How to Caulk a Shower

Five Parts:Prepare the AreaPrepare the CaulkApply Caulk to the Shower JointsApply Caulk to Touch Up Shower TilesClean Up

Caulking a shower is a simple do-it-yourself project. To get the job done correctly, use the right caulk, tools, and the proper amount of pressure and speed to apply the caulk.

Part 1
Prepare the Area

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    Slice away old caulk. While there are different methods you can use to remove caulk. Get ride of old caulk by slicing it off with a razor scraper, utility knife, or five-in-one painter's tool.
    • Using quick, sharp strokes, slice through the length of the old caulk and peel off the majority of the loosened caulk using your fingers.
    • Note that metal blades and chemical caulk removers can damage plastic tubs. Use a plastic razor if your tub or shower is made of plastic, not ceramic.
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    Clean off any residual caulk debris. Scrub the sides of the shower with a dry, nonabrasive pad or sponge to wipe away all residue left behind by the old caulk.
    • When done, wipe the area down with a damp, soft rag to remove any caulk dust. Dry thoroughly with a dry rag, hair dryer, or paper towels.
    • If your old caulk was made of silicone, you will need to use a pad soaked in mineral spirits. Use a soft rag, however, and not an abrasive one.
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    Line the joints with blue painter's tape. Place two strips of tape equidistant from either side of each joint being caulked. The lines of tape should run parallel to each other and be spaced roughly 3/8 inch (9.5 mm) apart from each other.
    • The tape is used to help keep the bead of caulk straight and uniform.

Part 2
Prepare the Caulk

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    Use the right caulk. When selecting a caulk for your shower, use one labeled "Tub and Tile" or "Kitchen and Bath," as these are usually chemically formulated to resist mildew and stick the smooth surfaces like your shower.[1]
    • In particular, there are two types of caulk usually used for showers: silicone and acrylic latex.
    • Silicone is very flexible, tough, and waterproof. On the downside, it can also be difficult to smooth and may require the use of mineral spirits to clean up. The color range can also be fairly limited.
    • Acrylic latex is easier to apply, clean up, and smooth. It also comes in a wider range of colors. On the downside, it dries harder and shrinks more than silicone caulk does, so acrylic latex caulk will probably have a shorter lifespan.
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    Trim the nozzle. Trim the nozzle of the caulk tube near the tip, cutting it off at a 45 degree angle.
    • The hole should only be big enough to fill the joint. As a general rule, the hole of the tube should actually be about 2/3 the size of the actual joint needing to be filled. The measurement for most showers should be about 3/16 inch (4.8 mm).
    • Use a utility knife with a fresh blade or a 1-inch (2.5-cm) wide, razor-sharp chisel to cut the tip off the nozzle.
    • Note that some nozzles actually need to be punched in order to begin the caulking flow. If a nail does not prove long enough, use thin, stiff wire like electrical wire or a coat hanger.
    • Some tubes of caulk will even have a line on the nozzle to indicate the point at which you should cut.
    • If your initial cut produces a bead that is too small, you can cut a little more off the tip.
    • If a piece of plastic remains hanging on the nozzle after being cut, pare it down with your utility knife to remove it completely before starting. Otherwise, this little burr can prevent the caulk from being smooth.
    • To improve the process even further, use 100-grit sandpaper to smooth and right the tip a bit.
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    Invest in a good caulk gun.[2] Pick out a professional level caulk gun. Cheaper guns tend to be less predictable and may lead to sloppier application, but a professional gun applies more consistent pressure.
    • A professional level gun does not need to cost a lot, either. Power caulk guns can be very pricey, but all you need is a professional hand-powered caulk gun, which might fit into your budget better.
    • A cradle caulking gun will produce the best, most even pressure and is a better long-term investment than a frame caulking gun. If using the latter, though, at least make sure to look for one labeled as being "dripless."
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    Give the handle a little squeeze.[3] After placing your caulk tube in the caulk gun, give the handle a slight squeeze to begin the flow f caulk. Release the pressure off the handle once you see the caulk at the tip and clean off any excess with a moist rag.
    • This precaution brings the caulk right up to the tip of the caulk tube, so it will be ready for use once you bring it up to the shower joint.

