By Greg Illes
Standard vinyl electrical tape has been around for a long time — too long, some would say. The problem with this commonly used product is its adhesive. It doesn’t really stick very well, and after awhile it starts to peel loose, leaving a gooey mess behind.
Some years ago, a worthy alternative appeared — a silicone rubber tape that was self-fusing. It bonded to itself with enthusiasm, and had no adhesive to age or create a mess. Furthermore, it was impervious to many chemicals, ozone and UV, which age and deteriorate lesser products.
Recently, this self-vulcanizing tape has seen a surge in popularity. It’s now sold in many colors and widths, all at affordable prices (although much more expensive than its cheaper brother). Sold by everyone from Ace Hardware to Amazon, a 1″ x 12′ roll runs about $10-$14, and 2″ x 36′ will set you back $40.
You apply the tape by peeling off its backing (being careful not to let it touch itself — it bonds instantly). Wrap the tape around the object to be covered, and make the first wrap go over itself. Then stretch the tape in the direction you want and continue wrapping. It’s easiest to cut off a piece in advance rather than applying it from the roll. A little experience will show you how much to use, and it takes very little: Two to three inches will weatherproof most electrical joints.
Notice that the tape doesn’t actually stick to anything but itself. This means that it’s easy to remove, but it also means that it can’t be used for any application that requires a sticky seal. The best way to think of this “tool” is as a rubber-molding process. Once the tape is applied and wrapped around the object, it is literally as if the object were cast inside a mold. In fact, I’ve cut open 5-year-old wrappings and they still looked as if they were just one solid piece of rubber.
Due to its stretchy nature, the tape is fabulously conforming. It will create a solid rubber sleeve around the most odd-shaped joints and other objects. In addition to electrical, the tape can be used for any purpose where a rubber coating is desired. For example, my flagpole gave up its rattle after I rubber-taped the base. Your imagination is your only limit.