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Why Does My Shower Caulking Keep Peeling Up?


remove caulkingIf your shower caulking is peeling up or lifting shortly after you have applied it, you may want to look at several possible causes.

First off, I wouldn’t re-caulk a shower unless it was completely dry. Applying caulking to a damp or wet surface is a sure way for the caulking to fail. Also, make sure you remove all of the old caulking. This can be as easy as pulling the length of it out of the joint, or as difficult as breaking up concrete.

Use a quality product. Don’t go cheap on the caulking here folks. I’ve followed up people that have used water soluble caulking and other products that have no business being in a shower. Use silicone caulking specifically designed for wet areas. Reading the label will pay dividends. Also, before you apply the new caulking, clean the surfaces that the caulking will be adhering to. You really can’t expect great results if the surfaces the caulking bonds to are covered in scale and deposits, right?

While you have the old caulking removed, its probably a good idea to inspect the joint for water damage issues and fix them now. The problem will grow and cost more over time.

Once you have applied the silicone caulking, don’t use the shower for 24 hours. You want to let the product set up and hold before you let the water attack it.

Shower Enclosure Leak May Be Lack Of Caulking


tub door enclosureYou get done showering and there is water on the floor outside of the shower. How does this happen? Well, if you are the owner of a tub/shower enclosure (aka tub doors), it may be the result of a poor installation and lack of caulking.

Many people get tired of a shower curtain. You have a tub/shower combo and finally decide to install some sliding doors on the top of the tub. If these aren't installed correctly, you can get a leak, particularly if they haven't correctly done shower caulking.

The tracks to these types of doors are secured to the top of the tub with a couple of thick beads of caulking, which will keep water from running underneath the track and over the top of the tub. This bottom track is held in place by the side rails which sit in the bottom track and keep it place. This connection must be caulked or when water gets into the track it will leak out and over the tub. These side tracks are then screwed into the walls of the surround.

Once the enclosure is in place, the inside perimeter of the tub enclosure is caulked to keep water from leaking. You should have caulking under the bottom track, where the side tracks meet the bottom track, and along the inside perimeter of the enclosure.

Additionally, the tub doors should be adjusted so that they completely close against the side rails.

Caulking Gun Necessary For Caulking A Shower


caulking gun There are two methods you can use for dispensing caulking when caulking a shower or tub. One is using a caulking gun and the other is a squeeze tube (think toothpaste). I am not a big fan of the squeeze tube as you have to squeeze the tube with your hands while trying to keep the nozzle tip in the right location. This gets hard to do especially near the end of the tube. Sure, you can get the caulk out of the tube, but it's going to be messy.

The caulking gun solves this. By having a trigger to squeeze there is much less fatigue on your hand. This leaves your other hand free to guide the tip of the caulking tube exactly where you want it. This makes for a quick, clean application.

A caulking tube made for a gun has a hard exterior, as opposed to a soft squeeze tube. To load the gun, pull the rod out of the rear of the gun, insert the tube, then push the rod up to meet the tube or just squeeze the trigger until snug.

For general shower caulking or tub caulking, cut the tip of the nozzle with a utility knife. You will see markings on the end of the tube for different diameters of the bead you will apply. Typically start out small, usually 1/8" or 3/16". This will give a nice bead of caulking. I find that less caulking is better.  Before you start squeezing the trigger, you need to punch through the skin of the caulking to start the flow. A nail or piece of wire is good for this, although some caulking guns have a small rod attached just for this purpose.

You want to caulking to blend in to the surfaces not be so noticeable that it is unattractive. Here are some tips on caulking a shower.

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.

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