How to Recaulk a Bathtub
As you all know, Rory decided to come a bit early, which impacted our to-do list a little bit. See, back in April, I was in “beast mode” trying to get alllll the things done around the house before our little lady arrived. One item on my home to-do list was to recaulk the bathtub in the guest bathroom. It was really dirty, coming loose in some spots, and moldy in other areas. Yuck. Because this is where we bathe Rory, we knew we wanted to get this project done before her arrival.
Well, that didn’t happen. In fact, I bought all of the supplies and put the project on our calendar for Saturday, April 11th and that’s the day our baby girl arrived! It’s funny how life works like that. But since we had the supplies and still wanted to get the project done, Finn tackled this DIY project in a few hours when Rory was just 2 weeks old.
We were both sleep-deprived and running on empty, but he insisted that it had to get done before we gave her a “real” bath in the big bathtub (we just did sponge baths until her umbilical cord fell off). Finn’s determination paid off and he learned how to recaulk a bathtub in just a few hours.
Supplies to Recaulk a Bathtub
- Silicone Caulk
- Caulk Gun
- Painter’s Tape
- Rubbing Alcohol (or some sort of cleaner)
- Utility Knife
- Caulk Removal Tool
- Shop Vac (or vacuum)
The caulk is the most important part of this project and you want to make sure you buy the correct kind. When doing woodworking projects, you’ll always use acrylic caulk which is fairly easy to use (you can read more about my tips for that in this post). For a project that needs to be waterproofed, silicone caulk is the way to go. This is the exact one we used. We bought two tubes just to be safe, but we only needed one tube for our bathroom. Silicone caulk is a lot harder to work with than acrylic and it’s super messy, but don’t worry, we have tips to get the job done right.
Tips to Recaulk a Bathtub
Here’s where I was a “bad blogger”. I ended up taking Rory on a walk while Finn tackled the bathroom. Because of this, I don’t have many in-progress pictures! I thought I relayed the message to take pics as he went, but I think we were both a bit out of sorts and that just didn’t happen #sleepdeprived. But don’t worry, I’m still sharing everything he learned during this easy DIY project so you can recaulk a bathtub in your own home.
Use a Utility Knife
You’ll first want to cut the edges of the old caulk so it’s easier to scrape out. Just go around the bathtub with a utility knife and score the top and bottom edges. Be careful not to scratch the bathtub while you do this.
Scrape Out the Old
The hardest part of this project (and sweatiest, according to Finn) is scraping out the old caulk. Finn really had to put his back into it to get the old gross caulk outta there. You wouldn’t want to put new caulk over old caulk (it won’t stay on there very long), so be sure to really get all of the old stuff out. He ended up using this caulk removal tool and it worked great to scrape it all out. He went back and forth, using both sides, but found that the pointed end was great to get into the crack to really get all of the old stuff out.
Clean It Really Well
Once you scrape out the old, be sure to clean the caulk line really well and make sure it dries thoroughly before you move onto caulking it with new silicone. Finn used our shop vac to get rid of any debris and then used rubbing alcohol and a rag to wipe the area down well. Then, he let it dry really really well. You can even use a hairdryer to speed things along (just make sure there is no water in the tub yet!).
Fill the Bathtub with Water
I am not sure if this is 100% necessary, but a few of the tutorials we read said to fill the bathtub with water before you caulk. This makes sure that the tub is weighted down so your caulk line doesn’t “pull” when you actually use your tub. We figured there was no harm in adding water, so why not go for it?!
Use Painter’s Tape
If you take anything away from this post, I hope it’s this…use painter’s tape! It will be impossible to get a neat and straight line without painter’s tape! Take the time to carefully apply painter’s tape to the top and bottom where you want your caulk to go. You’ll want the caulk to be about 1/8 inch wide, so place your tape accordingly. This will ensure an even line and will make things a heck of a lot less messy.
Apply Your Silicone Caulk
Cut your silicone caulk at an angle with a 1/4″ inch opening. Place it in your caulk gun and give it a few squeezes onto cardboard to get the gun working. Once it’s ready, apply steady pressure and make a continuous line all the way around the tub. Go slow and best sure to adequately fill in the hole (without overloading it).
Once it’s all in, take a wet finger (wear gloves because this gets soooo messy!) and run it along the line. You’ll want to have a rag handy to wipe the excess off your fingers as you go. The water will ensure that the caulk doesn’t stick to you, but instead you can glide right over it. This is what makes a nice smooth seal.
Remove the Painter’s Tape
Once it’s all smooth, carefully remove the painter’s tape. You can fix any mishaps at this point too, just be sure to be careful so you don’t smoosh your clean line.
We waited 24 hours before using the shower or bath. And really…that’s it! From start to finish, this took Finn about an hour and a half, with the most time-consuming part being the scraping and cleaning. Once you get to the actual caulking, this project flies by.
Before & After
Even though this bathroom is dated and needs some TLC, this easy DIY project makes such a difference in here. It just feels sooooo much cleaner!
I’m sure many of you have a shower or bathtub where the caulk is looking less than ideal. I’m telling ya, this is such a quick and satisfying project that anyone can do. Don’t be intimidated by this one!
We’re actually planning a mini refresh of this entire space over the next month. Down the line, we want to gut and renovate this bathroom, but until then we think we can get it looking much better on a budget. I’m planning to paint the tile floors (yes, that’s a thing!), paint the cabinets, swap out the mirror and lighting, and more! It should be a quick refresh that gives this space a new life without breaking the bank. Stay tuned for more…
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.