LESLIE: Alright, I’m reaching into the Money Pit email bag and right up on top I see we have something from Amy in L.A. whose question is: “The caulk around my bathtub is a real mess.” I know; which is gross. “Not only does it get pretty disgusting looking but I can’t seem to get it to stay in very well. Making matters worse, the tile around the tub was glued directly to the drywall. I’m worried that the walls are going to rot if I don’t keep it dry. I can’t be the only one with this problem. Any tips?”
TOM: Absolutely. You know what really ticks me off about the way homes have been built in the last 20 years is builders, in a never-ending effort to be pennywise and pound foolish, stopped putting durable surfaces under the tile. They use drywall. They use sheetrock. Now I know it’s moisture-resistant sheetrock but the key here is it’s moisture-resistant, not moisture-proof.
LESLIE: Because the grout isn’t waterproof. Water is going to get through the grout.
TOM: That’s right. And over the years, it’s just going to rot away and that’s when the tile wall gets really soft and mushy. Now, proper caulking is definitely going to slow this down and make it last as long as possible. Here’s what you need to know.
First of all, you need to get rid of all of the old caulk, Amy, and if it’s really stiff and really hard to get off of there, you can buy a caulk softener. It’s like a paint remover for caulk. Now Red Devil makes a really good one that just came out on the market. You put that on and it works with all kinds of caulk; even silicone. What’ll happen is that caulk will soften up; it’ll be easy to peel it away. The next thing you want to do is clean that surface really well and I recommend you use a bleach-and-water solution to do that so you kill any mold that’s left behind.
Now the third step is one you wouldn’t normally think of. I want you to fill the tub with water all the way to the top. Get as much water in that tub as you possibly can.
Now Leslie, want to take a guess as to why we’re going to do that?
LESLIE: If you put the caulk when it’s empty, it’s going to be different for the weight issue?
TOM: Yes, it’s the weight issue. Exactly right. Because water is very heavy. Water weighs 8 pounds a gallon. And if you fill the tub up, it’s going to pull down the same way it would if somebody was standing in it to take a shower. So while the tub is weighted down, you caulk it. You wait for the caulk to dry and then you let the water out of the tub and the tub will come back up, it’ll compress the caulk and it’ll be a lot – it’ll stay in there a lot better than if you did it another way.
Lastly, you want to make sure you choose the right kind of caulk for that area. Choose a kitchen and bath caulk because it usually has a mildicide in it and that’s actually going to help prevent mildew growth which is going to make it look all nasty and ugly and stuff.
LESLIE: Oh, and it’ll help you save time with your cleaning steps.
Amy, thanks so much for writing us at MoneyPit.com.
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