My first DIY project: caulk in my shower

So I’m almost moved into the condo I recently closed on. One of the things the inspector found was that the caulk in the shower was peeling away a little from the tub in a few small places. So that’s something I want to take care of before I shower.

I’ve looked up the process online, and it seems relatively straightforward, though obviously the first time can be uncertain.

Like, my research seems to indicate that I should redo the whole thing, not just the damaged parts. True?

If so, is there anything I should keep an eye on as I remove the peeling away parts? I have no idea how long the previous owner showered with the separation.

I found a tube of caulk in the bathroom cabinet, amount, date, and condition unknown. I assume I should just get another tube?

How do I tell as a first timer if I have enough or too much?

Thanks in advance!

Good for you for trying this yourself, as caulking is something that every homeowner should do. It’s a job that will have to be done from time to time. It’s not hard, but there’s a bit of an artistic aspect to it. You need to get the pace right in terms of how fast you move the tube for how much is being squeezed out. You’ll get the hang of it after a bit.

You should get a caulking gun and new caulk. As you are a newbie, get a good gun. There are cheapo guns, but those are best left for people with more skill who can work around the gun’s shortcomings. When you look at the guns, you’ll notice some have plungers with smooth shafts and others have plungers with notched shafts. Get the one with smooth shaft. It will stop the flow more instantly when you release the trigger compared to a gun with a notches.

Technically you don’t have to remove all the caulk, but it’s better if you do. If some of the caulk is failing, it might mean the other caulk will be failing soon. You might as well do it all now rather than some now and some later.

Since this is your first time, I would recommend using tape on either side of where you’ll caulk so you get nice, straight lines. Once you’re more skilled you won’t need tape since you will be able to get a good bead by feel. When you use tape make sure you smooth the bead down very thin to the tape’s edge. If the caulk is thick on the tape, you’ll leave a lip when you remove the tape.

I would recommend practicing first. As it takes a bit of time to get the feel, if you can practice for a while you can figure out how much to squeeze out, how fast to move the caulk, how thick to make the bead, how to smooth it out, etc. before doing it for real. You can practice in the shower. Just wipe away the caulk and do another bead until you have the feel for it.

When cutting the caulk tube, make a small hole at first. You can always make it bigger. There’s a foil seal on the top of the tube behind the nozzle. Your caulking gun should have a straight wire near the trigger that you can poke in the nozzle to puncture the foil. Make sure you do that before putting the tube in the gun. If you don’t, the caulk may come out of the back of the tube when you squeeze the trigger.

It may sound like a lot, but after about 10 minutes you’ll have the hang of it. If you don’t like how it’s turning out, just wipe it off and try again. Good luck!

And to smooth out the lumpy bits, which as a first timer you’re bound to get, wet your finger or thumb with water & smooth over the caulk. Have a couple paper towels or rags handy.
Make sure to buy caulk that states that it’s for baths, sinks etc. It will have anti mold properties.

Also; if water has been getting into where the caulk is missing you could have a greater problem. I’m sure you already realize that. Hopefully the wall is still good & solid when you press on it.

So to tell if something is wrong, I need to press on the wall? Where and how? I’m starting from scratch here, :slight_smile:

If the caulk was loose, there may be some moisture behind it. That may not be a big problem. Shower pans have a lip so that water stays on the pan. Regardless, it’s important that the crack be bone dry before caulking. Moisture will mess it up. After removing the old caulk, blow a fan in the shower for a day to dry everything out. If there’s still moisture after that, it may mean the wall has absorbed some water.

Wait, does the fan need to blow over the whole thing? I only have one (a smallish space heater). Should I buy multiple fans for coverage?

It’s not precise. It’s just to help dry things out. If there’s just a bit of moisture, one fan will be fine. Just don’t caulk if there’s still moisture. You can use a hair dryer on cool to blow any visibly water out initially and then let the fan do its thing.

What I meant was that I don’t think my single current fan could cover the entire edge of the tub, so there would be places not blown on by a fan at all if I just used the one. I’d have to buy more to get air onto the entire thing,

Re: the suggestion to use a caulking gun… A shower isn’t going to need a lot of caulk. They sell caulk in medium-sized squeeze tubes that have their own spout (like this). The all-in-one tubes are much easier to maneuver than a big caulking gun.

I’ve done this lot of times. If you have one bathroom, keep in mind that it will be out of commission during the drying time. It’s not hard, just annoying.

First you want to figure out whether your current shower has a latex or silicone caulk, and then which one you want to replace it with. Silicone is hardier but also harder to clean up. Either one is fine for a home bathroom, you might want latex for a first timer. And I agree you don’t need a gun, the squeeze tubes are fine, just make sure it’s rated for bathroom/kitchen and not outdoor caulk.

You’ll want some sort of scraper, you can get a plastic putty knife, they also sell tools made for the tub which is nice because it has a corner scraper, but not crucial. Also blue painters tape, don’t mess with masking tape or duct tape or anything else.


