Monday, November 1, 2010

How to get perfect silicone caulking joints

When I was first given the task of caulking a tub I struggled mightily and it was a disaster. Nobody told me I only had a minute to work with the silicone caulk before it skinned over and became impossible to smooth out without tearing the surface. When silicone caulk is exposed to air it skins over almost immediately so you have a minute or less to tool it and make it perfect. Here is the system I devised to get it right every time.


-Make sure the tile and tub surface is cleaned and all the soap scum is removed. Not much sticks to soap scum. You can use a number of soap scum cleaners for this.
-Use a single edge razor blade in a holder to scrape off any old caulking and residue. I avoid metal putty knives because they leave marks on tile and porcelain tub finishes.
-Make sure the joint is cleaned of any loose debris
-Get a roll of 1-1/2" wide blue painter's tape and apply it to the walls approx. 1/16" - 1/8" on both sides of the inside corner. It will leave a tiny strip of tile showing between the blue tape. Press the tape into the tile so it sticks well. Don't press the whole width of the tape tight, just the inside edge so it peels off easier later.
-Do this tape thing for all the vertical inside corners.
-Cut the tip off the silicone tube so the hole is about 1/8". Start squeezing the caulking into the slit between the painter's tape. You don't need much because you will be removing most of it with your finger next so don't overdo it. ***Only caulk one joint at a time***
-Soak a rag in denatured alcohol, rub it all over the tip of your index finger and run your finger down over the caulking making it smooth. The alcohol keeps the caulking from sticking to your fingers. If you are in a pinch you can spit on your finger and it'll do the same thing. The alcohol is good to have around as it'll clean up wet silicone like nothing else in case you get it all over the place.
-Put the caulking gun down and immediately peel off the blue tape. Sometimes if you don't press hard enough the tape will leave a slight ridge when it's peeled off. Don't worry, it'll still keep water out but sometimes I just wet my finger and give it a gentle run down the joint just to smooth it out. Don't put much pressure on it and do it right away or it''ll drag the surface since it skins over so quickly. This is why you only do one joint at a time.
-The caulk-covered tape is a sticky mess so you should have a box or trash can handy to dispose of it right away.
-Once all the vertical joints have skinned over you can move to the horizontal joints.
Just remember to move quickly. Tool it once with your finger and leave it alone. I have caulked hundreds of feet of tub walls so let me know if you have any questions. Good luck!






33 comments:

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  12. God bless people like you. Praying that through this post, you will inspire more people.

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  14. I have seen this way of caulking before. I can't believe I hadn't thought of it before. I am in the process of figuring out remodeling plans for my master bath so this will definitely come in handy when we do. They is nothing worse than getting caulk everywhere.

    Alena | http://www.allevaconstruction.com

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  15. I have always struggled with laying a perfect caulking job. It seems easy and I think I'm doing good but when it's dried, it's bad. I'm getting ready to do a home remodeling job, hopefully I can learn it better!

    Will Jenkins | http://www.mbabuildinggroup.com

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  16. My husband and I bought an old home that we want to fix up and sell. It has taken us a long time, but I think we are finally ready to do some more renovations. I want to work on the bathroom next and since my husband and I are doing most of the work we really needed the information in the blog. I hope that everything ends up going smoothly.
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  17. I wish I was better with caulk! We just remodeled our kitchen and my seal on the sink was horrible! I think I am going to need to remove it and re-caulk it. I'll try to follow your advise this time aroun d! http://www.fredericksburgvahomebuilders.com/remodeling.html

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  18. This is some very helpful information. I have been doing some remodeling in my home, and I have had to use a lot of caulk. The next thing that I need to remodel is my shower. I am going to hire a professional to do this remodel because I don't want to mess it up trying to do it myself. http://www.jbcontractorsak.com/services

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  31. Thank you for posting. Silicone caulk is very useful for sealing bathtubs and other fixtures. It can help stop water and moisture from seeping into joints, but it can be a challenge to apply smoothly and achieve a good, even finish.

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