Do I need professional (plumbing) help?
December 29, 2008 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Bathroom plumbing (or at least sealing) question.

My bath/shower recently started to leak through to the apartment below. I have insurance for water issues, and the insurance people eventually sent over a very grumpy plumber. He told me that the problem was a gap in the seal between the bathtub and the wall tiles. He said that it was not covered by the insurance – so he therefore couldn’t fix it – but offered to come back and fix it for a couple of hundred pounds. According to this guy, he would need to remove the seal, remove the bath taps, do some re-sealing, etc. etc.

I can see the gap in the seal. Do I really need a professional plumber to re-seal it, or should I be ok using some appropriately-labelled sealant and a sealant gun thingy and doing it myself? I’m not especially handy, so I recognise that it might not look pretty, but will it get the job done?

Right now I have the gap protected by a bin bag and duct tape (with a towel underneath for good measure). That seems to be working, in that the towel is staying dry. Intellectually, then, it would seem that using sealant would have the same effect, but with more elegance. Am I missing some fundamental part of the problem? Is it a lot harder than it looks? I’m happy to pay someone (not the guy who came before) a lot of money to fix it if that is really what I need to do.
posted by sueinnyc to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: To confirm: You are referring to the caulk (usually white or clear) that's what is touching both the bath tub and the tile surrounding the bath tub, correct? If this is correct, read on, otherwise I've misunderstood.

Yes, you can do this job yourself; I have done it. Take a flat-blade screw driver, small putty knife or what have you and go around the entire edge of where the tub and tile meet, removing all of the caulking (sealant). You want this area to be as free of caulk as you can reasonably get, being careful not to scratch the surface of the tub. This doesn't have to be perfect, but it should get almost everything.

Next, using a caulk (sealant) that specifically says bathroom or bath tub, cut a diagonal slice out of the end of the tube about half as wide as the gap you're caulking. The diagonal cut will make it easier to "lay the bead." Squeeze (or "inject" if you are using a caulk gun, but you don't need a gun; a squeeze tube of stuff will work just fine if you can get it) out a bead and follow along with your thumb to smooth out the line of gook into a flat, slightly indented seal. If you can, try to do an entire wall section in one bead, but it's not a requirement. Make sure the gap is completely filled with caulk to prevent more leakage. Wait the package-recommended time (usually

For what it's worth, if there has been major leaking (and not just a few drips) or this has been going on for awhile, you may want to have someone look at the drywall (wallboard) in your unit and the other unit to make sure there's no mold forming. If nothing else, make sure you dry out the area with a fan before proceeding.
posted by fireoyster at 11:48 AM on December 29, 2008

Yeargh, sorry about the snipped sentence. The second paragraph should read:

"Wait the package-recommended time (usually a few hours) before using the tub."

Sorry. :)
posted by fireoyster at 11:50 AM on December 29, 2008

Best answer: You can get sealant remover that will eat away the old sealant, and therefore make a neater job of it. It's available at Wickes, B&Q etc. Fireoyster has given a fantastic answer. It really is as simple as it sounds. If you can halfway ice a cake, you can do this job. One thing I would say is to make sure that the facing of the sealant is absolutely smooth, or you might find mildew developing in the gap.

The plumber is absolutely taking the p*ss asking you for £200 to do this job.
posted by Solomon at 11:53 AM on December 29, 2008

Best answer: It might make the job a little harder (and wetter), but fill your bathtub with water before caulking around its edge, and drain it only after the caulk has dried. The weight of the water will open up the gap as far as it possibly can get, and will ensure that you get as much caulk as possible into the crack.
posted by Knappster at 12:03 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you very much for the quick, helpful and encouraging answers. I'm going to go ahead and do it myself.
posted by sueinnyc at 12:26 PM on December 29, 2008

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