Please help me fix my bathtub
December 9, 2013 7:43 AM   Subscribe

We had our bathroom completely renovated 2 years ago. A couple of issues have gradually developed, that I don't think are serious enough to call in the contractor to repair, and I'm happy to do the work myself if it's easy enough, so I'm looking for advice on how best to proceed.

The rest of my family will be away for a week over the holidays so I could do the work early that week and allow it time to dry/set, while I use the other tiny bathroom.

Specific product recommendations and/or online resources to learn how to do this stuff would be much appreciated.

Issue 1) There is a narrow ledge next to the tub, on which the grout between the tile and the rounded corner has opened up. Picture - this is a close-up, the crack is 1mm wide at most, but as water drips onto the ledge when we step out of the bath/shower, I'm worried about water getting in there.

Is there an easy way to just fill this in to protect it? The tub has jets so the vibration may be causing this, in which case I may need to re-fill it occasionally. All the other tiles and grout look fine.

Issue 2) Some of the silicon (?) caulking around the tub has started to pull up. Picture. Again, if it goes much further water could start to get in.

I did recaulk the old tub a long time ago before the renovation and I don't think I did a particularly good job - it was messy, particularly in the corners, and seemed to start pulling up relatively quickly. I'd like to learn how to do it well and have it last as long as possible. How often should I be expecting to recaulk around the tub?
posted by valleys to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1. You can fill with premixed grout. Just get some in white from the hardware store. I'd just wet my index finger and cram as much as I could in there. Seal.

2. Pry off the old caulk, put down new.

You've got to recaulk annually. It's just a thing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:51 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For #2 I would disagree that you need to recaulk annually. You probably have cheap caulk there. Clean off all the existing caulk and I do mean all. Use a single-edge razor blade to be sure you've got it all, including what's in the crack, then scrub well with non-abrasive scrubber, and let it dry very thoroughly. Go to the hardware store and get the BEST caulk you can get that's specifically indicated for this kind application. Not the 10-year or 20-year stuff but something that has a Lifetime Guarantee, like GE Silicone II. Make sure you squeeze it into whatever crack is there between tub and wall but don't put down too big a bead — make it just slightly bigger than the crack you're sealing. Smooth it immediately with a web finger. And get whoever cleans the tub to be gentle when scrubbing that area. Here's a good video that has additional tips on removing the existing caulk and applying new stuff, including: caulk with the tub full of water, and use masking tape to keep the caulk where it belongs. Lots of other videos here.
posted by beagle at 8:02 AM on December 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I read somewhere that when you caulk the edge around the top of your bathtub, you should first fill the tub with water so it is weighted down. Then put on the new caulk and keep the tub filled during the period when you are letting it set. Once it is set, empty the tub.

And yes, about once every 12-24 months is how often we pull off all the old caulk and redo it. But that's more about mold than about caulk coming off.
posted by CathyG at 8:04 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 1. I would use caulk here too. The rounded edge is moving (ever so slowly) and new grout will just crack again.

2. In addition to what beagle said -- clean well, dry thoroughly, tape, use good caulk -- use oil on your finger instead of water when smoothing caulk, keeps your finger from sticking. If your finger does start to stick, stop what you're doing and clean it off. Try to get one edge/side smoothed in one long swipe; it's the interruptions in texture that become problematic. Well-applied good grout will last a long time.
posted by Dashy at 8:22 AM on December 9, 2013

Best answer: I'd use a high-quality white (or matching colour) silicone caulk in both places, as beagle recommends.

A good silicone caulk should last for years. If you have problems with the caulk peeling, you need to make certain thet the surfaces are cleaner. That's one of the major issues with caulking failing: dirt, films, or wet surfaces. Scrape away all residue with a razor blade, wash well, dry with a hairdyer. If you use cleanser to wash, remember to rinse several times to remove the cleanser residue. Good surface prep is the most important step.

Taping the gap works well, as beagle suggests. With tape, you need to ensure that the caulk is fully set before removal though. You can also do spot clean-up of dry caulk with a razorblade.
posted by bonehead at 8:54 AM on December 9, 2013

When you do go to buy caulk, check the date. I once got an expired tube from the Big Orange Box store and it never set/dried which was an incredibly frustrating experience.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:01 AM on December 9, 2013

Best answer: For the 1st: try using siliconized grout there. Or grout caulk. There are products specifically made to address those 'aesthetically it should have grout, but for practical purposes it should have caulk' spots. Not everybody who installs bathroom whatnot is aware of this, I found out...
posted by kmennie at 10:28 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my tiling adventures I have learned that you should use caulk where changes in plane occur, and not grout. Where tub and tile meet it's pretty obvious to most to use caulk, but the other places are important too - like back wall corners. You can get color matched caulk to match custom grout, and it even comes in a sanded version for larger gaps. I'd caulk both of these areas in this case. And I don't think you should have to recaulk every year. I finished a bath remodel five years ago that still looks great today. Maybe buy better caulk?
posted by Big_B at 11:41 AM on December 9, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for everyone's answers. I did this over the last couple of days - bought a removal tool from the hardware store which was a waste of $5. The $7 gel to soften remaining caulk after cutting out most of it was very good and made sure everything was really clean before a final wash with bleach solution and rinse with clean water. Left it overnight to dry, then used tape, caulked and used oil on my finger when smoothing, and frankly most of it looks like a neater job than when it was first installed. There's a couple of spots (round the tap, a tricky corner or two) which I struggled to get neat, but overall I'm happy with how it turned out.
posted by valleys at 3:30 PM on January 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well done! Caulk is a finishers best friend in many ways. It's a skill worth learning, IMO, for many household repairs.
posted by bonehead at 9:41 AM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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