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I'm boxing in an Ikea PAX wardrobe (see picture) with MDF. I've used filler on the gaps between the wardrobe and MDF (which I'm in the process of sanding)

For the gaps between the MDF and wall I was planning on using caulk.

What I can't decide is for that "built in look" whether I should be caulking and then painting over the caulk or the caulk should go on last.

(Doors are obviously yet to go on)

When I've painted caulk in the past (after priming) I always seen to get cracking, which is why I am asking here...

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  • I built a lot of custom closets with melamine in the 90s. We'd caulk everything--shelves to walls, shelves to each other, etc., in order to get a "built-in" look, all vivid and white and seamless. Three years later it all looked like crap. I cringed when I saw it. Caulk collects dust and shrinks. It yellows. It simply doesn't match. My advice? Do good carpentry and don't caulk any more than you really need to.
    – isherwood
    Apr 1 at 18:20

3 Answers 3

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Caulk first, then paint. Be sure to use a caulk labelled as 'paintable'. (in other words, not silicone.) Worth noting is that some caulking, if left unpainted, can discolor over time. (Usually, that's white going to yellow-ish.)

Cracking in the past might have been caused by not giving time for the caulk to cure. Check the instructions for guidance.

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    Paintable caulk, unpainted, is the most prone to yellowing, and paintable caulk cracks more easily than silicone
    – Chris H
    Apr 1 at 14:24
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Caulk will crack if put on too thick. It shrinks slightly as it dries.

To caulk and paint or paint and then caulk is somewhat of a preference.

I make that determination base on the color/s I am dealing with.

Your furniture piece looks to be white. If it were my project, I would paint the wall. Then do the caulking in a brite white latex caulk.

Use a big sponge like a Grouting sponge to wipe the bead smooth. Wet it and wring it out for a nice looking line.

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So if you caulk first and try to paint over the caulk, the paint will build up more on the heavier edges of the caulk. That doesn't look good.

If you caulk first and then paint but not the caulk. Wow that is a ton of prep or "after-work" and no way in the world it will look great unless you are a pro painter.

I guess this is easy because we do so much work with white cabinets and trim. This should just be a tiny line of Dynaflex Ultra AFTER you paint. The fact that you have already filled the gaps means your caulking should literally be unnoticeable and seamless after because you will be using the thinnest line you can pump out.

I am in no way affiliated with Dynaflex. I have used this caulk for 15+ years for all white trim. It does not shrink and for sure doesn't crack or yellow. It is an absolute must for the top of white trim. Using it for cabinetry is a much easier use case.

The issue with silicone other than any mechanical issues is that it is too shiny. It sticks out as plasticky - while this look is often sharp with tile or metal it is tacky for wood. As for paintable caulk I for one hate it. The paint never sticks evenly. It is a last choice if we are doing a one-off color and we can't get matching caulk.

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