Re-Caulking Connection Between Shower Wall and Tub

Re-caulk between shower walls and tub when existing caulking is cracking or has mold/mildew.

An important, but commonly overlooked key to keeping your bathroom clean is to properly inspect the caulking between the shower wall and tub. There are two signs to keep and eye for:

  1. Examine for abnormal black spots, especially in circular patches. These black spots could be mold or mildew. Both if left in your environment can be unhealthy for you and your family.
  2. Cracks or breaks in the existing caulk, which may lead to water leaking behind the tub potentially causing hidden problems like modling from free standing water.

Advice on the internet suggests re-caulking every year to avoid problems. That sounds extremely generalized and every situation is unique. As long the caulk isn't covered in black mold and/or mildew and isn't cracked, it shouldn't need to be re-caulked. And if you do notice problem in your shower that requires re-caulk, the task is more difficult than simple scrubbing, but overall quite simple. Next, I listed tools and materials required for the work and the simple steps. Be sure to read through all the instructions before attempting, and finish all the steps before using the shower.

Tools and Material

The only items I needed to buy was the caulking gun, silicone sealant catridge, and Pro Caulk Complete Caulking Kit. The overal prices were reasonable at my local hardware store. It all costed around $30, and all but the silicone sealant catridge is reusable.

  1. Caulking Gun (buy online)
    Bought one for about $15, but can be found online for ~$7 plus shipping. Based on our immediate need, we decided to buy locally at our hardware store.
  2. GE Silicone II White Bath Sealant Cartridge (buy online)
    Bought a $10oz catridge for $9. A friend recommended silicon over acrylic. This brand dries in 3 hours and claims 5 years mold-free guarantee. I chose white, but choose a color (or clear) of your preference. Also, many catridges look the same, so make sure it is Silicone and is waterproof.
  3. Pro Caulk Complete Caulking Kit (optional, buy online)
    Bought for around $10 and is good to create rounded corners like professionals. This also felt a bit pricey, but can be re-used if caulking needs changing every few years. Optional because an alternative is to use a wet finger instead.
  4. Retractable Utility Knife (buy online)
    I already owned this from other previous work around the house, but it costed  ~$7. Perfect for carefully lossening old silicone or acrylic.
  5. Paper Towel or Old Rag
    Useful for cleaning your hands and equipment from Silicone and any other mold/mildew from the old caulking. Because we might be dealing with mold/mildew, I decided not to use old rags to be washed.
  6. Flat Head Srewdriver
    Useful to help dig out old caulking from between cracks. Can use more pressure than the retractable utility knife without worrying about damaging existing shower wall or tub.
  7. Disposable Gloves (optional)
    Disposable gloves are suggested to avoid getting mold/mildew on your hands during the cleaning process and to keep silicone off your hand when using the Pro Caulk Complete Kit edges.

Instructions:

Make sure you have enough time to finish all the steps before you need to use the shower. You don't want to remove the existing caulking (leave a gap between the shower wall and tub), and then take a shower. Also, the most difficult part in the process was removing the existing caulking. It required some force, but my wife had fun applying the silicone caulking and smoothing out the silicone bead. In all, the first time took about an hour of work cleaning old caulk and applying new caulk. It should be ever faster the next time around.

  1. Remove existing caulking from between the shower wall and tub. If the existing caulking is acrylic, you can use a utility knife to carefully break up the caulking. The Pro Caulk Complete Caulking Kit comes with a plastic edge that is useful (in some cases) to scrape out old cualking, but I found a simple flathead screwdriver to be more useful.
  2. The Pro Caulk Complete Caulking Kit has several pieces with various edges. Decide which edge you want between the shower wall and tub. I went with a very normal rounded corner.
  3. Wipe clean of any debris (old caulking) and dry anything wet between the two surfaces. If necessary, let the open space air-dry. Before apply the silicone caulk, we want the surfaces to be clean and dry.
  4. Load the GE Silicone II White Bath Sealant Catrdige into the Caulking Gun.
  5. Depending on the catridge, there may be a cap on the catridge. If so, remove it and set it aside in case you don't finish the tube.
  6. Cut the tip off of the GE Silicone II White Bath Sealant Catridge to the smallest size and at a 45 degree angle for better control applying the silicone. The hole will need to be large enough for the next step.
  7. Afterwards, the side of most caulking guns have attached a thin metal rod used to break the inner seal of the catridge. Break the seal.
  8. Slowly squeeze the handle of the caulking gun to apply the silicone in a generous manner filling the recently cleaned gap between the shower wall and tub. It takes a few hours to dry, so don't worry about the silicone drying before smoothing out.
  9. Lastly, use the Pro Caulk Complete Caulking Kit tool you chose earlier and slowly and carefully smooth down the silcone bead around the edge and corners. If you're wearing gloves for this step, be careful to make sure your glove doesn't touch the smoothed silcone surface. If you opted not to buy the kit, you can use a wet (to avoid sticking silicone) finger.
  10. Make sure all the gaps are filled in. If not, apply more silicone and run your Pro Caulk Complete Caulking Kit tool around the section to smooth it out.
  11. Finally wipe up any excess silicone and leave it to dry at least 3 hours. (this time may depend on your product, so read the instructions).
  12. Clean up all your tools and cap and leftover silicone caulking.
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