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Applying New Caulk

Maintenance Schedule: Winter

Examine the Caulk and Grout in Tubs and Showers and Replace as Needed

Don't put off this repairówater that leaks behind your surround can do plenty of damage.

Removing Old Caulk

There are a couple of ways to do this job, neither of them easy. First try a chemical caulk remover. Protect the nearby surfaces with tape, apply the remover, cross your fingers, and wait. If this works, you'll be able to pull up the goopy mess and clean up the remains with paper towels.

If the chemicals don't work, you have to dig out the old caulk with a utility knife. It helps to use a heat gun to heat the caulk just enough to soften it. Be careful where you aim that heat gun, we don't want any melted tubs or cracked tiles!

Applying New Caulk

First use rubbing alcohol to clean up any remaining caulk and soap residue. Go ahead and skip this step if you don't want your new caulk to adhere very long. To keep caulk from creeping up the grout joints when you smooth the bead, apply strips of tape along the sides of the joint before applying the new caulk.

There are a couple of tricks to laying down a smooth bead. First, make an angled cut across the tip of the tube using a nice sharp blade. You want it big enough for the caulk to flow smoothly, you want the angle to match the angle at which you hold the gun to the joint, and you don't want any plastic jaggies left on the tip to drag through your caulk bead. Next, apply the caulk moving the gun steadily and surely. Do yourself a favor and get a good caulk gun that has a smooth trigger action and stops dispensing when you release the trigger.

Finally, smooth the joint with a moistened fingertip or a caulk-smoothing tool. If you used tape, pull it up gently to avoid dinging the fresh caulk.

Removing Grout

If the damage is limited, you just need to dig out the affected joints. If there are gaping, nasty cracks, you're better off digging out all the joints. The tool you need here is a grout saw; they come with either a serrated carbide blade or an abrasive blade. Working slowly and methodically, use the saw the dig out the old grout. Wear safety glasses! To avoid scratching or chipping the tile, pay close attention and don't go too fast. Be sure to vacuum all the debris from the joints.

Applying New Grout

For small areas you can pick up premixed grout that comes in a small tub or tube. For larger areas you're better off mixing up a batch of powdered grout. For greater strength and water resistance, use a polymer-modified grout or mix up plain grout using a latex additive.

To apply the grout, scoop some out of the bucket and slap it on the wall. Using a rubber grout float, work the grout into the joints. Work the float diagonally across the tiles and angle it about 30 degrees. To remove the excess, hold the float almost perpendicular to the tiles, again working diagonally across the tiles.

After the tile has set up about ten minutes, it's time to clean off the remaining grout. First wipe off as much grout as you canóuse a clean grout sponge and make slow circular motions. Next shape the joints by running the rounded edge of the damp grout sponge along the joints. Finally, make a last cleaning pass with a clean sponge. Use gentle pressure and make only one pass with each side of the sponge before rinsing it.

As the tile dries, a thin haze will form. Polish this off with a clean soft rag.


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