Before beginning a project to caulk around bathroom shower tiles, it is important to understand some basic concepts about Caulking, and how Caulk will perform when applied. Caulk, like any sealant, acts as a barrier to moisture when it is applied in a wet environment, like around tiles in a shower enclosure. It is important to remember that Caulk will generally not stick to wet surfaces – so make sure the area that you are going to apply the caulk to, is dry. Different Caulk is made for different applications, so make sure you pick the right caulk for the right job. In this instance any caulk labeled “kitchen or bathroom” will do.
Caulk comes in two basic types, Latex and Silicone. Latex Caulk generally bonds almost like a glue, and provides excellent adhesion and flexibility. Latex Caulk’s main selling point is that it is paintable, and can easily be cleaned up with water. Silicone Caulk is generally preferred in shower and tile areas as it generally resists water more better than Latex, so that’s what we will focus on using. In addition some caulk manufacturers offer an Antimicrobial Product called Microban which helps to prevent the growth of mold and mildew on the caulk in wet environments. There is a small premium for the Microban product, but it is a nice investment in a clean mildew free caulk job, and is well worth the added expense.
Caulk is dispensed in two ways. The first and easiest of which is from a self pressurized aerosol can. You can purchase caulk this way in any home improvement store – and the only negative to this is that generally you will pay a little more, and get a little less caulk than if you purchased a traditional tube. The other way Caulk is dispensed is with a Caulk Gun, from a caulk tube. Caulk guns can be purchased in inexpensive models, drip less models, and electrically (battery) operated. Drip less manual caulk guns are probably the most cost effective and easiest to use. The drip less caulk gun has a trigger on the back that you can click to release the pressure on a caulk tube so that it doesn’t “drip out” from the pressure of the gun on the tube.
Before you begin the job of caulking around the shower tiles, ensure that any old caulk has been removed. You can do this removal with a specially made “Caulk Removal tool” or with a small screwdriver or pick. Its important to make sure that the area that you are going to seal is clean and dry before you begin.
If you have purchased a caulk gun, pull back the rod while pushing on the button on the back end of the caulk gun. Insert the caulk tube into the gun with the pointy end of the tub away from you, and the opening of the tube towards the back end of the caulk gun (trigger end).
Next using a utility knife to make an angled 45 degree cut at the end of the plastic tip of the caulk tube. Cutting the tube too small will tend to restrict the flow of caulk and will also create a smaller bead size than you may need. A smaller opening on the tip will also require you to use more trigger action which can be fatiguing to your hand.
Begin to pull the trigger of the caulk gun and after a few times you will begin to notice the caulk starting to flow out of the end of the tube. The important thing that you are shooting for here is a consistent flow of caulk and an even bead. Too much caulk is messy, and too little wont seal. Work in an even fashion, slowing moving the tip along the area that you want to seal and fill. If after you are done, the joint is not totally sealed, or looks uneven – you can wet your finger and then run it along the bead of caulk to even it out. If you don’t trust your finger to do the job, any home improvement store will sell a “caulk tool” which is a sort of scrapper with a rubber edge which will help to make the caulk joint even and professional looking.
When finished with the caulk tube, you can put a piece of electrical or duct tape over the open nozzle end of the caulk tube to seal it, so you can save the unused caulk for another job on another day. Be sure to allow the caulk sufficient time to set up and dry (usually a few hours) before exposing the caulk joint to moisture.