A bathroom needs periodic maintenance in order to ward off costly repairs down the road. One of the things people often neglect is keeping track of the condition of the caulking around their bathtubs. Old caulk can become dry, cracked, or damaged which will result in water leaking between tiles or into other hidden areas. When water gets behind wall and floor surfaces, it can undermine the integrity of the tiles, and mold will grow. Keep reading to find out what you can do to prevent these things from happening in your bathroom.
Caulk provides a barrier and works like a glue to keep tiles solidly adhering to their surfaces and water where it belongs. It is a flexible substance that functions well even when moisture levels and temperatures change. When you see the caulk getting dry, cracked, brittle, soft, mushy, or moldy, you'll know it's time to replace it. The job has two parts: removing the old, defective caulk, and adding new. It is first critical to remove all of the old caulk so that the new will seal properly. Otherwise, your efforts will all be in vain.
Start by cleaning your work area well with your usual bathroom cleaner. You must then determine what kind of caulk was used in order to know how best to remove it. If your caulk is soft and rubbery, it's most likely silicone. Silicone caulk can be removed fairly easily with a sharp knife. It often comes out all in one piece. If the caulk is harder, it is probably latex or acrylic. Latex and acrylic caulking materials are more difficult to remove. You may have to scrape them with a screwdriver, soften them with a heat gun, or use a commercial caulk-softening agent. After removing all caulk, wipe the area down and apply a product which will kill any mildew.
Now you've got the area that needs to be caulked prepped, you must choose the kind of new caulk that will best meet your needs. When it dries, as you've seen, silicone will be the most flexible. Unfortunately, it isn't usually as mildew-resistant as latex or acrylics. You will also find varieties of silicone caulks which claim to give you the best of both worlds. You can choose what you'd like, but make sure it is intended for bathroom use.
If you're only caulking a small area, you can use squeeze tubs of caulk that don't require the expertise of a caulk gun. After cutting a small hole in the end of the tube, you need to work slowly and carefully to control the amount of application. If you end up with blobs or squiggles, they'll be eyesores that are difficult to fix. Roll caulk often sounds like an easy option to people, but it can actually be much more difficult to use, because it's hard to keep it in a straight line. Whenever you caulk have a damp sponge and paper towels at your disposal for immediate clean-up of mistakes. Work in only a small area at a time. Smooth the caulk with a damp finger before moving on to another area.
Make sure that you allow plenty of time to complete the entire job during one session. It's definitely easier to work with an entire caulking job at once than it is to try and do it piecemeal. You also need to make sure that no one will be using the tub at least overnight so that the caulk with be able to cure and form a tight seal. The job may seem like a hassle, but somewhere down the road when you don't have to spend a lot of money repairing major damage, you'll be glad you made the effort.