Canadian Woodworking

Construction adhesives

Author: Carl Duguay
Photos: DAP
Published: April May 2021
construction adhesives
construction adhesives

For construction and renovation work, construction adhesives are what hold things together.

As the name implies, construction adhesives are used primar­ily in construction and renovation for adhering building materials (sheathing, dimensional lumber, drywall, tile, moulding and the like) together. They have several fea­tures that make them more suitable than traditional glues for these applications, and in a variety of situations can be used in place of mechanical fasteners (screws, bolts, nails and the like).

Construction adhesives are very tacky, so they grab fast and set up (dry) quickly, typically within about 15 minutes, though full curing can take up to 24 hours. Clamping isn’t required (a few well-placed fasteners will keep parts from shifting), so you can move on to the next task without any downtime. The adhesive is the consistency of thick, gooey cake batter, which makes it good for filling gaps up to about 1/4″ wide. And because the adhe­sive tends to remain somewhat flexible after drying there is much less chance of the material shearing under load or joints creeping under continuous stress. You’ll also find that construction adhe­sives are cost-effective – they’re quicker to use than mechanical fasteners and don’t require any ancillary operations like drilling or tapping holes.

Using construction adhesives when installing drywall will reduce (even eliminate) nail and screw popout. On floors it pre­vents “squeaks and creaks”. It’s quicker, easier and cleaner to use than mortar for installing backsplashes, brick veneer and tile. The same goes for rigid foam insulation. And, it’s great for any kind of trim work – baseboards, chair rails, wainscoting, crown mould­ing – because you use fewer metal fasteners.

Lots of Options
Manufacturers have formulated lots of options so you can select a construction adhesive perfect for the task at hand.

Waterproof Adhesives
Polyurethane adhesives, like DAP Polyurethane and Lepage PL Premium are not only strong, but waterproof. (Photo 2 by Lepage)

Cordless Caulking Gun
If you’re applying a lot of caulk on a regular basis, and want the job to go more easily and quickly, a cordless caulking gun is a great solution. (Photo by Makita)

Caulk Guns
Unless you plan to use it only once or twice, a quality caulk gun will assist you in easily putting down just the right amount of caulk. (Photo by Tajima)

 Construction Sealants

Sometimes called “construction adhesive sealants,” these products are used when you need to fill exterior gaps, joints and cracks up to about 1/2″ (13mm) deep on concrete, masonry, metal and wood. They produce a permanent yet flexible waterproof seal. However, they lack the adhe­sive strength of construction adhesives. Examples include DAP’s Premium Polyurethane Sealant and Sika Pro Select Construction Sealant.

Three main types

There are three types of construction adhesives. Traditional sol­vent-based adhesives cure when the solvent in them evaporates. Water-based latex and polyurethane adhesives cure when the water in them evaporates; these adhesives are also ultra-low or have no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and are virtually odour-free. While all adhesives are water- and weather-resistant, polyurethane adhesives, like LePage PL Premium, are waterproof.

General-purpose adhesives, such as DAP’s “Multi-Purpose”, work well for a variety of common indoor building materials. Some adhesives are solely for outdoor use, while others can be used both in and outdoors. There are high-performance adhe­sives for jobs that require high shear and peel strength, like DAP’s Max Strength adhesive, as well as specialty adhesives for­mulated for use with masonry, foamboard, drywall, panelling, glass, tile and roof tiles.

Gun types

Construction adhesives are typically sold in 10-ounce (195ml) and 28-ounce (825ml) cartridges for use in caulk guns. Unless you’ll be using a single tube of adhesive, opt for a premium caulking gun like the Tajima Convoy, which has a durable cradle rather than rails to hold the tube, and uses a smooth-rod drip­less feature that requires less squeezing pressure to dispense adhesive. Caulk guns are available in thrust ratios from 3:1 up to 26:1. The thrust ratio is the amount of force you apply to the trigger in relation to the force that pushes the adhesive out of the tube. For adhesives with a thick consistency choose a gun with a thrust ratio of at least 18:1.

Anyone working with adhesives on a regular basis will find it considerably quicker and easier to use a cordless caulking gun. The Makita DCG180ZC, for example, has a feature that prevents adhesive from dripping when the trigger is released, along with a variable speed dial that enables you to vary the application speed and a variable speed trigger to control application precision.

On your next renovation or new construc­tion project get a firm, lasting hold on things with construction adhesives.

Carl Duguay - [email protected]

Carl is a furniture maker based in Victoria, BC and the web editor of Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine.


  1. I am looking for an adhesive to attach ceramic tile to wood. I want to make some trivets so the adhesive needs to be able to withstand heated dishes that are taken from the oven. Thanks for any suggestions.

    1. I’d use J-B Weld ClearWeld 5-Minute Set Epoxy – it’s strong, sets fast, and is heat resistant to 500°F.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other articles to explore