Of Expandable Foam, Duct Tape and Drywall Screws

Look, I was once like you. I had my roll of duct tape and boxes of various lengths of drywall screws from 1/4″ up to 3″. I felt like McGyver, I could fix anything! Well, at least repair it and make it serviceable for a bit. But then I learned about things like shear strength, weatherability, etc when dealing with screws and about the longevity of duct tape.

Let’s start with drywall screws and shear strength. Shear strength comes into play when trying to use a screw for a job like hanging kitchen cabinets or on framing members of a deck. A job where the force will be applied perpendicular to the screw. Drywall screws are not meant to be used in this type of situation. Sheets of drywall on the wall are typically supported by the edge of a lower sheet and you use a butt load (yes, that is a technical term) of screws on one sheet of drywall. This would not be appropriate for a hanging kitchen wall cabinet. Also, the shaft of the drywall screw is threaded from top to bottom. If you look at a deck or wood screw, there is a smooth part up near the head. This helps to draw two pieces of wood together when securing.

Next up, duct (or duck) tape. Originally called duck tape due to being made from cotton duck cloth. Now don’t get me wrong, this is cool stuff! But it does not do well in exterior conditions and in higher heat situations. That being said, it deteriorates on heating and cooling ducts (or HVAC ducts if you wanna sound hip and in the know). The real deal to use in this situation is a foil HVAC tape that you peel the backing off of when you get ready to use it. My dad, who will be reading this, tried to tell me that it was called duck tape because it sounded like a duck quacking as you pulled it off the roll (article to follow will be about my therapy sessions after growing up in his presence). To make a long story short (too late!), duct tape is not good for everything!

This brings me to my current pet peeve, expandable foam. Is it waterproof? Technically, yes. Can it be used in an exterior setting? Again, technically yes. There is a fine line between can and should. It looks like crap as it ages, nobody cuts it flush and paints it, mice could still chew through it and on and on. As you can probably tell, I have some issues. Not to mention it is just about impossible to get that crap off your hands/clothes when using it and if you have a partial can left, you might as well throw it away. This being said, let me enlighten you to another option.

20120625-143405.jpg This product is referred to as “Duct Seal” on the shelves in the home improvement stores and is in the electrical section. I have also heard it called “Thumb Gum” or “Thumb Putty” and plumbers/HVAC techs will use it as well. Electricians use it to plug around the spot where the electrical wires enter the side of your house. HVAC techs use it around the AC line where it enters the side of your house. Do you see a theme here?!?! It’s good for places where things are penetrating the side of your house, duh! Why do I like this said material? Well, it stays flexible in the heat of the summer and the dead of winter, you can control amounts better than expandable foam, you don’t need to use the whole kit and caboodle for a little job, it can be painted as well, I’m gonna bet that a mouse wouldn’t chew through it. Need I go on and on and wax poetic about “duct seal”? Just to prove how economical it is, here’s another little pic:


In conclusion, there is not a one size fits all for you DIY super heroes out there. You know how fun it is to wander the isles at the home improvement stores, wiping drool from the corner of your mouth while you check out the latest lithium ion cordless tool set that you just HAVE to have because think of all the money you’ll save buying the whole set rather than each one separately and yes I DO need a cordless dust buster vac that comes with the set even though I have a 30+ gallon Fein shop vac at home and I know that I have a jig saw, honey, but not a CORDLESS one because what happens if you need something done and the power is out to the whole neighborhood AND we don’t have any gas for the power generator!!!! Pha-shew! Or, just do like I used to and buy the damned tool set, get rid of the packaging before you get home, put it in the garage and pretend that you’ve had it for years when she finally catches sight of it. So wander those isles, but while you’re at it check out the less sexy things like duct seal.

About Travis "That Home Inspector Guy" Moyer

I am a certified home inspector, rehabber, landlord, carpenter, handyman and generally inquisitive person who wants to know how everything works. I love to educate other DIY homeowners and potential homeowners about projects that they may be interested in.


  1. me

    Actually I said duck, tape incoming!
    Did I really say it sounded like a duck quacking when it came off the roll?

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