If you can’t fix it, duct it. Or so that saying goes. But… what if MacGyver’s favorite adhesive was actually gaffer’s tape? Both are multi-purpose, pressure-sensitive tapes with a strong hold due to fabric reinforcement. But do you know which one is best for construction? Which one is more heat tolerant? Water resistant? Tearable?
Permanent or Temporary Adhesive?
This is the most important characteristic that you need to consider.
Duct Tape: permanent and/or semi-permanent
Ideal for: Making long-lasting general repairs on the spot. Fun fact: Duct tape can provide a permanent adhesive alternative on some applications, but it is removable if need be. For example, in the abatement/remediation industry, after the job is complete, the duct tape holding up the poly film for the containment room must be removed.
Gaffer’s Tape: removable
Ideal for: Temporary uses especially when you can’t damage the surface beneath the tape. It’s perfect for things like trade shows when you need to remove tape from the convention center floor or in the entertainment industry for marking positions on a stage.
What Adhesive Tapes Are Hand Tearable?
Duct Tape: scissors or can be torn by hand
Ideal for: Situations where you have some basic tools on-hand to complete the job. Some duct tape can be torn by hand, making it convenient for working on the fly. However, some duct tape products have extra reinforcement, which will require scissors or hand-tools to cut.
Gaffer’s Tape: can be torn by hand
Ideal for: Working on the fly.
Is Duct Tape Resistant to Heat and Water?
Duct Tape: Waterproof and weather resistant
Ideal for: Patching and seaming. It’s important to note that duct tape is not very heat resistant. Under extreme heat conditions, duct tape adhesive typically becomes extremely gummy and may slide and or dry up really fast, taking the integrity out of the tape and possibly making it fail.
Gaffer’s Tape: Water resistant; able to resist high heat temperatures
Ideal for: Securing cables and props that are exposed to the bright, hot lights of camera work.
Which is more flexible: Duct Tape or Gaffer’s Tape?
Duct Tape: very flexible and easy to stretch
Ideal for: Situations in which the tape must fit into tight areas or hug irregular surfaces and contours.
Gaffer’s Tape: less flexible than duct tape
Ideal for: Situations in which you need the tape to hold its shape (it won’t stretch like duct tape) or when a tight fit is less critical.
Matte or Reflective Finish?
Duct Tape: comes in 7 colors with a reflective finish
Ideal for: Color coding and labeling things.
Gaffer’s Tape: comes in black with a matte finish
Ideal for: Securing cables or props that need to remain invisible under the lights of a photography or film set.
How Much Does Duct Tape Cost?
Duct Tape: less expensive; $7.99 for 60 yards
Ideal for: Go-to everyday general repair tape.
Gaffer’s Tape: more expensive; $19.99 for 60 yards
Ideal for: Circumstances where the unique properties of gaffer’s tape (especially the removability) warrant the higher cost of the tape. However, because gaffer’s tape is more easily removable, with less residue, there will be a minor savings on labor cost for cleanup.
Choosing the right tape for your job is extremely important. At ECHOtape, we’ve made it our passion for more than 40 years to help professionals with their sticky issues. Check out our blog post, “Warning: 6 Reasons Not To Use Duct Tape” to learn the top 6 conditions where duct tape can fall short and what adhesive tape you should be using instead. If you still aren’t sure, feel free to contact us with your challenge. We would love to help!