Homeowner’s Guide to Tape
By: Sheila Carlson Wilkinson
There’s a mind boggling array of tapes to choose from these days, including familiar favorites and innovative new products. Selecting the right tape for the job at hand will save you both time and money and ensure a job well done.
As the name implies, the main use for masking tape is to protect surfaces when painting. This paper based tape is easy to tear and remove, making it the perfect choice for temporary applications like hanging decorations or labeling frozen food containers.
It’s best for light duty use and comes in a variety of colors and widths. If left on for long periods of time, masking tape can become brittle and leave a gummy residue.
Painter’s tape has many of the same properties as regular masking tape but is UV resistant and easier to remove to prevent damage to delicate painted surfaces.
Automotive grade masking tape is resistant to solvents and can be stretched and molded to shape, allowing it to conform to odd or rounded surfaces.
Duct tape is a general purpose tape made with a fabric base covered by a plastic coating. While strong and resistant to water and abrasion, it can be easily torn by hand. Duct tape works best on smooth, even surfaces and has countless uses from packaging to repairs.
Duct tape crafting has become quite popular and you can find wallets, purses, duffle bags, and more made only of duct tape. To facilitate craft projects, duct tape is now available in a wide range of colors.
Oddly enough, one thing duct tape is not good at is sealing ductwork. Due to the changes in temperature and moisture levels associated with heating and cooling ducts, the adhesive in duct tape tends to fail over time. Instead, use a special aluminum foil tape that is rated for HVAC work when repairing or installing heating and cooling ducts.
There are several duct tapes on the market today that are billed as stronger than regular duct tape. The best known is Gorilla Tape which has twice the adhesive, a stronger backing, better weather resistance, and adheres well to rough surfaces like stucco and brick.
Foam Weather Stripping Tape
Adhesive foam weather stripping tape conforms to uneven surfaces and provides a cushioned, insulated seal around windows, door, and other opening. It comes in several colors, as well as various widths and thicknesses.
Foam tape is available in different materials and as open or closed cell foam. Open cell foam is softer and compresses more, making it a better choice for large, uneven gaps, but it should not be used outdoors since it absorbs water when wet. Close cell foam is not as forgiving as open cell, but it resists water and has greater insulating capacities.
Neoprene rubber tape is an excellent choice for gasket and sealing work. It provides a durable seal, though it has a tendency to permanently compress over time.
Electrical tape is made to insulate and protect electrical wiring and components. While common household electrical tape is usually black, there’s an amazing variety of choices available today. These include various backing and adhesives intended for a specific temperature ranges and corrosion resistance.
If you’re using common electrical wiring in the house, the black stuff is great; but if you want to try your hand at working with computer wiring or other specialty applications, be sure to select a tape suited for the job. You can find a wealth of information on the types of electrical tape at 3M: Electrical, Electronic and EMI Tapes
Double Stick Carpet and Mounting Tape
Double stick tape comes in several forms and is incredibly handy to have around. It doubles as a no mess glue, mounts lightweight pictures, keeps area rugs in place, and is used to lay carpet.
Some double stick tapes have a cloth backing, similar to duct tape, to provide greater strength. Still others have a foam core that allows for secure mounting on uneven surfaces. While most use typical pressure sensitive adhesive, some use a thermal glue that is heat activated.
Clear acrylic packing tape is the one most commonly used around the house, but packaging tape also comes in a world of colors and job specific types. For greater strength there’s filament tape with fiberglass reinforcement and strapping tape which has a more flexible adhesive. There are also a wide variety of paper and gum tapes which are designed to seal permanently. A run down on each type can be found at the Packaging Tape Depot.
Storing and Using Tape
For best results, use tape only on clean, dry surfaces. Tapes generally work better on flat, smooth surfaces, and may not adhere well to rough or porous materials. Store tape at room temperature and leave the protective seals on the sides until needed. The edges can be kept clean by storing on nails or hooks. And, as much as we hate to hear it, there’s still no substitute for reading the directions on the package!