TILE & GROUT CAULKING BASICS
Every caulking job has different requirements and variables. Proper application starts with knowing the right type of caulk to use and a plan to complete the particular job.
The interior areas of the house which are most prone to water damage are the kitchen and bath. Because of constant moisture in these areas, we must be alert to the maintenance needs of caulking, sealing and protecting our home from water intrusion into the wood members which can cause rot and deterioration.
Caulking tile and grout areas that have been cracked, crumbling and in need of repair, should start with a basic knowledge of preparation and application.
Preparing the tiled area to be sealed with caulk always includes removal of debris and thorough cleaning. Filling the gap with caulk without cleaning, will not ensure the caulk will even adhere to the surface your trying to repair. To achieve the best longevity for the time, caulk substitute effort and money you spend on your project, make sure you scrape, brush and blow out loose particles and dirt in and around the gap.
If you have never used a caulking gun, practice a couple beads on an area first to get the hang of it. Buy a caulking gun that is a “drip-less model”. That means the caulk gun automatically releases pressure on the tube when you release the trigger so that caulk does not run out of the tube constantly. You can control the flow much better this way.
Cut the tip of the caulk tube at about a 30 degree angle. For a small tile or grout joint, cut the tip narrow and for larger gaps, cut more of the tip. Insert the tube into the caulking gun and as you squeeze the trigger, always pull the caulk along the joint. Making contact with the surface of the joint will ensure a smoother application. This will help force the caulk into making good contact in the joint.
TOOLING THE CAULK- Tile and Grout Acrylic Latex
Tile & Grout siliconized acrylic latex caulk comes in hundreds of grout colors, and you will find it one of the easiest caulk to tool smooth. You can purchase either sanded or smooth tile and grout caulk. As with most caulk, never overfill the joints you are caulking. Try to just fill the caulk to the top of the joint and pull along your path. With latex caulk, you can caulk all three sides of a tub at once without tooling them independently. Latex caulk gives you plenty of time to tool without “skinning over” too quickly.
Have a small bucket half filled with water and a sponge. A soft sponge is the best. Use your wet finger to lightly but firmly slide all the way around the tub joint or grout crack you have just filled. Every foot or so, you will probably have to wipe the excess caulk off your finger onto a paper towel. Keep fingering the entire caulk joint until you reach the end. Now with your wet sponge slightly wrung, wipe the caulk joint with a long sweep, then flip the sponge over and continue. Wring the sponge out clean with water and keeping it semi wet, continue on. This will clean the surfaces on either side of the joint and also will help smooth the caulk.
There are tools out there for smoothing latex caulk and some people like using a wet cotton cloth with a spoon or a plastic caulk tool, but I have found the finger method and sponge to be the easiest application for smoothing acrylic latex caulk.
TOOLING THE CAULK- Tile and Grout Ultra-Performance Caulk
Tooling the Ultra-Performance commercial grade caulk requires a little more skill than the acrylic latex caulk. This is a hybrid formulated caulk that cleans up with mineral spirits. It has properties that are water-resistant, long-lasting, very flexible and very resistant to harsh conditions. These attributes make it perfect for outdoor use on sidewalks, expansion joints, wall cracks, swimming pool tile and indoors for showers and baths.
Taping off both edges of the gap you are filling is a nice way to ensure a perfect bead. Once the caulk is laid into the gap, smooth it with your finger or a flat piece of plastic or even a spoon, being careful not to remove so much caulk that it creates a dip in the flow. A little pressure although, is good for the caulk adhesion to the substrate. Keep rags and paper towels handy and a can of mineral spirits for cleaning. The Ultra-Performance will start to skin over in about 10 minutes depending on temperature, so try to not overwork the caulk. Peel the tape off while the caulk is soft so it pulls away cleanly and leaves a nice straight line.