purpose of having a sealant if its adhesive properties aren’t great? At the end of the day, this is one of the most important things you account for when looking for a water based acrylic sealant or some other silicone sealant variant. 

So, it only makes sense that you understand how both options perform. 

The Breakdown For Silicone Sealants 

Generally, silicone sealants are known to be quite versatile in what they stick to – we already pointed that out. Whether you’re looking for something that sticks to ceramics or glass, this option is always a viable one. And, as you can imagine, this only makes them perfect for different applications. 

The flexibility and water resistance benefits should also not be overstated. Silicone sealants can accommodate different structural shifts, and the fact that they don’t get so affected by moisture exposure also makes them very useful. 

If you want a sealant that works for both indoor and outdoor use, rest assured that a silicone sealant is right there for you. The sun’s UV rays, changes in temperatures, weathering, and many other elemental factors don’t have much of an effect on the material. 

How Acrylic Sealants Score 

Primarily, adhesion is quite impressive for acrylic sealants. Even with a water-based acrylic sealant, you get a lot of easy adhesion across the board. 

Primarily, the distinctive factor for these sealants is that they stick well to porous surfaces – drywall, etc. And, with this, they work best for indoor purposes. That said, you also need to keep in mind that their adhesion is limited when it comes to non-porous surfaces. And when you consider the fact that an acrylic surface also gets affected by moisture, you can see why its functionality might be a tad limited on this front. 

In general, this material is best used indoors where you can have proper exemption from any harsh environmental conditions.

Silicone Sealant vs. Acrylic: Can You Paint Over Them?

Next, we need to look at another important factor that tends to be brought up a lot when it comes to sealants and fillers – paintability. Essentially, this is an aesthetic factor. But, because aesthetics now matter so much to us, you can kind of see why paintability will too. Whatever sealant you choose needs to be compatible with paint, so you don’t end up losing the visual appeal of what you’re building. 

On this front, here is how both options compare. 

The Primary Paintability Comparison 

To get it out there, both silicone and acrylic sealants are paintable. However, acrylic fillings appear to be better here. Once cured, acrylic sealants will fit perfectly with most paints and not need any added primers. You can get an acrylic latex filler and make use of it across the board if you’re really serious about this. 

On the other hand, you’ll need a little more work with silicone sealants. Not all paints work equally well with silicone surfaces, and this means that you have to be more careful with the paint you choose. 

The Need For Surface Preparation

Before the paint is applied to a sealant, experts will recommend that you conduct some surface preparation. But, because silicone sealants tend to be more choosy with the types of paint they work with, the need for surface preparation is especially prominent here. 

Once you do it right, you will be able to apply your paint as you choose. Of course, acrylic sealants don’t necessarily have this requirement. 

The Location Matters Too 

At the end of the day, it is always important to draw a distinction between where these paints really work. With silicone sealants, you have an option that works for both indoor and outdoor use. And as long as you apply surface preparation and use the right paint, you shouldn’t have an issue. 

On the flip side, acrylic sealants are ideal for indoor use because they don’t do so well against the elements. 

All in all, when it comes to paints, remember to always wait for the sealant to cure properly and to choose painting options that are compatible with them. Also, don’t be scared to test the paintability of your sealant in a small area before actually using it on the entire project you’re working on. 

Silicone Sealant vs. Acrylic: Waterproofing and Weather Resistance

Next, let’s take a quick look at the general water resistance properties of both materials to understand how they work and what you can achieve with them. 

We already pointed out the fact that silicone sealants come with a water-resistant property from the start. When they operate, they create a strong, water-tight seal that allows them to easily withstand exposure to different forms of moisture. As a result, they work for both indoor and outdoor use. 

Besides this, a siliconized caulk will also maintain its flexibility even when you’re done curing it. So, even in wet conditions, it accommodates movements in joints and can last for much longer. Add this to the durability benefit, and you’ll find that siliconized caulk is perfect for projects that need long-lasting weather resistance. 

For acrylic sealants, you get pretty limited water resistance levels. They work better for indoor uses, and where you only run a small risk of exposure to moisture. If you have consistently wet conditions, then these sealants aren’t necessarily what you need. 

These limitations also extend to flexibility, with acrylic sealants not matching up with their silicone counterparts when it comes to flexibility. And in areas where joint movement is required, these sealants leave little to be desired in terms of efficiency.

Silicone Sealant vs. Acrylic: Where Do They Shine?

If you’re looking to mark a proper distinction between silicone and acrylic sealants, it might be best to understand where the two options really work best. While there are overlapping functionalities, these materials aren’t the same. And this means that there are scenarios where they tend to outperform each other. 

Major Uses Of Silicone Sealants 

Sealing Areas Around The House 

Arguably, the bathroom, shower and the kitchen are where you run the highest risks of moisture exposure in the house. And, if you need a sealant here, a silicone variant is usually the better option. 

Just as well, these sealants also work well when you need a sealant for gaps in doors and windows. They won’t allow any water or air in, and their flexibility makes it easy for these structures to also move around. 

