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Srednivashtar 06-19-2011 12:34 AM

Removing Caulk- Question from a complete beginner
I have been wanting to repaint my kitchen for a while, but have just today discovered that the caulk that the previous owners used EVERYWHERE in the kitchen (seriously, there must have been a sale on the stuff) is completely unpaintable. I don't know exactly what it is, but it has a very rubbery texture and when I tried to paint over it, nothing would stick.

I'm assuming I'm going to have to remove it and replace it with something more paint-friendly, but I am a COMPLETE beginner at all this home improvement stuff, and I have no idea what is involved.

Is this an appropriate job for a complete beginner like me to take on, or do you thing I would be better of hiring some sort of handyman? I don't mind getting my hands dirty or anything, it's just that I don't have any skills to build on, if you know what I mean.


user1007 06-19-2011 01:22 AM

That rubbery caulk you describe is silicone rubber. GE and others developed it for waterproofing applications but marketing departments got hold of it and started hyping it as a caulking material. It is probably one of the worst choices for caulking and I don't use it much.

In addition to not being able to paint it, it is hard to tool into shape and the only way to get it off when cured is to carve it loose.

If you have basic hand tool competence, getting the old caulk out of the way is most certainly a project you can tackle and complete.

You will need a SHARP scraper to get under it and hopefully you can pull up a length you can hold on to. If you are lucky, the rest of the caulk bead will just pull up like a giant rubber band. If not, you just have to keep after it with the scraper edge until you get it all. Try the flattest edge of the scraper, or an industrial razor blade (plastic ones are nice for this), for getting residue off. Acetone or rubber cement solvent might work for this but make sure you have adequate ventilation.

When you are ready to put things back together and paint, buy nice paintable caulk (with some silicone if you want). You will be able to prime and paint over it even if it has some silicone part of the mix. You can use a wire nut to cap off the tip of the caulk tube for future use (within the expiration date of course).

A good caulking gun that ratchets nicely and that you don't fight is a must have. My best one rotates 360 which comes in handy more than I thought it would.

They sell caulk finishing tools for forming nice "beads" and removing excess and I suppose they might come in handy until you get a feel for caulking. I find I can get beautiful caulked joints using my finger and wet cloth to form the union. Not much you can do with the silicone sealer/caulk like as far as shaping the type of silicone rubber you are about to carve out.

As for whether you can or should do this kitchen project and especially the caulking yourself? You know best what your basic capabilities and skill set is like. As with painting, creating nicely caulked joints takes some practice. Is a high visibility area of the home---like the kitchen---the place to start learning or should you call in a pro? That is really up to you and don't be intimidated by the prospect of trying on a small section to start?

Obviously since I painted for a living I am biased.

Gymschu 06-19-2011 07:38 AM

Sdsester, that^^^^^^should be a tutorial on caulk removal. Well stated! You covered it ALL.

Srednivashtar 06-21-2011 03:31 AM

Wow sdsester, thanks for the awesome advice!

Given how sloppy a job the previous owners did, I'm feeling all revved up now to have a crack at it myself once I've got all the old stuff ripped out. If I stuff it up, it will e no worse than when I started (and at least I'll know to use paintable caulk)

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