How To Replace Old Caulk

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How To Replace Old Caulk

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Tiles are the perfect material to use in any project that calls for durability and function. They provide an almost limitless variety of styles with colors, textures or shapes available options like indoor projects as well outdoor ones! They have the unique ability over other floor and wall covering products to become unique expressions of one’s taste and lifestyle - from the backsplash of your kitchen, floors of your shower to the lobby of your favorite hotel. Natural stone tiles, glass mosaics, custom murals and more, tile is everywhere, covering some of our favorite and most intimate spaces.

As long as they’re properly installed, maintained and cared for, tiles will look as good as the day they were installed for years to come. But while this beautiful design element is attractive for many reasons, like all material things, your tile design is also subject to normal wear and tear. One reason for this is caulk: over time, it can begin cracking or peeling away, even if it was professionally installed. And if the caulking was done poorly to begin with, the bad news is the tile design isn’t likely to last very long.


The unsightly gaps between your tiles and countertops are more than just eyesores - once the caulk cracks, water damage starts to happen. These water leaks lead to loose tile and even structural damage if left untreated.

The good news is that this deterioration doesn’t need to last for long. Fortunately, it’s possible even for the average do-it-yourselfer to remove and replace caulk for restoring its clean and professional look. After all, it’s well worth the time and effort to protect your tile investment and help prevent further damage that threatens the life of your project. If done correctly, you can caulk an entire shower enclosure or kitchen backsplash area just in a few hours, including preparation and cleanup time. 

Simply put, replacing caulk is the secret to safe, stylish and long-lasting tiled spaces. Read on as we go in-depth by explaining how to replace caulk to extend the life of your tiles, and discuss some of the common causes of caulk deterioration. 

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COMMON CAUSES OF CAULK DETERIORATION

While fresh new caulk can last quite a while— typically in the five year range— there are a couple of factors that reduce its lifespan. These include using the wrong caulk for the area, poor installation, and even the house settling that causes the caulk to pull away from the wall. 

Another common cause for caulk deterioration is moisture. Since tile and moisture are most often seen in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms, caulking in these rooms tend to wear out quicker as they are most often exposed to large amounts of water compared to other rooms within your home.

HOW DO I KNOW IT’S TIME TO REPLACE CAULK?

There are signs to look out for in order to know when it is time to get caulk replaced. 

Simply, look for cracks, shrinking, and discoloration in your caulk — these are all indicators it might be the time to apply a fresh new caulk. Another indicator that your tiled area needs new caulking is a change in smell. Keep in mind that new caulking isn’t porous, meaning water or dirt doesn’t seep in. However, as caulking becomes permeable over time, this means that dirt from showers and baths as well as spills and splatters in the kitchen may get into the caulk. This can cause terrible odors. 

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Even if you have never thought about replacing old caulk around your home or commercial property, it’s already past the time to complete this job. Still not convinced yet? Keep reading to learn about what you could be living with if you don’t consider a replacement. 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DON’T REPLACE CAULK?

Let’s face it: Unless our caulk falls out or cracks completely, it is very likely that many of us will never consider replacing it. While some people never think about it, the problem is just there because failing to replace your caulking could result in the following problems. 

  • Bacteria Growth:  Old caulking contributes to the growth of bacteria as well as mold. If you notice an orange or pink substance in the shower, keep in mind that your old caulk absorbs moisture. It’s the perfect spot for mildew to form. Replacing your caulk and cleaning the grout is a quick way to eliminate health problems that might be associated with bacteria growth.

  • Wall and Structural Damage: On the other side, old caulk affects the life of your property. It takes in water, meaning water enters into the walls, causing moisture behind the tile, especially in the showers and around the bathtubs. If there isn’t a waterproof backing, you’re likely to end up with expensive repairs later.

  • HOW TO REPLACE CAULK IN 4 STEPS

    Now that you’re aware of the potentially harmful consequences of old caulk both for your health and the integrity of your home, it’s time to follow the following 4 steps to restore some of the tiled areas when needed. 

    1- Soften the old caulk: Use a caulk remover to soften the caulk as it helps most of it to fall free. Follow the directions on the caulk remover and wait until it easily comes off. 

    2- Remove the old caulk: Once the stubborn caulk is softened, it’s time to get rid of ugly residue for a fresh start. Use a caulk remover tool and slice through the caulk, pulling it out from the joints. A utility knife or blade works well, but don’t forget to take extra precautions when using sharp tools in order not to damage the tub, shower, or wall area you’re working with.

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    3- Clean the surface area: Once the old caulk is completely removed, clean the area thoroughly of any scum or residue with a cloth dampened with bleach, or a non-ammoniated cleaner. (Kill any mold or mildew with a mixture of 1/3 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water) When using caulk remover, be sure to check manufacturer instructions for details on best materials and methods for cleaning. Lastly, let the surface dry completely before applying any new caulk. 

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    4- Tape the areaUse painter's tape to cover any surface you don't want caulked. Be sure to leave space where you want to apply fresh caulk.

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    5- Apply new caulk: Applying new caulk is fairly simple! Simply apply a bead into the areas where you removed the old caulk. Be cautious -don’t overfill and always wipe off any excess before it dries. 

    via GIPHY Note: The type of caulk is the most important consideration for your tile projects. You may consider ones that have a fungicide and sealant to prevent any future bacteria growth in wet rooms including shower walls and vanity backsplash projects.

    If you’ve been looking at the same grimy caulk on your kitchen backsplash or shower walls, but weren’t sure how to remove it and reapply, we hope that this article has equipped you with all the information you need for a quick caulk replacement you can complete yourself easily. Whether it’s the kitchen backsplash, vanity surround, laundry room or a commercial tile project, there will likely come a time when the caulk begins to crack and break down. Keep this article handy when time comes, because all you need is the right tools and a few simple steps to make for a healthier tile design that looks professional, clean and refreshed!

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