When it comes to adhesives and sealants for home repairs, installations, and vehicle maintenance, butyl tape and putty tape are frequently favored for their ease of use and versatility. However, while many think these tapes are one and the same, that isn’t the case. They differ in surface adhesion, durability, and flexibility—with one tape coming out on top in all three of those categories.
Whether you’re wondering what is butyl tape? Or which tape should I use to repair my leaky camper? this guide is for you. Here is what you need to know about butyl tape vs. putty tape to avoid a sticky situation!
What is Butyl Tape?
Butyl tape is a pliable tape with a removable protective film. This solvent-based sealant has a strong initial tack that allows it to instantly bond and seals most surfaces—including those where moisture is a factor. It provides an excellent airtight and waterproof barrier that will maintain its durability and flexibility through extreme temperatures. Additionally, it doesn’t dry out easily and retains its integrity for many years when used, saving time and money on repairs and installs.
Any surface on which you are using butyl tape should be clean and free of dust and moisture for optimal adhesion.
Surfaces that butyl tape will stick to include:
- Rubber roofing
- Galvanized metal
- Frosted fiberglass
One downside of solvent-based butyl tape is that exposure to chemicals like gas, turpentine, and mineral oil will break it down over time. Additionally, as it oxidizes with age, it may also show some discoloration, and some varieties are prone to sticking to their backing in warmer weather.
However, despite some minor downsides, this tape is still a favorite among DIY enthusiasts and construction professionals alike. Butyl tape is used by everyone from RVers needing to seal flanges on their roof vents to construction crews that want to create a tight seal around deck screws and fasteners. This tape is also frequently used to protect deck joists and beams from moisture.
What is Putty Tape?
Putty tape is a rubber-based sealant that’s primary purpose is sealing plumbing joints. However, it isn’t uncommon to see it applied as a moisture gasket to temporarily block off roof leaks. Much like butyl tape, this is essentially a pliable putty roll with removable backing. It can easily be manipulated into any crack to create a waterproof seal.
Also similar to butyl tape, putty tape should be applied to a clean and dry surface. If you find that your putty tape oozes, any oozing can be trimmed off using a plastic knife or credit card without risking surface damage.
Surfaces that putty tape will stick to include:
Putty tape’s a cheaper price point and ease of use make it a quick fix for leaks. However, the downside is that it tends to dry out fairly quickly and easily, which will affect the integrity of your seal over time. Often repair jobs done with this tape only hold up for a year or so before having to be resealed. Also, due to the petroleum chemicals it leaches, it should never be applied to an EPDM rubber roof as it can be potentially damaging.
How Do You Decide Whether to Use Butyl Tape or Putty Tape?
Whether you should use butyl tape or putty tape boils down to the job at hand. While putty tape comes out on top for jobs where you need a quick and affordable fix that doesn’t need to stand the test of time, butyl tape is superior in most situations. Its adhesion, flexibility, and longevity make it ideal for many repair and construction situations. Below are a few common uses for butyl tape.
Surfaces Exposed to Vibration and Motion
Car and RV parts, motorhomes, boats, travel trailers, and anything else frequently exposed to movement and vibration should use butyl tape. Since this tape will maintain its flexibility and is less likely to dry out, it is less prone to cracking with movement. Instead, it will move with whatever you put it on. Stashing a roll in the vehicle is ideal for quick patch jobs that will give you time to get to a garage.
Using butyl tape on your deck will protect its substructure. It can seal deck fasteners and screws, prevent moisture penetration and rot, eliminate splitting from freezing and thawing, and cushion joist hangers. Lastly, Trex Protect butyl tape can even make deck installation safer by providing a non-skid surface. Try the materials estimator to see how much butyl tape your deck project requires.
Environments with Moisture or Extreme Temperatures
When it comes to being exposed to high heat, frigid weather, and moisture, butyl rubber tape maintains its adhesion and flexibility. These qualities, combined with its airtight and waterproof barrier, make it ideal for outdoor repairs and installations, sealing heating ducts, and other projects where extreme temperatures or moisture are present.
Installing new windows, especially those with odd curves, is made easier with butyl tape. However, for previously installed windows with leaks, silicone caulk or butyl caulking can be easier to apply.
To temporarily block minor leaks, butyl tape is always up to the task. It is the ideal quick fix that will buy you time to grab new parts and locate any additional leaks.
EPDM Rubber Roofs
The best option for EPDM roof repairs and additions is hands down butyl tape. It not only easily adheres to the surface, but the petroleum products found in putty tape can break down this type of roof over time.
Which One is More Expensive: Butyl Tape or Putty Tape?
While Amazon positions putty tape and butyl tape close in price points, the reality is that a high-quality butyl tape will run you almost twice as much as regular putty tape.
The issue is that many sellers use the names “putty tape” and “butyl tape” and “butyl putty tape” interchangeably. Hence, it is essential when buying butyl tape to verify that it is genuine. The easiest way to do this is to purchase through a reputable brand, such as Trex Protect (backed by a 20-year warranty). But if you already have butyl tape on hand, you can check the quality by giving it a good stretch. Butyl tape is hard to break and will continue stretching. In contrast, putty tape will snap, often leaving a jagged edge behind.