Assisting Construction Work 

We should also point out the suitability of silicone sealants for external applications. Here, as you can imagine, the need for weather resistance can’t be overstated. So, silicone sealants help to seal joints in different exterior applications. 

Sealing For Cars & Electronics 

Just like they do for homes, silicone sealants also work in automotive functions to help protect doors and window gaps. And, considering that cars are sometimes subjected to some harsh operating conditions, the durability of silicone sealants easily fits this application. 

In the electronic space, silicone sealants also lend their electrical resistance to ensure that moisture and excess electrical current don’t pass through. 

Use In The Marine Space

Besides ordinary water, silicone sealants also protect against saltwater. So, when sealants are needed for things like ships and other marine applications, this material is a solid option to have. 

Where Acrylic Sealants Perform Better

Construction Projects, but Only Indoors

For acrylic sealants, there is a significant amount of potential for use in construction projects. But, these projects are mostly limited to those done indoors. It could be crown molding, it could be sealing joints in drywall, etc. 

Working With Surfaces That Need Painting

Of course, we pointed out that these sealants do better when it comes to paintability. So, if you need to seal gaps in places that will be painted over, an acrylic sealant is for you. 

Repair Projects In Covered Spaces

Regardless of the location, acrylic sealants are ideal for indoor repair projects. Whether it is sealing gaps or filling cracks in walls, these sealants are more than perfect. 

General Purpose Sealing

To a limited degree, you can use these sealants for general-purpose sealing too. But, remember the golden rule – wherever you use an acrylic caulk, ensure that the area isn’t prone to water or moisture exposure. 

The Shared Functions Of Both

Working With Expansion Joints 

Both sealants help to seal expansion joints. Here, their job is to ensure that these jointed components can still move and that air doesn’t come in if it’s not needed. 

Gap Sealing

For construction, it is important to maintain tight seals in specific areas. And, both silicone and acrylic sealants handle this properly – as long as you remember the need to protect the latter from moisture exposure. 

Sealing For HVACs

Finally, both options help in HVAC applications to close gaps in different HVAC components. 

Silicone Sealant vs. Acrylic: Which Is Easier To Apply?

At the end of the day, no one wants a sealant that will be a chore to apply. Everyone wants an easy user experience, and this should be one of your biggest considerations when choosing between a siliconized caulk and an acrylic caulk.

The Consistency Of The Materials 

Every acrylic sealant comes with a smooth form that kind of makes it look like a paste. With this consistency, the material is easier to apply – it easily flows, and you can just spread it over the gap that needs to be filled. 

In terms of silicone sealants, you get a tick, sticky form that is a bit more challenging to work with and apply. This is especially true for people who might not have so much experience with applying sealants. 

Ease Of Tooling 

Besides this, acrylic sealants are also easier to tool. All you need is caulking machinery or even your finger, and you can smoothen it over as much as you like. Achieve a clean finish across a joint, and move on to the next project. 

Compare this to silicone sealants, which, by virtue of their form, are a bit more challenging to smoothen out. If you really want to achieve a neater finish, then you might need a special tool

Can You Clean Them Up Easily? 

When you’re done with the entire sealing task, you can easily clean up an acrylic caulk with water. And, because this can be done even while the sealant is still wet, you can rest assured of a quick and convenient cleanup process. 

Because silicone caulk won’t dissolve in water,  you need a special solvent to clean it up. As you can imagine, this is a bit less convenient overall. 

The Speed Of Drying 

Finally, the fact that they dry even quicker than silicone sealants means that you will be able to quickly complete your project and move on to the next one. 

As you would imagine, it takes a bit longer for silicone sealants to dry. As such, curing will be a bit more extended, and you need to wait a bit for the sealant to become really strong. 

Silicone Sealant vs. Acrylic: Can You Afford Them? 

At the end of the day, you also need to make sure that your sealing material is something not too far out of your reach. And for most people, the subject of affordability plays into what they eventually choose to get. So, which of these options is more affordable?  

How Much Will You Pay For The Materials? 

Generally, the raw materials and formulation process of silicone sealants make them more expensive. But, you also see your money’s worth when you consider the fact that these sealants tend to be more functional overall 

Will You Need Specialized Formulations? 

On a basic level, both silicone and acrylic sealants are quite effective. But, there are also instances where you might need specific, specialized formulations that work for particular situations – high temperatures, underwater applications, etc. 

These formulations are even more expensive than the entry-level products, and as you can imagine, the specialized silicone sealant formulations have a higher markup too.  

Conclusion

Silicone and acrylic sealants have become especially popular today due to their flexibility and use in different fields. But, when making a choice, it is important to consider what works for you. And, with the comparisons we’ve made, this choice should be easier for you. 

At Legenday, we’re always here to help you with your needs. Reach out to us if you have any sealant requirements or would like to learn more. 

 

How easily does Silicone Stick to Different Surfaces? – Source: LEGENDAY

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