The 4 Best Glues (and 2 You Don't Need)
March 31, 2011
Home ImprovementHow ToDIY
We consider ourselves a crafty bunch at SMP Living, but we were a bit clueless when it came to knowing exactly what glue to use for our many DIY projects. That was until we got a glue 101 from the uber handy Joe Provey, and now we'll never look at a glue gun the same. So ladies and gents, it's only fair to share the knowledge with all of you crafty folks, so we'll let Joe take it from here...
From Joe Provey...Hot glue, white glue, Gorilla glue, Krazy glue -- how many glues do you really need?

I love fixing things, partly because it's a great way to save money and partly for the satisfaction. So it stands to reason that one of the most important items in my tool kit is glue. You'd think I'd have a drawer full of different kinds, but I don't. Perhaps 90 percent of all my household gluing chores is done with just a few kinds of glue. I like them for their versatility, shelf-life and performance.

Want to bring the best glues home? Here's what you should grab:

Best Glue #1: White Glue
White glue, also known as polyvinyl acetate (PVA), has been around for years, but new formulations made it stronger. Some white glues produce water-resistant bonds, but for truly waterproof results you may need to resort to a specialty glue (see below).

I use white glue for everything from woodworking to craft projects. It's great for bonding porous materials, including paper, wood, polystyrene and fabric. I like that it dries clear and is easy to clean up with water. In addition, white glues are non-flammable, without harmful fumes and relatively non-toxic -- unless ingested. For kids, you can buy "school" formulations that are easy to wash out of clothing. White glue's also inexpensive and, if kept from freezing, will last for many years.

Best Glue #2: Yellow Glue
Yellow glue, also known as carpenter's glue, is very similar to white glue in its makeup and performance. But it's a bit more tacky and sets up a bit faster than white glue, which speeds up assembly. If you work with wood, keep a bottle of it on hand. Some new yellow glues, such as Titebond III Wood Glue, are waterproof, which makes them a convenient alternative to the two-part resorcinol glues that, until now, were the best choice for outdoor projects. Be advised, however, that yellow glue has a shorter shelf life than white glue. It's only good for about one year.

Best Glue #3: 5-Minute Epoxy
Yes, epoxy. I know it's toxic, but I love the versatility and performance. I get around the toxicity by wearing vinyl disposable gloves whenever I use epoxy. I also wait until I have several things to fix. Then I open a couple of windows and set up a fan or go outdoors to make the repairs all at once.

Epoxy comes in several types. For household repairs, I prefer the ones that set up quickly, such as Devcon's 5 Minute Epoxy. It gives me enough time to make several small repairs at once, dries in 15 minutes and reaches functional strength in an hour. Mixing and using the product is easy, too.

Best Glue #4: Specialty Glues
Sometimes you'll need a specialized adhesive. When bonding countertop laminate to plywood, for example, contact cement is the glue of choice. When adhering floor tiles, you would want to use the flooring adhesive recommended by the flooring manufacturer. For wood paneling and moldings, a construction adhesive -- such as Liquid Nails --might be the way to go. Buy these glues as you need them in appropriate quantities.

Now - the glues that didn't make the list. Save money by skipping out on these guys:

Glue to Skip #1: Polyurethane-based Glue
You'll note that polyurethane-based glues, such as Gorilla glue, didn't make my list. Nor did instant glues (cyanoacrylates), such as Krazy Glue. Both types cure upon contact with moisture, which can be problematic. Because once you open the tube, moisture that's in the air can get into the container and begin the curing process. You had better use the stuff up fast or you'll simply have a hardened, useless hunk of hazardous gunk to deal with. Worse yet, they're difficult to remove from your skin and toxic.

Many woodworkers prefer polyurethane-based glues, which makes sense if you're working in a production-style shop -- but not if you only build one or two projects a year. Use white or yellow glue instead. Also keep in mind that polyurethane-based glues expand while curing, so don't use them on an open joint. Finally, polyurethanes and cyanoacrylates are more expensive than many other glues, especially if you consider their short shelf lives.

Glue to Skip #2: Hot-melt Glue
I've also left hot-melt glue off my preferred glue list. Of course, if you enjoy craft projects, you may want a glue gun and supply of glue sticks. They are inexpensive and fast-drying. My gripe is that the bond produced by hot melt plastic glue is not very strong. That's fine if you're gluing up a Valentine's Day card, but glue seashells to a picture frame and in a year at least one will have fallen off. Plus, it's really easy to burn your fingers with these guys!