Almost inevitably, at some point in your bathroom’s lifetime, a leak – large or small – will develop between the bathtub and the wall tiles. Considering the movements of the house with hot and cold temperature variations, and the normal settling into the foundations, it’s not surprising that the wall tiles will shift a little and problems will occur. Problem is, even a hairline crack can cause water to leak through to the wall’s interior and that’s where your real issues lie. This is where tub caulking comes in and it must be done adequately or else what’s the point?
A Simple and Necessary Annual Task
Every year, as part of your regular home maintenance, put tub caulking on your life of things to do. This means removing the old caulk and replacing it with fresh.
Additionally, as you know, black mildew has an annoying habit of building up in the caulk, no matter how efficiently you try to keep it at bay. Happily, you can refresh your tub and tile with re-caulking and not have to worry about it for another year.
Removing Tub Caulking
The good news is this is a pretty simple task. You can actually buy products that you apply to the surface and the caulk softens and, to a degree, dissolves for easy removal. Give the product a couple of hours to soften the caulk then take a plastic putty knife and remove it. Also clean up the joints with paint thinners and wipe clean with a rag.
It’s important to remove all traces of mildew or else the new tub caulking won’t apply properly. Use a mixture of 1 quart liquid chlorine bleach and 3 quarts warm water plus 1/3 cup of laundry powder. Wear gloves and eye protection and keep windows open for adequate ventilation. Apply using a spray bottle, wait until the mildew changes to white then rinse with clean water.
Dry the area
Use a hot air gun or hair dryer to thoroughly dry the area before undertaking the tub caulking.
Applying new caulk
• Fill the tub with water before you start. The weight of the water will add maximum width of the joint and that will help to prevent cracking in the future.
• Take your tube of caulk and cut a medium sized opening. Too big and the job will be messy, too small and you won’t squeeze enough out. The opening should be roughly the diameter of a wire coat hanger.
• Start at one end – not the middle – of the tub and work evenly along the joint, being careful to apply the same amount of pressure as you go. As the tube empties, fold over the depleted section so that the tub caulk doesn’t dissipate through it.
• Once you’ve caulked the length of the joint, dampen your finger and run it along the joint to remove any excess. Use a damp cloth or rag to clean the caulk from your finger.
• Empty the water out of the tub once the joint is dry.
A tube of tub caulking will cost around $3 so this is one of the least expensive DIY jobs you can do around the home. You certainly don’t need to call in a contractor to do it for you and since it’s an annual job, you’ll get enough practice to be an ‘old hand’ at it by just the second time.