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You may see caulk as tiny detail, but a fresh application can truly make a difference in your bathroom. Caulk is designed to fill cracks and prevent water from leaving the tub or shower. Over time, caulk can crack, leading to structural damage, mold and mildew. Age also tends to discolor caulk, making showers look older and unclean.
For both homeowners and renters alike, re-caulking your tub is an easy fix you can do to spruce up your bathroom. Additionally, this is an easy DIY project. To complete the process, you’ll need to remove the old caulk and replace it with new caulk. Here’s how you can re-caulk your shower or bathtub.
What Caulk Should You Use?
Before you begin the process of replacing the caulk, you must decide what caulk you’d like to use. There are two main types of caulk to use in a bathtub or shower: silicone and latex.
Silicone caulk is completely waterproof, making it ideal for bathrooms. Though it’s incredibly flexible and long-lasting, application and removal is difficult. It also can’t be cleaned up with water; it has to be cleaned up with mineral spirits. Silicone caulk works best on glass and ceramic tile.
This type of caulk is intended to have an easy application, but is not as durable as silicone caulk and tends to crack over time. It tends to be the cheaper option and comes in a wide range of colors. Mistakes can be removed with water. Latex caulk can work on any tile, but specifically, will do well on uneven tile.
Many companies now make a combination caulk of both silicone and latex, maintaining the easy use of latex and the long life of silicone.
Whatever route you choose, remember you should never put new caulk on top of old caulk, as neither will bond. You’ll also need to remove any mold before removing and re-caulking your tub or shower.
- All-purpose cleaner
- Nylon brush
- Razor or utility knife
- Caulk remover
- Putty knife
- 1-2 tubes of tub and shower caulk, depending on how large the area is
- Caulk gun
- Painters tape
- Cup of water
Time Needed: About four hours total for both steps
Old Caulk Removal
The removal of old caulk will be the most time-consuming part of this project. Caulk generally tends to be softer than people assume. However, if you feel that it might be too tough for you to cut with a razor, you can soften it by using chemical caulk remover. Place the caulk remover over the existing caulk, covering the area you wish to remove completely. Let it sit for about 2-5 hours, or as directed by the product you’re using.
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Now that your caulk is soft, it’s time to slowly remove from the wall. Start with your razor blade or utility knife and make a cut along one side of the area you wish to take out. When you have reached the end, make another cut along the other side. The old caulk should begin to fall away from the seam at this point.
At this point, it may seem like you have removed the bulk of it, but in order to replace, you must get rid of all old caulk. Take your putty knife and work it in the seam, getting out all excess caulk.
Using your all-purpose cleaner and small nylon brush, clean along the seams where you just removed the caulk. It’s important to use a soft brush, otherwise, the tub and tile may end up with unwanted scratch marks. This should get rid of any areas you may have missed. Clean the area and wipe down with a cloth. Throw out any old caulk that was removed from the tub. You must let the area dry completely before moving on to replacing the caulk.
Replace Shower Caulk
Once the area is dry, it’s time to get your bathtub looking new again! Tape the area around the seam to be sure you place caulk only in its desired location. Next, cut the caulk tube at 45-degree angle. This is an important step to fill the entirety of the seam. Place the caulk tube in the caulk gun.
Begin by placing a bead of caulk in the joint, where the tub meets the shower or wall. Use this as your starting point, running the gun along the seam, moving with steady speed and pressure on the trigger as you move.
Smooth out the caulk by dipping your finger in water and gliding it along the filled-in seam. Repeat these steps around the entire tub. Keep a paper towel nearby to wipe off your finger of any excess caulk. Remove the painters tape as soon as you’re done. Avoid touching the new caulk after the tape is removed, as this could cause imperfections.
Do not run water in the shower or tub for 12 to 24 hours.
A great caulking job starts with good preparation. If you’re still unsure or would like additional practice before starting in your bathtub or shower, pick a spot in your garage or other out-of-sight area to try. Be sure to follow all of the steps for removal so you can have a beautiful tub you’re proud of. In a few hours’ time, you can have your shower looking like new again.
Looking for more bathroom ideas? See our Small Bathroom Upgrades You Can Do In A Weekend.