Which Sealant Should I Choose?

This is an often asked question which seems to have many different answers. Over time we have tried various sealants and have narrowed it down two primary products as our choice of sealant, 3M’s UV4000 and Boat Life Life Calk.

Boat Life Life Calk

Boat Life’s Life Calk provides a long lasting seal that stays flexible through out its lifespan. We find this product exceptional when it comes to bedding chain plates and stanchion bases, but is suitable for many other applications. Beware that this is a poly-sulfide and although it bonds well to most surfaces, including wood, aluminum and fiberglass, it can cause damage to plastics over time.

3M UV 4000

3M’s UV4000 is our product of choice for bedding almost everything else including deck/mast hardware and fasteners. This product provides an excellent adhesive seal that is great for a marine environment and is suitable as a general sealant in almost every application.

3m General Purpose Adhesive Remover

To clean these products, we first use a putty knife (or our rigging knife) to remove the majority of the mess. Next we will use paper towels and 3M’s General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner to break down any excess goop. Alternatively you can use acetone or mineral spirits as well. The trick is to make sure and do a final wipe using a clean paper towel and some solvent to remove any residual sealant, cloudiness or hazing. This last step will give it that professional, clean look. With bare wood surfaces or on non-skid it may be a good idea to tape off around the hardware to ensure a neat finished edge. DO NOT wait until these sealants have cured as this will surely result in a less desirable look and is more difficult to clean up.

Another Perfectly Installed Mast Boot

As much as I hate to say it, we do on occasion need to use a marine grade silicone sealant. The reason that, “I hate to say it”, is because silicone has to be the most overly and most  inappropriately used product in the hands of boat owners today. Silicone is only to be used for final touches before stepping a mast, i.e. any open electrical holes, cotter pin legs, or ring dings. We will also use use a small amount of silicone and 3M electrical tape to seal the upper ring of a mast boot (as pictured above). If you are sure that you need to use silicone sealant, and it is in the proper application, make sure that it is marine grade… household silicone will not work and may rot and mildew.

marine silicone sealant

Thanks for the read, feel free to leave us a comment or question below!

About The Rigging Company, LLP

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20 Responses to Which Sealant Should I Choose?

  1. Skip Gundlach says:

    I used 3M 4000UV to caulk my teak toe rail both at the deck and the outside.

    It has failed miserably:

    Makes a wet residue after rain or washing with plain water, sometimes
    feeling about like freshly laid caulk

    Peels off in strips, or

    Falls off in chunks [segments of the caulk line, complete]

    Crazes and chalks, and

    perhaps others related to cleaning with water (only) which I don’t recall,
    as the admiral does that.

    I called the tech support desk; that guy gave me the number for the head
    technical guy at 3M; every call resulted in being directed to voice mail,
    however.

    An extensive conversation, at long last after chasing each other around
    missing each other, with 3M’s head tech guy, Todd Jessen, established:

    My preparation (remove all old caulk, light sand in the chamfered opening I
    cut into it for deeper penetration into any gaps under the toe rail, blow
    out, scrub with acetone and allow to dry, tape toe rail and deck/hull) was
    as good as it gets

    Application was perfect (caulk, immediately tool with caulk tool, lift
    tape) – I had two people helping in order to do all this while it was fresh)

    Cure time and environment was appropriate.

    After which, he admitted that they had had a “formulation problem” with
    4000UV that they were still trying to sort out.

    He said, but has walked back that offer, that he’d provide a form for me to
    take to allow a merchant to be reimbursed, and that I should redo it with a
    competitor’s product.

    A variety of emails have passed, attempting to pin him down as to what we
    should do about that. He’s understandably reluctant to do that, but He
    wasn’t specific as to what to buy, other than saying he thought Sika had a
    good product for that application.

    But the fact that he told me not to go back with new 4000UV, free or not,
    that they were still working out kinks in the formulation, says volumes.

    That I’ve seen exactly my complaint in many places merely confirms that I am
    neither alone, nor inadequate in my use of the product. That he’d go to the
    length of telling me to buy a competitive product is honorable in the
    extreme, but I’m a bit surprised that he didn’t leap on the chance to have
    me present a good-fer (not even a mosquito on an elephant’s butt in the
    scheme of things for 3M) to make the ultimate tone of this a bit sweeter
    (“3M Tech Support Rocks! Details at 11!)

    So, when we again reach shore, we’ll be digging out all that soggy or
    brittle stuff, and starting over with something else. At this time, the
    ‘something else’ is under review, as not much of anything sounds good or
    without problems for the application we have (sealing a fiberglass-to-teak
    joint).

    L8R

    Skip

    Morgan 461 #2
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    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Wow now that’s a thorough comment. Thanks for taking the time. A very interesting story. Sorry for the stroke of bad luck, it sounds like you tried your best.

