This weekend, my fun and relaxing Saturday was derailed by the discovery that water was leaking into our basement. The source of the deluge? A section of missing caulk between the tiled wall and the bathtub. So, it was off to the hardware store for me, where I stocked up on the supplies needed for my DIY home repair. In case you didn't know, caulk is a flexible sealing compound used around tile work, joints, and household items such as sinks, toilets, and tubs. Unless a proper layer of caulk is applied, there's a good chance that water will leak through the floor or the wall, causing potentially expensive damage to your home. The good news is that this repair is something nearly anyone can do. It just requires a bit of patience. You can find directions on how to caulk on a number of websites, including WikiHow. Here are a few other tips I picked up along the way.
- Be diligent about getting rid of the scum. Most tubs will have a layer of grime, soap scum, and mold along the edges of older caulk. Use denatured alcohol to wipe the surface clean. You can also try gentle scraping the more stubborn bits of mold with a razor blade.
- Get this tool, stat. This six-in-one tool, which is often used by housepainters, is incredibly helpful for removing old, stubborn chunks of caulk.
- Don't assume that this will go quickly. The caulking itself might take no more than 10 minutes, but the caulk removal may take a couple hours at least. Don't rush, and complete the job in a quality fashion, so you won't have to deal with it for at least five years. To pass the time, download podcasts or stream your favorite radio station. There's no reason that caulking can't be fun (or, at least, not horribly tedious).
- Practice your technique. Don't assume that your first attempt at creating a smooth line of caulk will go, er, smoothly. After you've loaded your tube of caulk into the gun, use a piece of cardboard as a practice surface. Draw a few lines, trying to keep the caulk smooth and steady.
- After you've finished caulking the tub, get your line perfect with this tip my brother clued me in on: Dip your finger into a glass of water, and spread the caulk out in a smooth line with your finger. Continue to dip and spread, dip and spread until the caulk is completely smoothed along the edge of the tub.
And remember: the only way to get really good at caulking is through lots and lots of practice. (And who wants to do that?) As long as you've done an adequate, neat job, no one's going to be the wiser. As my plumber told me, "As long as it works, and it doesn't look noticeably bad, you're golden!"