Handyman Tip:

How to Caulk or Re-Caulk Tubs, Showers, and Sinks

Problem:  The caulk joints around your vanity top or kitchen counter top have dried out, chipped out, won’t clean up or just look bad after years in place.  Maybe you just want to change the color; there are so many more color options than there was just five years ago.  One company even makes a tint-able caulk that can be tinted to match any color you choose.  Check out our “links to suppliers” page.


Solution: 

Step 1.  The first thing you need to do is determine what type of caulk to use for the project you have in mind.  Here is a list of options to help you make that decision. 


Acrylic Latex – All purpose joint seal – Paintable
Use:  To seal interior and exterior wall, window, door surface joints prior to painting.
Polyurethane – Masonry joint seal – Paintable
Use:  To seal cracks in joints in concrete, block and stone surfaces.  This can be painted.
Siliconized Latex – Long lasting flexible joint seal – Paintable
Use:  All purpose joint seal that remains flexible, is long lasting and paintable.
Adhesive caulk - Siliconized latex and adhesive in one. Flexible, long lasting and paintable.
Use: All purpose, all surface, good bond, mold and mildew resistant.
Silicone – Can be used in wet areas – Not paintable
Use:  To seal joints in tub and shower surrounds, counter and vanity tops anywhere moisture is prevalent.    This cannot be painted.
Specialty Caulks:  Gutter and Fashing, fire block,  crystal clear caulk, adhesive caulk, removable weather stripping, construction adhesives, self-leveling concrete sealant, blacktop sealant, roof sealant, kitchen and bath, door and window, tile sealant, tile grout caulk(sanded and non-sanded), siding sealant, tint-able caulk.


Step 2.  Choose the product you feel will be the most advantages for you and the project.  Most caulk comes in small squeeze containers; these are fine for very small areas or patches.  The drawback is they are difficult to apply and cumbersome to handle, as you need to keep rolling the tube over on itself to get an even pressure and flow from the container.  If you have a large area to cover, you will quickly become frustrated.  This is the last thing you want to happen because applying caulk requires a lot of patients.  The next container type requires the use of a caulking gun.  There are a lot of choices between caulking guns, there are even battery powered units and the most expensive is not necessarily the best for you.  The one I use is between $6.00 and $10.00 at most home centers or hardware stores.  The most important feature is that when you release the squeeze handle, the plunger actually pulls back slightly.  This stops the flow of caulk.   Some designs do not retract the plunger – this will cause the caulk to continue flowing.  You will constantly be cleaning up overflow not to mention wasting the caulk.   Don’t worry about finding a caulk gun that clips the spout on the tube of caulk, they may look convenient but they typically are not very sharp and it is more difficult to cut the angle that you need.  Use a sharp razor knife, this will provide a nice clean cut at the angle you want. 


Step 3.  Now that you have your caulk gun, caulk and razor blade knife, you need to inspect and clean the area you want to caulk.  Caulk will not adhere to a dirty or oily surface.  If you are re-caulking a joint, you obviously will have to remove the old caulk.  This will require a sharp knife (razor blade knife with new blade), a razor blade scrapping knife with new blade and a damp cloth (not wet-ring it out well).  Start by scoring the old caulking using the razor blade knife.  Keep the knife as upright (vertical) as possible for the first cut.  Now turn the knife horizontal and score the caulk.  If the caulk is at all flexible, you should be able to pry out a corner and peal the old caulking out.  If the old caulk is brittle and comes out, continue to chip away until you have it all out.  If you cannot easily remove the caulk, there is a product next to the caulk, or in the paint department of the home center or hardware store that can be applied to the old caulk which will soften the old caulk and help remove it.  Now with the majority of the old caulk removed, use the razor blade scraper to remove anything you could not get with the standard razor blade knife.  Keep working the joint until all the old caulk has been removed.  Clean the joint thoroughly.


Step 4.  The joint is cleaned out and you are ready to caulk.  Here is the secret to a perfect caulking joint, blue painters tape.   Apply a strip of blue painters tape along the caulk joint about an eighth of an inch out from the apex of the caulk joint.  Do this for both the horizontal and vertical surface.  You now have a perfect track to apply the caulk in.  With a smooth even stroke, pull the caulk gun along the track you created (while you squeeze the trigger evenly) , filling the joint with caulk.  It is not necessary to have the caulk bead touch both strips of tape.  Once you will have laid your bead of caulk, using a wet finger, smooth the caulk into the joint.  If there is a gap at any point along the joint add some caulk and smooth with a wet finger.  Once you are satisfied with your work, remove the tape by pulling with an even pressure at a 90 degree angle away from the caulk joint.  This will leave a perfectly caulked joint.  Repeat this procedure for each joint.  Once you are done, inspect your work.  If you find any gaps or divots in your caulk joints – stop, leave the caulk alone until it cures.  You can later do the touch-up without disturbing the rest of your hard work. 


TIP:  More is not better when applying caulk, a thin neat uninterrupted caulk joint is what you are striving for.