Nice Caulk!

As homeowners, one task that we tend to put of as long as humanly possible is that of re-caulking the bathtub every few years. No matter how you spin it, this is among the least exciting jobs one can take on. But alas, fair readers, ya gots to do what ya gots to do. Bear with us through the boredom and there just might be a surprise at the end! And please keep your snickering to a minimum; I’m about to say caulk. A lot.

Here’s how our disgusting tub has looked for (seriously) six months or so, and this is after a good cleaning:

Corners are the worst. Gross. Sorry if you’re eating as you read this.

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As many of you know, we’re huge advocates of having the right tool for the job. The right tool for removing old caulk is, you guessed it, a caulk removal tool. Ours came in a kit and also included the caulk smoothing tool you see in the link. It was $4. It might save you from pulling your hair out or yelling at your significant other. So yeah, It’s worth it for sure.

The use of this tool is pretty straightforward. Simply line up the two “wings” with the 90 degree corner over the caulk you’d like to peel up. The center spike is actually pretty sharp, considering it’s only plastic, so just jab it through the caulk and start a-peelin. The gnarly caulk will roll right out of the joint.

Of course Kim made me hold this slimy bit up for a photo. Then I washed my hands.

After you’ve peeled all the caulk that needs replacing (our verticals were still in great shape, so we just did the horizontals this time around), use blue painters tape to keep the cleanup to a minimum. Our overall gap between the two pieces of tape was around 1/4″.

If you don’t have a caulk gun, grab one when you get your caulk removing and smoothing kit. A cheapie is around $5, or a nice Dripless model can be had for around $10. I’d spend the extra coin personally. The last thing you want is dripping caulk. (zing.)

A steady pace is key. Too fast and you’ll have to reapply. Too slow and you’ll use too much. This is one of those things you might need to practice a bit. Maybe test your skills on a cardboard box until you’re completely comfortable.

Remember that smoothing tool we talked about? It turns out it’s pretty handy.

The smoothing tool helps to remove any excess material from your wall/tub junction.

Once you’ve worked your way around the entire tub, peel the tape while the caulk is still damp. If you end up with a bit of a harsh line from the tape edge, take another pass or two with your smoothing tool. The overall goal here is to eliminate any lips or edges where water could pool.

Here’s how your corners should look when you’re finished. I was unhappy with a section or two, so I waited for the caulk to dry completely (I find it easier to work with), then touched things up with a razor blade. In the end, that’s some nice caulk, eh?

So there ya go. Now you can caulk a tub! So, surprise!, here’s a picture of Jackson McDogg lazing around in the reverse frog dog pose. Your reward for reading up on caulk.

We hope we’ve helped motivate you to get that tub sparkling and water-tight. Has anyone else tackled this project lately, or are you putting it off as long as us? Or, maybe, you’ve got your own tutorial on a similar, boring but necessary task?

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  • Jane @ The Borrowed Abode - October 28, 2011 - 8:55 AM

    *snicker*
    Love the humor. It makes dealing with this arduous task a bit more fun, right?
    I’m always amazed at how poorly caulk holds up. No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep those pesky mildew spots from slowly moving in with ours. We’re at a 1x yearly caulk rate.ReplyCancel

  • Lauren - October 28, 2011 - 9:29 AM

    As mundane a task as this is…it’s also really helpful! I live in a townhouse converted to apartments that could seriously use some kitchen and bath updates. With that said, I’ve struggled with applying caulk when the my tub is screaming for help with little to no luck (always messy looking) so I love the idea of painters tape to get nice clean lines! Definitely will give this method a try!ReplyCancel

  • kate - October 28, 2011 - 9:45 AM

    I have never caulked… which makes me wonder if I need to. I’ve never really thought we needed to re-caulk anything, but I’m wondering if I’m not just not paying attention. I’ll have to take a look!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey d. - October 28, 2011 - 9:52 AM

    This was already on my to do list for this weekend, so perfect timing! I needed these tips. Never thought of using painters tape.ReplyCancel

  • Monica W - October 28, 2011 - 9:54 AM

    Oh my goodness you must have known I have been thinking about this! We have a 30+ year old shower and we desperately need to redo the caulk, it was freshly done from the previous owners when we moved in and its been about 6 months. Thanks for the tips!

