Trying to find the right glue at your local home improvement store these days can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many to choose from, and picking the wrong one can lead to a really sticky situation. Or not, which could be even worse. The trick is to match the glue to the job at hand, but that’s not always as simple as it sounds.
Here’s a breakdown of the different types that are available to help you get it right.
Yellow and White Glue
A kissing cousin to school glue, yellow glue, such as Titebond, is mainly used for woodworking. It’s available for interior use, as well as in moisture resistant and even waterproof versions. Work pieces have to be clamped, but the clamps can be removed in about an hour. White glue is similar to yellow but is less resistant to moisture and takes longer to cure.
Both yellow and white glues are non-toxic and can be cleaned up with water and a damp rag. Be sure to sand unfinished work thoroughly before finishing, as any glue residue will prevent stains and clear finishes from penetrating the wood.
Sold under brand names like Super Glue and Krazy Glue, this is the glue (chemical name, cyanoacrylate) to keep on hand for household emergencies. Drop a vase, step on your child’s favorite toy, or break a corner off a ceramic picture frame, and you’ll be glad you’ve got a tube on hand. It sets up almost instantly and creates a nearly invisible bond on glass, metal, porcelain, fabric, wood and rigid plastic.
Since it can stick your fingers together in an instant as well, keep a bottle of acetone based nail polish remover on hand to free them. Instant glue has a tendency to dry out, so store it tightly capped (and clearly marked) in the refrigerator between uses. If you have young children, put the tube in an old childproof prescription bottle first to keep it out of curious hands.
Though it’s the new kid on the block, polyurethane glue has really taken off in recent years. Sold under the brand name Gorilla Glue, among others, it is waterproof and can be used to bond everything from wood, fiberglass, and foam to stone, metal, and brick.
Polyurethane glue expands as it cures, allowing it to fill cracks and gaps. The downside is that it tends to ooze out if you use too much, and the work pieces have to remain clamped for several hours. Storing the bottle upside down will help keep the glue from solidifying between uses.
While a little messy and difficult to use, epoxy glue provides an extremely durable, waterproof bond for many materials including wood, metal, glass, stone, and certain plastics.
Epoxy comes in two parts, a resin and a catalyst, which produce a chemical reaction when mixed together. This makes it great for filling gaps, since it hardens into a solid mass. Epoxy comes in setting times ranging from a few minutes to an hour and is available as a dual-cartridge syringe, in tubes, or as putty. Equal parts of the glue are mixed with a clean plastic knife or Popsicle stick then quickly applied before it has time to set. Once cured, epoxy can be drilled, sanded, or painted.
These aerosol cans of adhesive are great for attaching paper and fabric since it doesn’t soak through porous materials like liquid glue would. To use, spray a coat to the surface and wait a minute for it to become tacky before attaching the paper or fabric. For a stronger bond, spray the adhesive on both surfaces first.
Used mainly to glue plastic laminates and veneer to plywood, contact cement comes in both solvent and water based versions. Roll or brush the adhesive on both surfaces and allow it to dry for the recommended time before carefully bringing the two pieces together. As the name implies, the cement bonds on contact and the pieces cannot be repositioned once they have touched. A rubber roller is used to press the two surfaces firmly together.
While these thick waterproof adhesives are often used to attach plywood, drywall, and paneling to framing; they’re also suitable for projects around the home as well. Construction adhesives come in a tube and are applied with a caulking gun. Keep the nozzle tightly capped to prevent the glue from drying out.
This thermoplastic adhesive comes in cylindrical sticks that are heated in an electric glue gun. It is applied by pulling the trigger on the gun, and the pieces must be quickly assembled before the hot plastic cools. While it can be used with a variety of materials, hot glue does not produce very strong adhesion and is mainly useful for craft projects and temporary bonds.
Use hot glue with caution, particularly around children. If you get it on your skin, it will cause a painful burn that you will not soon forget.
Almost all the glues described here contain potentially dangerous and toxic chemicals, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully. Avoid contact with the skin, and work in a well ventilated area to keep from breathing the fumes. Some are highly flammable and should not be used without proper ventilation or around possible ignition sources.
The only thing worse than using the wrong glue, is using a glue that has lost its punch, so be sure and check the expiration date on the container and apply only within the temperature range specified in the directions.