Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Caulking the Caulk

Three years ago I lived in a cool two-story converted factory loft with 4 lovely roommates. We divided up the household tasks, and, unfortunately, I was on bathroom detail.

Now, it wasn't part of my official duty, but when I saw the state of the tub, I knew I wouldn't be able to enjoy a shower (and certainly not a bath) until I fixed the caulk situation:

It was loose in many areas, and moldy beyond bleaching just about everywhere. It had to go.

You'll want to wear some gloves -- regular dishwashing ones will do.

Next, you need a tool to pry out the old caulk before you can apply the new. I used a very sharp razor scraper , which looks a lot like the one to the left.

(Basically, removing caulk is an awful job. In the past, I've attacked it with a combination of the scraper-razor, a flat-head screwdriver, and a knife/box cutter.)

For the caulk, I swear by GE Silicone II, for Bath and Tub. (The silicone-based varieties work better with the tips in this article, and are better suited to bathrooms than latex.)

You will also need a caulking gun. These can be purchased for cheap at most hardware stores. Instructions on opening the caulk and loading the gun are below.

Removing the Old Caulk

When using the scraper, knife, etc., remember to:

1. Be very careful. When you're wearing rubber gloves, sweating, cursing and hacking away ... just be aware of where your fingers are.

2. Avoid damaging the porcelain of the tub or tiles. This is very easy to do. Any blade employed for this job should be kept parallel to the surface: it's like scraping ice off of a windshield. You want to remove the stuff stuck on top, without hurting what will remain.

3. Try to get all of it. Any bits of old caulk that remain will either show up as ugly lumps under your new caulk, or will actually make it impossible for the fresh caulk to adhere. Don't be surprised if some grout (the hard stuff holding the tiles onto the wall) comes loose. A little bit is normal.

Surface Prep

After you've got that ripped out, you'll need to clean up the surface you just unearthed. A decent scrub with bleach -- I use a heavy duty scrub brush with a handle -- followed by a careful wipe down is important. To finish, I strongly recommend wiping everything down with rubbing alcohol (remember to open a window while all of this is going on!). The alcohol will both help to clean the area and will evaporate as it drys; it is *crucial* that the surfaces be very well dried before going on the next step. Wipe it down with a dry towel and leave it for at least an hour.
The nature of caulk is that it repels water. Therefore, it would obviously make your job a lot harder to try to apply it to a damp surface (trust me :/).

The Fun Part
Look for part II tomorrow!

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