    Also – do you have problems with the shag rug shedding? If not, where did you find it? I’ve been looking because the one we had shed so bad my husband made me get rid of it :(ReplyCancel

  • Heather - October 28, 2011 - 10:27 AM

    I would add that you’ll want to bleach or treat the area under the caulk or mold spores will proliferate and grow right through your caulk, which is super gross and a waste of your efforts. Right before you apply the caulk the pros (my Black and Decker home improvement book) recommend wiping the area with rubbing alcohol to ensure the area is completely dry. And if you take baths regularly you’ll want to fill the tub with water before applying your caulk. The extra weight of the water actually pulls the tub down slightly. Over time this can stress the caulk and cause it to lose its seal.

    It looks beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - October 28, 2011 - 10:38 AM

    Heather, awesome tips! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Two Pitties in the City - October 28, 2011 - 11:51 AM

    Had to stay in for the surprise (and worth it!). The reverse frog pose is my fave.ReplyCancel

  • Dave - October 28, 2011 - 5:11 PM

    Excellent tips from Scott and Heather. Great Job! I still hate the thought of this particular job. I believe I would rather have a root canal!ReplyCancel

  • Scott - October 28, 2011 - 7:30 PM

    Thanks for the tips, Heather! I wish I’d known the bleach tip to kill the mold spores… the caulk I used is supposed to have a 5 year mold guarantee, so we’ll see how long it holds up.

    Dave/Dad- I think the root canal would have been preferable last weekend… although the tape helped a lot.ReplyCancel

  • lynda - October 29, 2011 - 3:30 AM

    I loved this! Always wanted to know how to and now I do. Sad when calking a bath can make your Saturday go with a smile. I’ve got a free standing bath but as I’m a collector of practical skills this will help when my daughters moan, ‘Mum how can I clean up my bath?’
    Loved the dog/frog pose too.ReplyCancel

  • pixie - November 2, 2011 - 8:55 AM

    LOVE this tip about the painters tape! Why have I not thought of that before, def doing that the next time so I don’t spend hours picking off the extra.ReplyCancel

  • Jodie Hickman - December 31, 2011 - 12:09 PM

    This is an awesome tutorial. I have caulked and caulked my shower and liking the results. I have used the tool but not the tape. Where my ditsy brain has been I don’t know. THANK YOU SO MUCH for your demo. Your tub looks great and I especially like the picture of you dog!ReplyCancel

  • Sharon - December 25, 2012 - 8:18 AM

    Wow! Who knew about the tape??? Caulking is def in our near future and your tutorial has been a God-send!!! Thanks a million!!! :)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 25, 2012 - 11:16 AM

    So happy this is helpful for you guys!ReplyCancel

  • […] watch something highbrow instead, like Deadwood, The West Wing or The Americans, and research bathtub recaulking and how to cage tomato […]ReplyCancel

  • Great Caulking Tips & Tricks - Hative - April 6, 2016 - 2:04 AM

    […] source. […]ReplyCancel

  • Dana - June 8, 2018 - 2:59 PM

    Thanks for the DIY. I was just wondering and maybe this is common knowledge, but I don’t know. What kind of caulking do you buy for the shower/bathtub? The reason I ask is because I remember my husband buying one that never really dried or it took forever.

    I love your blog and just subscribed to your vlog.

    I do have a question because I could find it on your blog, how you ended up moving to the tree house and is the a temporary or permanent residence now? Also, why you moved from your other house to the tree house?

    Thank you for your time.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 8, 2018 - 3:08 PM

      So happy to have you along for the ride, Dana!

      For a shower, you’ll want to use silicone caulk. It’s water tight and dried to a glossy clean finish.

      Tree House is our current fixer upper and soon to be family vacation home! It’s only 1.5 hours from our permanent home in Chicago. Eventually, we’d like to Airbnb it to guests. :) You can learn more about Tree House in this post: https://www.yellowbrickhome.com/lake-house-tour/

      Thank you!ReplyCancel

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