      I will say, we’ve had nothing but success bonding 4000 to fiberglass and aluminum, but have had little experience using it on teak. To be honest it wouldn’t be my first choice for bonding wood to fiberglass. For hardware to teak applications (as we normally mount hardware on masts and decks)we use Boat Life Life Calk Black.

      I am surprised that he didnt recommend the next step up in adhesion…3M 4200 for deck fittings and rub rails (which are teak many times). First…I may look towards Boat Life, or even the old (tried and true) Dolfinite? How about Sikaflex?

      The only thing I can think may affect the adhesion of any product with teak is its oiliness….especially on its underside (gravity). Teak for that reason doesn’t even like polyurethane varnishes to stick to it, oil based one varnishes are usually the best here for straight wood to varnish. So maybe look for something with an oil base (which may be Dolfinite).

      I hope you find something that will get the job done. If you have the time, it would be great to find out what worked.

      ~T.R.C.

      • Skip Gundlach says:

        Hi,

        This is not an adhesion (as in, keep something from moving) issue; anything more aggressive may make eventual recaulking destructives (pull off teak).

        The sika 292 is in the 5200 grade; about the only substitute for the intended use, vs 4000UV (or, at least that I’ve been able to find) is Boat Life’s Boat Caulk. We’d use white, but it shouldn’t make a difference (even though dark seems to do UV better than light; it’s never mentioned in any literature I’ve read on the product).

        So, I expect that’s what I’ll use. I will print out some of my emails and see if there’s any leverage with West Marine, along with returning an unopened tube I found during my reassembly of my KISS wind generator, which needed some caulk. As I am a regular at this particular store, the manager might do the deal and take it up with the rep on the next visit.

        I’ve posted this question/situation elsewhere; I’ll come back with the resolution.

        • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

          Right please do. “Falls off in chunks” does sound like it’s not adhering. I wonder if it’s acting differently against the fiberglass vs the teak?

          I’m willing to bet West Marine will exchange the unopened,unwanted product without much hassle.

          Keep us posted…

          ~T.R.C.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Have you tried ‘Life Seal’ ? made by same company, however it uses the poly sulphide and mixes in some silicone, keeps it bright, clean and makes a much nicer looking joint, equal to the finish of straight silicone but still has the sealing quality of Life Caulk. It’s my #1 choice for almost everything. AND if sometime down the road, you need to break that seal, it’s a lot easier than 3M adhesive sealants, which as we all know, can be murder to get apart.

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi! Thanks for the comment. And yes, I have tried Life Seal we use it as well. We consider it in the marine grade silicone category. I was under the impression that LifeSeal uses silicone and polyurethane? Life Calk, was the polysulfide, no? Do I have them confused? …totally could be my fault. I will look into it more.

      Thanks for taking the time. See you on the water.

      ~T.R.C.

  3. corey Park says:

    I see you have photos of an Oday 34 Stemhead plate. Mine bent by the anchor roller. I need to pull it off, have it bent back, re powder coated and set back in place. Is this hard to do. Do you all do this work? I am at Colonial beach, Va. Thanks Corey

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Thanks for commenting and thanks for calling. Let us know how things turn out and what you decide.

      ~T.R.C.

      • corey Park says:

        OK, I removed the stem plate and have emailed you all a work request via your web site. I am ready to send in the old and have you all build a new, then instal it on my ODay. I need to varify where to send it and to whos attn. Thanks Corey

  4. Mike says:

    What about Butyl tape.. I have had great success with this…This is what car manufacturers use around the windshields and not many of them leak.. easy to clean up and cheap.. I scoffed the first time I was told about this product… Now I use it when possible.

    Ciao
    Mike

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      You’re right Mike. I have heard many good things about it. We haven’t had a chance to use it yet and therefore have had no experience. I guess we have hard time parting with what works. Everyone is stating great results though. The only thing I’ve noticed is that it never looks quite clean, but that may totally have to do with the person applying it :-0). We will have to do some more experimenting with it. As well as, get more feedback like this, so thanks for taking the time to comment.
      We appreciate it!
      ~T.R.C.

  5. Capt. Doug Pearce says:

    Thank you for the above info. After reading about the various sealants I came to the same conclusions; 3M 4000 UV or BoatlLife Life Calik for most applications. Rarely, marine grade silicone. So, I need to re-bed my stanchion bases. Why do you prefer Life Calk over 4000 UV for this purpose. Thanks again. Doug Pearce

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Glad to help. Either sealant, UV 4000 or Boat Life is acceptable for stanchion bases. The Boat life may remain a bit more pliable over time. I have certainly used both without problems. Thanks for the read and thanks for commenting!
      ~T.R.C.

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