If you ask any local handyman or contractor how often you should re-caulk your shower and tub, most will say about every three to five years however, some people choose to make this a yearly task. It’s important to remove old caulk because moisture can get inside your wall which in turn can cause mildew and even damage sheetrock.
If you decide to take on this project yourself, here are the steps to take when replacing the caulk:
Clean the area: Use a bathroom cleanser/soap scum remover to pre-clean the area. Cut or scrape away old caulk with a knife or razor blade. It should peel off easily. To soften stubborn and/or dried caulk use commercial caulk remover or a hairdryer to warm the caulk. This will allow you to scrape it away more easily. You can also use a heat gun however, be careful not to overheat any particular area of the bathtub or shower stall. Work your way around the edge of the tub or shower, softening and then removing the caulk with your razor, screwdriver or knife. Note: New silicone caulk will not bond to old silicone caulk; therefore it is important that the seam area be cleaned thoroughly prior to caulking.
Check for mildew: Vacuum up remaining bits of caulk and clean the seams with rubbing alcohol to remove leftover caulk, soap scum, and other materials that accumulate in the shower’s corners. Check to see if there is mildew growing behind the caulk. If so, use a mildew killer or a mixture of bleach and water to get rid of it. Let the area dry thoroughly (24 to 36 hours) before you start re-caulking. Note: Make sure you use a caulk meant for bathroom applications. Usually these types of caulk are mildew resistant.
Caulking: Place strips of masking tape approximately 1/8 inch from the seam to prevent caulk from spilling over onto tile or walls. Place the caulk in the caulk gun and cut off the container’s tip with scissors (using a caulking gun is much easier to use the caulk you have to squeeze out like toothpaste; you’ll have more control over where the caulk is going). Depress the caulk gun’s trigger and run the caulk along the seam in a smooth, steady motion, leaving a thin bead of caulk which covers the seam completely. Make sure you put on enough or it will not provide complete protection. As you dispense the caulk, use this handyman trick and smooth it out with a wet finger. Tip: If you are caulking a shower stall, work from the inside out. Caulk the inside seams first, followed by the external ones. Also, caulk the vertical line first, followed by the horizontal lines. Caulk the vertical lines from top to bottom to ensure the best look.
Let it dry: Once you’ve caulked all the seams, wait at least 30 minutes and then remove the tape. Wait 24 to 48 hours before using the shower or tub. If possible, don’t use the bathroom at all during this time. Caulk will dry more completely in an unused bathroom.
Re-caulking can be a difficult and timely task. Even with the proper techniques it can still take a long time to complete and not look as good as you want. If you don’t have patience, you may want to hire a local handyman to re-caulk for you.
For more information on how to properly caulking visit NATCO.