Duct tape may have a humorous reputation as the king of home repair adhesives, but when it comes to practical, durable and invisible fixes, glue is the clear choice. No single type of glue alone is suitable for all materials and settings, however. Use the wrong glue for a project, and you could end up with a weak bond, damaged materials or a big mess. For this reason, you should stock your home and workshop with a few different types of adhesives so you’re ready to tackle a range of repairs. Use this simple guide to decide which glue, cement or epoxy to use for common home repairs.
Project: making miscellaneous small repairs
Go-to glue: polyurethane glue
One of the newer additions to the adhesive arsenal, versatile polyurethane glue is worth keeping in any home or workshop. This adhesive can bond numerous porous and non-porous materials, usually sets quickly, cures in a range of temperatures and humidity levels, is suitable for outdoors and is waterproof. Since polyurethane glue expands slightly as it sets, you should use a little less than you think you need to avoid messy oozing. Clamping is required until the glue fully sets.
Project: securing loose wood
Go-to glue: wood glue
You don’t have to be a fix-it expert to know what wood glue is for. If there’s wood in your house that’s coming loose and nails, screws or other hardware aren’t suitable fixes, wood glue (also known as carpenter’s glue) is often a great choice for an invisible repair. Use standard wood glue for interior repairs and the exterior variety for outside fixes. Since wood glue takes a while to cure, you may need to use weights or clamps to hold the pieces together until the glue takes hold.
Project: repairing broken ceramic
Go-to glue: two-part epoxy
Did you snap the handle off your prized coffee mug, or do you need to reassemble a broken vase? Fast-curing two-part epoxy should be your glue of choice. When working with thin edges, a toothpick works great for applying a small amount of the epoxy. If you get some of the adhesive on the surface of your object, simply wait until the epoxy fully hardens before carefully shaving off the excess using a razor blade.
Project: repairing separated leather
Go-to glue: all-purpose cement
Adhesives can be a solution for fixing more than just hard materials. You can repair loose leather on items like briefcases, trunks and lamps using a high-quality all-purpose cement. This adhesive usually comes in a metal container with a lid that includes a brush. Be sure that the product states that it is suitable for use on leather as well as the material you’re bonding with the leather. When using contact-type cements, allow the adhesive to dry for a bit until tacky before pressing the surfaces together.
Project: fixing damaged glass
Go-to glue: clear epoxy
Repairing damaged glass is a tricky task. The material is often sharp and fragile, its transparency makes repairs hard to hide and the material’s non-porous nature is difficult for glue to bond with. A small chip can be fixed with a drop of superglue, but any larger repair will require a high-quality clear epoxy. Choose a product labeled as “crystal clear” so the repaired seam doesn’t yellow as it ages. To assure the strongest bond, clean the glass surface with a degreaser first, then lightly sand the edges you’ll be joining to roughen them a bit. Apply the glue sparingly to prevent oozing.
Project: reattaching wall tiles
Go-to glue: mastic or thin-set mortar
Even the pros don’t always get adhesive jobs done right. If you have loose tiles in your home, it may be because the installer didn’t use enough adhesive. To reattach a tile, it’s best to use the same adhesive it was originally installed with. Examine the back of the tile: if the adhesive resembles dried glue, mastic is the best choice, and if it looks like cement, then use premixed thin-set. Be sure to chip away the old grout from around the tiles you’re working on, and consider using tile spacers to keep your tiles aligned just right. Repair the grout after the new adhesive has fully cured.
Project: reattaching loose laminate
Go-to glue: contact cement
The edging on laminate countertops is known for coming loose over time. As long as the particle board beneath is still in good shape, the laminate can be reattached with contact cement. Peel back the laminate while taking care not to break it, then apply a thin, even coat of the cement to both surfaces. Keep the two surfaces separated for 15 to 30 minutes until the sheen on the cement becomes dull, then carefully press the pieces together.
Always refer to your specific glue product’s packaging for exact instructions and safety information. Not all materials are suitable for adhesive, but for the right job, you might be pleasantly surprised at just how well your glue fix will stick.