Caulking Tub and Shower Enclosure

by Janet

Dear Rehabber,

I need some tips for caulking my bathroom shower enclosure. I have a 6 ft. wide shower enclosure, two glass panels plus a hinged glass door, that need to be re-caulked.

The last guy I hired to do it didn't do a good job, so now I've got water seeping underneath the frame that supports the glass shower enclosure. And of course the way I know that is because there's mold or mildew growing in/on the grout now. I need to make sure I get it cleaned out between the frame and the shower pan, to make sure there's no hidden mold or mildew there (both of which I'm allergic to) before I re-caulk.

Once I get the old caulk (actually it's clear silicone because it's a brass-finish frame) stripped away, how do I clean between the frame and the shower pan without completely removing the glass shower enclosure (which I DON'T want to do)? I'm thinking maybe I can slide a drywall spackling spatula (is that what they're called?) under there, and then, if it will fit, slide a thin cloth, like maybe a hankie, soaked in bleach to kill any mold or mildew. Does that sound like something that will work, or do you have any other suggestions on how to clean between the frame and the shower pan without removing the glass enclosure?

The other problem is how to get that nice, neat grout line that looks professional without getting caulk (or silicone) everywhere. It seems that whether I use fingers or special tools to "wipe" it, I'm wiping away about 90% of the caulk I put there because the opening on the nozzle is just too big. Is there a way to do that without wasting so much, while still putting out enough pressure to force the caulk into the seam?

I'm hoping you or one of your readers will have some helpful tips and techniques for me.


Answers for Caulking:

Tips for caulking Tub and Shower Enclosure
by: Joe the Rehabber

The area must be clean and dry!

I use bleach (wear a respirator - the fumes are hazardous to your health) to
clean the area and kill the mold. Then rinse the bleach off, dry thoroughly, and wipe with rubbing alcohol to displace the water moisture and dry.

Note: There are other "safe" products to clean and kill mold. I use bleach because I always have it available and take great caution not to breathe the fumes.

To get the underside of the shower enclosure track without removing the track, I would use a Shop-Vac / wet-dry vacuum at the crack, after removing the old caulking. Using a spackling spatula or a putty knife to slide in the gap between the tub and the shower door track to clean with bleach / alcohol and then dry.
I would use the shop-vac after the cleaning again, then a blow-dryer or heat gun to dry the area as much as possible.

For a fine finish caulk line:

Use masking tape! Frame the caulk line with masking tape, above, below and on the ends of the crack. The tape should be about 1/8 inch above and below the crack so the caulk will overlap the crack and adhere to the track and tub surfaces.
With the masking tape in place, use lots of pressure with the caulking gun or caulking tube to fill in the crack.

Wipe the crack with your finger (I use rubber gloves anytime I caulk) or a caulking spreader found in the caulking department at the store... a butter knife also works well for smoothing caulking.

I remove the tape within 5 to 10 minutes after laying the caulk.
Trying to remove the tape after the caulking dries will lift the caulk from the surface, the masking tape will usually tear, and sometimes pieces of the masking tape will end up behind the caulk bead that can't be removed and cause a leak.

There may be a slight edge when the caulk is too thick after removing the tape.
That can be smoothed by very delicately wiping just the edge with a wet finger (with a clean surgical type rubber or latex glove).
It takes practice to get that perfect look, but using the masking tape will give a straight line and prevent the excessive smear look.

Applying the caulking:

The angle cut on the tip of the caulking tube should be about 3 times as wide as the crack. If the crack is 1/8 inch, I would cut the tip so the opening on the caulking tube tip is 3/8 inch wide.

Push or Drag the caulking tube: Sometime pushing the caulking tube when applying the caulk will give a nice finish line. Pulling or dragging the caulk tube works well too. I've seen the pro's do it both ways. After decades of caulking, I drag or pull the caulk tube when applying the caulk, what ever works best for you.

Caulk type:

There is a caulk type for every application. Use the "kitchen & bath" caulk when caulking the Tub and Shower enclosure. Caulking comes in white, clear, and a variety of colors to match.

Let us know how your project turns out...

Joe the Rehabber

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caulk shower
by: Wayde Koehler

When I caulk a tub I fill it with water so it causes a bigger crack to fill, and since the tub flexes when the water is drained the caulk moves up. This helps as people get in and out of the tub the caulk does not crack as soon. So in a shower you maight want to place some weights to pull the shower down.

On caulk lines ever one wants a smoth line. Since you have had problems you might want to try putting a thicker bead and not fingering it. It may not look as nice but it might hold better because it is thicker. I leared this trick from Wallside windows. I wanted a smooth bead and they would not do it because a thicker one holds better.

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