Monday, April 19, 2010

How to caulk your bathtub

After tackling the big kitchen backsplash project (in case you missed it: step 1 -- choosing tile and measuring kitchen, step 2 -- getting educated about tiling, steps 3 and 4 -- buying materials and sealing tile, step 5 -- tiling and the results after day 1 of tiling, step 6 -- grouting, and the final reveal) Matt and I need to take on small projects around the house. One of these idiot-proof projects we accomplished this weekend involved re-caulking the shower in our master bathroom and the tub in our hallway bathroom. These are the two showers and tubs in our house that get the most use, and after three and a half years in our house, it was time for some improvements.

Matt uses the hallway bathroom every day when he showers, and I use the master bathroom every day when I shower. We don't share because we have the luxury of three showers in a house with two people (we also have a shower in our basement), and because we operate on the exact same work schedule, it's more convenient to have our own space. When guests come to town, though, Matt gives up his hallway shower, which is right off the guestroom, and he refuses to use the master bathroom shower and he heads to the basement to shower. Why? Well, frankly, I found it offensive he wouldn't use my shower because he found it to be "too dirty" (his words). Seriously? Me? Dirty? Turns out what he meant but never realized is that the caulk in the master bathroom shower was the problem. (Turns out it was also the problem in the hallway bathroom he uses daily, so there!)

Here's the evidence inside the master bathroom shower. Look away if you must. Oh, the humanity!

So, how do two people who know nothing (well, next to nothing) about home improvement go about taking care of this situation? Read on!

How to caulk your bathtub

Step 1: Get your supplies
The supply list this time is fairly simple. You need the caulk and some way to apply it and/or smooth it. We opted for a small 2.8 ounce tube of GE Premium Waterproof Silicone White II caulk designed for kitchen/bath/plumbing ($3.89 at Home Depot). (We also bought a tube in clear because we thought we might use it on the outside of the shower door...we did not.)

A helpful sales associate at Home Depot also thankfully told us to buy this pair of Hyde red plastic tools, one for caulk removal and one for caulking ($4.97 at Home Depot). And thank goodness he did! These tools made our task so much easier. I know we could have used a knife or a razor blade to pull up the old caulk, but we were going to buy a caulking tool anyway, and this was not cost prohibitive (and it was gentle on our tub surfaces). Note that because we bought such a small quantity of caulk that we did not need a caulk gun, though that is a necessary purchase for larger jobs.

Step 2: Remove the old caulk
This step was fairly easy because most of the caulk in both the master bath and hallway bath had worn away by themselves over time. Matt's hallway bathroom was the worse offender. There was basically a gap between where the tile ended and the tub began. For us this step only took about 5 minutes per tub. Simply scrape the caulk removal tool over the caulk surface, and it should flake off with little trouble.

I was too caught up in the project while it was happening to take pictures, so pardon these simulation shots (notice that the caulk in these photos is totally pretty after installation!)

Step 3: Apply the caulk
For our project, this was the equivalent of squeezing some toothpaste, with perhaps a little more resistance. It took only about 5-10 minutes to apply the caulk in each tub. One piece of advice: don't over-squeeze the caulk. You don't need that much, as you'll discover in the next step.

Step 4: Smooth out the caulk
Now, grab that other tool. This one comes with a rubber edge that makes it ideal for evening out the caulk you just applied. I had a paper towel handy so I could clean off the caulking tool periodically. I discovered here, as I alluded to a moment ago, that I sometimes had applied too much caulk. This step is probably the most time-consuming step, and by time consuming I mean it might take you up to 15 minutes to make each tub look great.

Step 5: Wait for the caulk to dry
Our caulk tube claims that the caulk will be shower-ready within three hours. We didn't want to put that to the test, though, so we gave the caulk at least eight hours before showering. The sales associate at Home Depot said that even after it's dry, the caulk remains malleable for several days. Again, not testing that theory.

Here's what our master bathroom shower looked like the next day

Major improvement, eh? And all for under one hour of work and $9 in supplies. If your bathtub is grossing you out, try this simple project. It's about as easy as home improvement projects can come, and the results will be worth it. Now hopefully the next time we have overnight guests Matt will use our master bathroom shower rather than showering in the basement.

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