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DIY Caulk Removal and Application

Updated on December 7, 2014
Getting Ready To Caulk!
Getting Ready To Caulk! | Source

When it comes to home improvement, caulking has always been one of my worst nightmares. That perfect bead of caulk...well, any semblance of a bead of caulk, would elude me. There was always more caulk on me than the intended surface. I'm sure a tube is supposed to take care of more than one bathroom!! Certainly an exercise in frustration! They say "practice makes perfect" . Well, in my case a more fitting phrase is "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again".

I am preparing to sell my home and three and one half baths later I can finally say I am getting the hang of it. I have bought every caulk related tool I've ever seen and can honestly say most of them did nothing to improve my outcome. However this time around I found two magical caulk removing tools and a caulk solvent that made things so much easier for me. I will now share with you what I have learned about caulk.

Choose Your Caulk

What kind of caulk should you use? If you intend to paint your caulk (most are paintable in 30 minutes!) make sure you read the container to see if it is paintable. The container will also tell you the surfaces it is intended for use on.

Caulk comes in different colors and can enhance the appearance of your completed project. For instance, the Almond colored latex caulk I used filled and hid some of the larger gaps between the tub and tiles. Acrylic caulk dries clear. It is nice for the joints on the inside and outside of shower doors but it does not hide gaps.

Remove The Old Caulk

If the caulk around your tubs, sinks and showers has been around for awhile it appears hardened and cracked, maybe moldy or rusted and is lifting from the surface, it has to be removed before you recaulk. This is not fun but it is necessary.

I found a great product by 3-M that softens caulk.

  • Shake it well and apply a 1/8" thick coat that completely covers the caulk.
  • Leave it in place for 2 hours at least. It may take up to 7 hours for acrylic caulk to soften. I actually left it on overnight around my jacuzzi. It's really great stuff!
  • When removing the caulk you have to be careful not to scratch the surface.
  • I used a metal caulk remover (or you can use a putty knife) to cut and pull the caulk from the crevices. You can gently scrape the old caulk from the surface.
  • I also used a tool that is meant to cut the acrylic that covers the lights in the basement ceiling. It didn't work well cutting that but the hook is great for getting that stubborn caulk that's set in more deeply.
  • You can also cover the end of the removal tool or putty knife with a damp rag to protect the surface you are working on.
  • It takes a while but make sure all the old caulk is removed and the surface is wiped clean before you start to caulk.

Caulk Between The Tub and Tile

  • For caulking the edges between the tub and the tile I used a latex caulk that matched the color of the tub.
  • Cut the tip of the caulk tube on a 45 degree angle and roughly the size you want the bead to be.
  • With the 45 degree angle against the center of the joint you want to caulk, sqeeze the tube evenly and move at a steady pace along the whole joint. Don't squeeze too hard or you will have too much caulk. Squeeze too lightly and you won't have enough. You can always wipe it off and start over again!
  • Once you have done that moisten the tip of your finger with water and smooth out the bead. (You can also use one of the caulking tools to smooth out the bead and remove excess at the same time. They are intended to get the job done neatly...I just could not make them work for me) As you smooth out the bead the caulk will spread.
  • You can remove the excess with a damp sponge or your finger. Have a damp rag handy to clean up. You have about 15 minutes to remove excess before the caulk starts to set.

Just a few tips:

Don't use too much water when smoothing out the bead! Have kleenex ready to soak up any excess moisture. Don't remove too much caulk! If it is too thin it will not seal the joint and will crumble and wash away with normal cleaning. (As you might guess I have had this happen to me) Don't expose your newly applied caulk to water for 36 hours!

Caulking Guns

Caulking guns can be intimidating but with a little practice they prove to be pretty handy. When you place the caulk in the gun there is a stick that you push up to make the tube of caulk snug. It has grooves on one side. This side is turned toward the gun handle. It moves along and pushes out the caulk as you squeeze the trigger. When you are done applying the caulk or need to stop for a moment make sure you turn the stick with the grooves away from the trigger. Otherwise the caulk will continue to ooze out and creates a bit of a mess.


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