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RaeEllen 07-25-2008 02:59 PM

Recaulking Bathroom Help

I got a lot of great advice last time I posted, so I thought I would try one more time.

I have a bathroom with nasty looking edges around the tile. I've determined (with input here!) that all it needs is a good scrubbing of the grout and replacement of the caulk.

However, the caulk interfaces with several other materials as it travels around the room, and I want to make sure I do this correctly.

I've been scraping out most of the old caulk and its coming out pretty well. The area where tiles touch ceremic (tub) seem pretty straight forward. When I'm done, I'm planning to wash it down with some bleach and water, let it dry, and recaulk.

What about the areas where the tile interfaces with painted wood. (Mainly at door baseboards? Removing the old caulk and crumbling grout leaves about a quarter inch gap. Is it ok to fill that completely with caulk?

Then there are the areas where the tile comes against painted wall. It looks like the caulk was placed first and then it was painted over. I can scrape off most of the messiness (it was a really thick, sloppy caulk job), but should I get it all off and replace? Will that mean I have to repaint the joint?

THanks for any advice

DangerMouse 07-25-2008 03:13 PM

caulk repair
hi! i'd say yes to filling the baseboard areas with (waterproof-silicone) caulk since they're in the bathroom and therefore a potentially wet area. it can also be used on the wall areas. though i'd certainly clean as much of the old caulk as possible for a clean job. just be SURE the area is COMPLETELY dry before applying a silicone based white caulk or it will not do it's job! even if you have to use a hair dryer to get tight areas, it MUST be dry! hope this helps!

Termite 07-25-2008 03:27 PM

Sounds like you're well on your way to doing it right. Re-caulking is a part of bathroom maintenance, and is critical to the bathroom's functional longevity.

One thing I would suggest is not globbing a ton of caulk in the larger gaps in order to fill them up to the point of the finished surface. You can buy foam backer rod, which is a roll of cylindrical foam (1/8", 1/4", 1/2", etc) used to full the bulk of the gap so you don't use an insane amount of caulk and wait days or weeks for it to fully cure. Use a putty knife to jam the backer rod into the gap, and only use about 1/8" deep bead of caulk.

Have you caulked anything before? Are you familiar with the wet finger trick to form the caulk into the joints? If not, just understand that the way the caulk comes out of the tube is not the finished product. You need to tool the caulk into the joint to make it go into all the nooks and crannies and to make the finished product look professional. Use as little caulk as possible...It doesn't take much. Use a damp rag to wet your finger, and a few inches at a time run your finger down the joint. Clean the excess off on a separate wet rag. You'll quickly find that you remove as much caulk with your finger as stays in the joint. A damp sponge can be used to fine tune the joint if you wish, just use a bucket of water to keep it clean as you go.

Termite 07-25-2008 03:29 PM

I remember sarcastically commenting on someone's bad caulk job a while back on a plumbing post....All pink tiles...Is this the one??? :whistling2:

Nestor_Kelebay 07-25-2008 04:13 PM

I agree with KCTermite about using foam backer rod in the wide gaps. If you can't find it in your local home center, just look under Caulking Equipment & Supplies in your yellow pages, and every place listed should sell foam backer rod. (They might only sell it by the 1000 foot spool, tho, but they would know where you can buy small quantities of the stuff.)

You said:
"I've been scraping out most of the old caulk and its coming out pretty well. The area where tiles touch ceremic (tub) seem pretty straight forward. When I'm done, I'm planning to wash it down with some bleach and water, let it dry, and recaulk."

The part about using bleach will just be a waste of your time. It will do nothing at all. Instead, go buy some "Silicone-Be-Gone" silicone caulk remover made by DAP from your local home center in the caulking aisle. If you can't find it, use ordinary paint thinner and cover with wax paper to prevent it from evaporating. DAP "Silicone-Be-Gone" is just gelled mineral spirits (aka: paint thinner) and it causes silicone caulk to swell up and get soft so that it can be removed by mechanical means like scrubbing and brushing.

Do this:
1. Remove as much silicone caulk as you can with a razor or by whatever means works well for you.
2. Apply the silicone caulk remover to the areas where the silicone was.
3. Allow the silicone caulk remover an hour or two to soften the old caulk and make it swell up.
4. Scrape the swollen silicone caulk off with a razor again.
5. Apply more silicone caulk remover to the areas where silicone was.
6. After an hour or two, scrub the silicond caulk remover with a green 3M Scotchbrite pad (like the kind sold for scouring pots). This should remove the remaining silicone caulk.
7. Clean the silicone caulk remover off with a damp sponge. The silicone caulk remover can be washed off with water. Towel dry.
8. Now, take a very fine powder, like portland cement powder, or floor leveler powder. I think even ordinary baking flour would work, too. Sprinkle the powder onto the areas where the silicone was and wipe with your finger. The powder particles will become embedded in any soft and swollen silicone still remaining, revealing the location by turning the tub or tile the same colour as the powder.
9. Now, just apply your silicone remover to those areas where you powder revealed the presence of silicone.

