People who occasionally paint their homes are running around stocking up on supplies and six-packs of beer because they feel that painting season is upon us. Actually, painting as a chore or occupation has no season. You can paint every day, year-round and never catch up to what needs to be painted, which, in my case, is defined by my wife. 

But in Maine, there is a definite season when you can attack those outdoor paint jobs: this is defined as the time the deer flies, mosquitoes and black flies are out and it’s not too cold or wet … or hot. 

To be clear, deer do not actually fly in Maine. When 

I refer to deer flies, I am talking about the aggressive bloodsucking female insects from the order Diptera and the genus Chrysops that feed on cattle, people, deer and other mammals. About the only time a deer flies around here is when you suddenly come upon one in the road and hit it with the bow of your pickup truck at just the right speed and angle to get it airborne.

But that is not where we are going with this.

If you occasionally paint and then marvel at how professional your painting appears, we’re all good. If, however, you have acquired an eye for the details of a paint job and wonder why your painting looks like the work of an impatient adolescent who was thinking more about his girlfriend than about the paint at the end of his brush, you might want to give this another minute.

One characteristic of a nice paint job is that there are no gaps where surfaces meet. This means no gaps in the corners, within the trim and no gaps where the drywall meets the trim. Gaps make the construction look shoddy because they are black. And, unless you’re painting your trim and room black, they tend to call attention to any separation where surfaces are joined — which is most abutting surfaces because it’s impossible to make a perfect joint every time.

This is where caulk comes in or, more accurately, where it goes in: it fills in those pestiferous black gaps. If you look directly at them and squint, you will see they spell out “Bad Paint Job” right over your top coat. Caulk has the potential to fill in the gaps and make the construction look perfect. The trouble with caulking is that it looks easy but things go wrong in a hurry. There are a lot of variables and more supplies to buy. 

Yes, you’ll have to buy a caulking gun if you want to dispense caulk from the cartridge in which it is normally sold. And yes, you will have to choose from the 250 different caulks they normally have on sale at any paint department. Choose something that says “Painter’s Caulk” and not, for example, “Blacktop Asphalt Caulk.”

There is an ideal application speed related to how much pressure is applied to the caulking gun, taking into account the size of the opening you made in the applicator tip. There is a perfect angle in two dimensions in which to hold the tube and that will depend on the angle you cut the tip. In other words, there is a certain art in applying caulk which you will not have mastered the first time you try it. Things may get messy but don’t give up. Just like playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, you’ll only get better with practice. 

Don’t get cocky with the caulk and know that it’s no use getting angry at the caulk as well. The caulk will not adapt to your ways. It is consistent. Inconvenient as it is, changing the way you apply it is the only variable that can be tweaked to achieve superior results.

After you mess up applying the caulk to the gaps, you can smooth it with your finger for a perfect finish. How hard you push with your finger matters, just like when playing the piano. If you push too hard, you will require some choice swear words or another beer. Maybe both.

After smoothing the caulk, honestly evaluate the quality of your work and determine if painting can commence. If the caulking looks hopeless, apply two or three more beers and wait for the appearance to improve.  

You might consider calling in the professionals. Believe me, your spouse will help you with that decision. Good luck.