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Caulking A Shower


caulking a showerMany problems can be avoided with regular maintenance. Plenty of customers call to report they have a leak behind a shower wall resulting in a bulge.

 The problem is usually not a plumbing leak. Don't get me wrong, water has crept behind the wall and seeped up the drywall. On some occasions there's a leak from the plumbing inside of the wall. However, the cause usually results from a homeowner neglecting some routine maintenance, like caulking a shower.

The drywall used in your shower is water-resistant greenboard, but it's not waterproof. When drywall gets wet, it's like an old dry sponge waiting for water. When water hits it, the drywall bloats. That's why your wall is bulging.

Homeowners often neglect to repair cracked or missing tile grout, and to replace the old caulking. Water will find its way behind your wall if you let it. Grout will crack and chip out creating a void where water can enter.

If you see a gap in the grout, fill it in. A box of grout will cost about $8. Mix it up with water and stuff it in the gap. Wipe off the excess with a wet sponge.

Caulking is meant to create a waterproof joint between your shower pan and the wall. Over time or due to poor initial installation, caulking cracks or peels away from the wall. If the drywall was installed too closely to the shower pan, the water easily will wick up the wall and cause it to bulge.

Before you apply new caulk, remove the old stuff. This can be tough because the old caulk can be as hard as concrete. My tool of choice is a thin metal putty knife (about $6), -- just don't scratch the surfaces. Work the blade under the caulk on both the shower pan side and the tile wall side. I also like a tool called a "grout getter". Although it is intended to remove grout, it works well to scrape caulking off of ceramic tile.

Sometimes the old caulk will come out in one strip, and sometimes you have to ram the blade into the caulk to break it off. You can use alcohol to clean the surface thoroughly after removal.

I use a mildew-resistant silicone bathroom caulk (about $3 per tube) that remains flexible. 

After you load the tube in the gun (doesn't this sound exciting), use a utility knife with a sharp blade to cut the nozzle near the tip at a 45-degree angle. The opening should be about one-eighth of an inch. Make sure the cut is smooth with no burrs on the tip or your bead of caulk will have grooves in it. Use a long nail or a piece of wire and stick it down the hole to punch through to the caulk.

The key to a good-looking bead of caulk is applying it consistently. You want a bead that doesn't change much in size or shape.

Start at one end of the shower pan and continue all the way around with no stops in between. Use slow and steady pressure on the trigger. You may have to twist the gun or change the angle to get the right look. Once you have the right look, keep a steady hand. I usually caulk the vertical seams first, if they need it.

The last step is smoothing out the bead of caulk. Do this before the caulk has had time to skin over. Wet your finger and lightly drag it over the fresh caulk without stopping. If you have used too much caulk or too much pressure smoothing it out, you will push it out and have excess to clean up.


I recently re-caulked our shower using the steps exactly as outlined and it worked well. However, I would suggest using a device that helps smooth the finish; we found a device with several different shapes and angles that can be drawn over the fresh caulk to smooth it out.  
It looks awesome.
Posted @ Thursday, September 24, 2009 3:05 PM by Dena at Russell Roofing
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