Repeat steps 8 and 9 until you get ALL of the silicone off around the tub. The relatively dry areas on the floor, etc. are of less importance.

Now, apply 1/2 or 3/4 inch wide masking tape 1/4 inch away from the joint you intend to caulk, apply your silicone caulk, spread it with a dry finger and then pull the masking tape off. Now, dip your finger in a 50/50 solution of liquid dish washing detergent and water, and use a soapy finger to "tool" the caulked joint smooth.

Don't replace your silicone caulk, just clean it.
To clean mildew off silicone caulk, just mix bleach with baking soda to make a thick slurry that you can spread over the caulk with a spoon. Then, cover that wet slurry with Saran Wrap so that the bleach doesn't dry out and leave it like that over night (at least) pressing the stiff slurry through the Saran Wrap to ensure that the silicon surface is wet with bleach. After a day or three, pull the Saran Wrap off, scoop the baking soda off the silicon with a spoon and or clean it off with a wet sponge, and your old silicone caulk will be as white as Manitoba snow.

RaeEllen 07-25-2008 04:44 PM

Ok, might be a totally silly question, but how do I know that I have silicone caulk?

DangerMouse 07-25-2008 05:42 PM

it should say silicone based for tubs and showers on the tubes.
any HD type big box or mom and pop hardware store should carry it.


RaeEllen 07-25-2008 06:01 PM

I'm sorry, I was unclear. How do I know that what I am trying to remove is a silicone based caulk. That does, however, bring up a further question. Should I use silicone caulk to recaulk? What's the advantage over another type that would be easier to work with?

Termite 07-25-2008 09:12 PM

Hard to say for sure what you're removing. Silicone caulk stays very flexible, almost like a gummy bear.

I would use bathroom silicone caulk for any caulking around a wet or damp area in a bathroom (tub, sink, counter, anywhere the mop goes, etc). It isn't harder to work with than any other caulk. Use one that is mildew resistant, which most of the name brands are. When you buy "tub and tile" caulk, it will be silicone.

Nestor_Kelebay 07-25-2008 10:23 PM


Originally Posted by RaeEllen (Post 143047)
I'm sorry, I was unclear. How do I know that what I am trying to remove is a silicone based caulk.

Basically, people who are familiar with caulk can tell silicone caulk by it's elasticity. Other caulks can only stretch a few percent without breaking, but silicone will stretch several hundred percent without breaking. Simply take some of the caulk you've removed to a hardware store or home center and anyone there will be able to tell if it's silicone caulk or not.


That does, however, bring up a further question. Should I use silicone caulk to recaulk? What's the advantage over another type that would be easier to work with?
You really should use silicone caulk to recaulk. The reason why is that silicone rubber sticks tenaciously to glazed ceramic wall tiles and enamel coated steel bathtubs.

The problem with silicone caulk is that nothing sticks well to cured silicone caulk, not even new silicone caulk. And, it's because people have trouble removing all of the old silicone caulk that you frequently come across retarded advice in DIY forums like this telling people to fill their bathtub with water before caulking. (The idea being that, then, the caulk won't pull off the ceramic tiles or tub when you fill the bathtub with water and the joint between the two opens up by a few thousandths of an inch.

If you see such advice, keep in mind that the real problem is that all of the old silicone caulk has not been removed. Silicone sticks tenaciously to glazed ceramic tile and the enamel of a steel bathtub. If someone can't get their silicone caulk to stick well to either of these, it's because there's a very thin film of old silicone caulk on the tub or tile that's preventing the new silicone from adhering properly. So, really, they're trying to stick new silicone caulk to a very thin film of old silicone caulk, and nothing sticks to cured silicone caulk, not even new silicone caulk.

However, if you follow the procedure in my previous post, then you should remove ALL of the old silicone caulk, and you should have no trouble at all getting the new silicone to stick well. I own a small apartment block, and I have silicone caulk in all 21 bathrooms. I have never had a problem getting my silicone caulk to stick well, and the reason why is that I know how to remove it COMPLETELY, whereas most people simply don't do a good enough job removing it, and that's the source of their problems.

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