  1. Clean up old caulk, you can buy solvents to make this easier, Goof Off or Goo Gone work fine on latex too. Scrape all that stuff.
  2. Clean any black mold that was hiding under there, let dry.
  3. Tape off with blue tape about 1cm on either side of the seam, cover thoroughly and press it down.
  4. I don’t know if this is old wives tale, but people fill the tub halfway. This adds weight so that any settling when you first use the tub won’t cause shifting.
  5. Caulk it up, practice an even bead. Clean up silicone spillage immediately, latex too but can be scraped up. Smooth bead with tool or wet fingertip.
  6. Once caulked, remove tape immediately, don’t let it dry. Peel up slowly and steadily.
  7. Let dry at least as long as the tube recommends, though erring on the side of caution is good.
  8. Enjoy your tub, use preventative maintenance to keep yourself from doing it again soon.
  9. List item

Caulk that’s too old doesn’t fully cure. That’s why you want new, fresh caulk. I used to work for a contractor’s supply store and some of them would try to return years-old caulk when it wouldn’t set up.

More caulk queries!

The sections of caulking I’m concerned about are curled up at the edge, such that I can get my fingernails underneath it. That’s bad and should be replaced, right?

Now that I look at the shower, the caulk (in general, not the curled up part) runs not only around the rim of the tub, but down the sides of both the tub and the shower walls, not to mention around the soap dish in the corner. Will I have to replace all of it? Given this is my first time doing such a thing, I’m a bit leery.

To complicate the above, the caulk was an unusual color to match the grout (“light smoke,” according to the nearly empty tube I found). Using white with it bothers me aesthetically (especially if the answer to the above question is yes), but I’m not sure how worth it it is to search for the same color, especially if it delays me being able to use the shower. (I’m not sure I should use it while that curling exists.) How do y’all resolve such questions?

You’ll find all sorts of shades of white/almond/beige/etc at the hardware store. You’re right that the white probably isn’t the best choice here. Right now I have white caulk against a beige background and it’s pretty noticeable, even though it’s a very thin bead.

Yes, that means it needs to be replaced. The soap dish etc. are up to you, it’s not like it all goes bad at once due to age, but to pressure changes, moisture, and wear, and those stresses are probably much lighter on that section. But you’ll want to replace all interconnected caulk because you can’t really “join” old and new in a meaningful way.

I’m not sure I’ve seen light smoke, but you could match the brand, there’s options from white to beige to clear. Some are paintable if that floats your boat - silicone won’t work well here.

People neglect their showers far longer than I’m guessing you do. If you use it before recaulking, likely the previous owner did a bunch already.

Hm, thanks for the answers; I was sorta afraid of that. Whoever did it looks like they did it unevenly to begin with.

If you’re right, I might just hire a handyman for this. It’ll be a few hundred, but it’ll save me the time no mental pressure from having to get it right on my first job, especially if there’s been water “leakage” already.

Most hardware stores will have caulk in white, black, and almond. Paint stores may have more colors. They can also mix caulk in custom colors if you are trying to match existing colors. I would suggest removing all the caulk and going with standard white or almond to avoid future color matching hassles.

I would still suggest you tackle this job yourself since it’s one of many jobs that a homeowner can do themselves. The more you do, the better you’ll be at them, and the better you’ll be at other kinds of repairs. And trying to get a handyman who will do a competent job has it’s own hassles. If you have another shower in your condo, you can take as long as needed to get this one done.

I’m a contractor and I suck at caulking (Hi, Matt!). The no money caulking tools Amazon are also available at your local Ace make things so much easier, especially if you are using silicone caulk, which you should. If it’s been peeling away I would clean the surface with denatured alcohol and rough it up lightly. Good luck.

Yeah, I’ve pretty much decided to go with material over color. The grout won’t match the caulk anymore, but the only caulks that color match seem to be latex or acrylic, which I understand is inferior.

And I definitely understand your point about practice, but I’m just overwhelmed right now. I’m still in the process of moving, I do not have another way to bathe at home without that one bathroom (and further it’s unwise to use it at all before the repair is completed) and I’m concerned about doing a poor job that lets in water that nevertheless looks like a good job to an amateur like myself. I’m going to be second guessing myself every step of the way regardless, so I’ve just decided to get the handyman for just this one time, for peace of mind and speed. He can take a look at a couple of other minor things around the condo while he’s here.

I will definitely set this thread aside for future similar tasks, though, and I’m not also occupied trying to unpack my stuff. Thanks to you and all!

Getting a handyman for this job seems like a good idea given your constraints. Especially if you have a few jobs that need to get done. Get them all taken care of and then you can do stuff as it comes up in the future. One resource that you can use to find a good handyman is your realtor. They typically have some that they trust to repair properties they are selling.