Not All Glue Is Created Equal (and How to Choose the Right One)

Not All Glue Is Created Equal (and How to Choose the Right One)
Photo: TTStock, Shutterstock

Listen, I appreciate a good roll of duct tape or bottle of super glue as much as the next person, but they’re not universal miracle-workers. Not every adhesive is the right adhesive for the job; in fact, experience has shown me that choosing the wrong adhesive for a DIY project can lead to more frustration, more work, and unnecessary expense. There is a time and place for all your favourite adhesives, though — depending on what you’re building or repairing.

The two main factors to consider when choosing the right glue for your project are the environment it needs to live in (including the weather, heat, or sunlight), and the material you’re working with (such as wood, plastic, or glass). Different types of adhesives work better on different types of surfaces, so to get something really stuck, selecting the right glue from the jump is key.

How to choose the right wood glue

Not all wood glue is created equal — the glue you want will vary depending on a few factors. If you are, say, repairing a split in one of the boards of a wooden deck chair, you need a glue that is water-, heat-, and sun-resistant. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to fix a damaged wooden picture frame inside the home, a less weather-resistant glue is the right choice.

Some wood glue manufacturers use a rating system to rank how resistant their product is to the elements, but the important thing to keep in mind is durability over time. The label will include information on how weather-resistant the glue is, which will help you choose the right one.

How to repair an inflatable

Springing a leak in your brand new pool float is never a good time, but leaks in pool toys or other inflatables can be repaired. Your best bet is probably going to be a vinyl patch kit, but you can also try marine tape, which is made for temporarily repairing inflatable watercraft.

Either of those can usually be found at outdoors or sporting goods stores, but if you opt for glue instead, you’ll want one that is specifically intended to be applied to vinyls or plastics and that is water- and weather-resistant. Keep in mind that the glue needs to also be flexible when repairing inflatables; otherwise it will crack when the material moves.

How to repair hard plastics, glass, and metal

When you’re working with hard plastics, glass, or metal, epoxy is usually your best bet, and it comes in a variety of strengths and types. If you are gluing PVC plastic pipe together, for example, you can use a two-part PVC epoxy sold at most home repair stores. If you’re gluing glass — perhaps you’re mounting a mirror onto a backing — a two-part glass epoxy is often a good choice. Other options include glass caulk or glass hot glue, which are also both good choices for a larger surface area.

If you’re repairing decorative metal, you can use a kneadable plumber’s epoxy, which is a two-part epoxy similar to the consistency of Play-Doh; it can be shaped as needed, and it comes in a variety of colours.

How to repair projects with multiple materials

If you’re working on a project with multiple materials, it’s important to make sure the glue you’re using is appropriate for all surfaces. Some epoxies will damage plastics, some will etch or distort glass surfaces, and some can create toxic byproducts when they comes in contact with certain materials. You should also note that many “all purpose” adhesives do have limitations. Some may still not be right for every job, or will yield, at best, mediocre results.

Remember: The glue’s label is your friend

It’s important to read the label carefully so your glue doesn’t become a hindrance rather than a help. And remember, it will take time for the glue to harden (or “cure”), and this timeframe can be anywhere from instantaneous to multiple days, depending on the product. Check the label for information about how weather, temperature, or moisture might affect curing time.

And finally, no one likes a glue-related trip to the emergency room. Read the safety information on the label of your product for the measures you should take to protect yourself from things like stinky fumes or skin exposure, as well as how to properly dispose of and clean up messes.

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