Part 3
Apply Caulk to the Shower Joints

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    Position the caulking gun equidistant from either side of the joint. The nozzle should be positioned at a 45 degree angle out from the joint.
    • The tube tip should directly meet the surface of the joint.
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    Apply even pressure as you move the caulking gun along the joint. Press the trigger gently to release the caulk bead into the joint. As you move the caulk gun along the length of the joint, continue applying even pressure to create an even line.
    • You can either push or pull the gun. It is entirely a matter of preference, so do whichever option feels most comfortable to you.
    • If you are right-handed, you might find it best to brace the nozzle with your left hand and squeeze the handle with your right. For left-handed individuals, try the opposite.
    • After squeezing your nozzle the first time, do not squeeze it again until there is a good size drop coming out of the nozzle.
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    Match your speed to the speed of the gun. If the rate at which the caulk is flowing differs too much from the rate at which you move the caulk gun, you could end up with a messy situation.
    • If you move the caulk gun too fast, the bead will become too thin and will break too quickly.
    • If you move the caulk gun too slow, you will end up wasting caulk and creating more mess.

Part 4
Apply Caulk to Touch Up Shower Tiles

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    Assess the damage. Caulk should only be used to temporarily patch up small patches of missing grout in between tiles. If a large amount of grout is missing, caulk is not a good substitution.
    • Ultimately, patching up missing grout with more grout is a better alternative, but it can be difficult to do without the exact shade of grout used.
    • For larger patches of missing grout, you will need to scrape the old grout out with an oscillating tool equipped with a tile blade before re-grouting.
    • Even if you do use caulk to temporarily repair a few small gaps in your tile grouting, you should not treat this as a permanent solution. If the grout is getting old, you will need to replace it sooner or later.
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    Remove loose grout.[4] Use a utility knife with a sharp blade or a scraper with a sharp edge to gut the damaged grout out.
    • Look for areas where holes have already developed. Chip away the grout surrounding the hole to get rid of the weakened grout around that hole.
    • Work carefully so that you do not crack the tile by accident.
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    Apply a small bead of caulk. Quickly swipe a small bead or line of caulk over the hole to fill it in. Hold the tip of the nozzle at a 45 degree angle from the hole itself.
    • Use even pressure as you drag the caulk gun over the hole, and work at a pace that roughly matches the pace of the caulk gun to avoid making excess messes.
    • As with shower joints, it is not necessarily a bad idea to apply painter's tape around the crack in the grout to prevent caulk from getting on the surrounding tile.

Part 5
Clean Up

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    Smooth the caulk while wet. You should either use dampened fingers or a moist, lint-free cloth rag to smooth out the bead of caulk immediately after applying it.
    • If using a rag, press it into and along the caulk with your finger to apply the appropriate amount of pressure.
    • Work in a continuous motion to avoid inconsistencies and to create a smooth, concave line.
    • If you can do both at once, you can save yourself time by placing the tip of your index finger over the joint as you caulk. By applying a small amount of even and consistent downward pressure, you can apply and smooth the caulk at once
    • If using your fingertip, clean your finger off periodically with a damp rang to prevent the caulk from smearing everywhere.
    • Smoothing is essential for both aesthetic and practical purposes. During the smoothing process, the caulk is forced to adhere more securely to the surface it fills.
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    Clean with mineral spirits, if necessary. For many silicone caulks, you will need to wipe down the excess caulk with a soft cloth rag soaked in mineral spirits.
    • Wear a disposable nitrile, latex, or vinyl glove to protect your finger from wear and tear. It also makes the process much easier to clean up afterward since the glove can simply be removed and thrown away.
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    Remove the tape. Peel the tape off slowly and do not let it touch any of the fresh caulk.
    • If the tape left "ridges" of caulk behind, you should clean these up by smoothing the area out again with a damp rag or damp finger.
    • Pull the tape off at a downward, outward angle.
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    Let the caulk cure before using the shower. You should wait for at least 24 hours before running the water or using the shower.
    • If you run the water over the caulk before it finishes curing, you might rinse some of it away or cause it to smear and run, creating a big mess.

Things You'll Need

  • Caulk
  • Caulk gun
  • Painter's tape
  • Rags
  • Utility knife or other sharp blade
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Disposable gloves (optional)

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