It’s important to keep a house free of moisture, especially in places where the human eye can’t possibly inspect without some demolition tools at hand. Areas like underneath a bathtub or behind tiles and vanities, or in wall cavities. When a home is first built, cracks and small crevices are usually filled in with a sealant or caulk of some kind. This stops moisture getting into those previously mentioned places and doing damage, such as causing mould growth, weakening plasterboard, swelling timber, or even rotting it away.
As a house ages, so do the materials it was built with. After a while, it isn’t uncommon to see sealants of all kinds crack, shrink, discolour or peel away, reducing their effectiveness and allowing moisture to reach areas it shouldn’t. One option is to have the sealants touched up or replaced by professionals, the other option is to try doing the work yourself.
If you’re feeling more on the handy side of the spectrum, the good news is that it doesn’t require a high level of skill or a whole lot of money to get good results.
The first thing you want to do is check the areas in your home that most frequently get wet; this will be primarily in the bathroom, but could also include a separate toilet, the laundry, the kitchen, among other areas. Places to inspect include the corners of the shower where wall and floor tiles meet, the ends and sides of a bathtub, or the back and sides of kitchen benchtops, laundry tubs, and vanities that come into contact with a wall / tiles / splashback etc.
If you identify areas where the sealant appears to be faulty in some way it is best to remove the entire strip. This is because marrying in sections of new and old sealant doesn’t always work and will leave you with a crack in the join, defeating the purpose. To remove sealants, try peeling bits off by hand first and, if that doesn’t work, carefully use a fine paint scrapper or razor blade to remove the strip completely (you’ll want to do this very slowly so that you don’t scratch whatever surface you’re working with). Once you’ve achieved this, clean the tile, laminate, plastic, or whichever surfaces the sealant strip was touching; for the new sealant to take hold properly the area needs to be free of dust and mould and grime or anything else that might stop the sealant sticking.
When the area you’re working with is clean, choose your desired colour of sealant, whether it be a silicone or caulk, and get to work. To do this you’ll need your sealant, a caulking gun, a nozzle and a razor blade. Put your sealant tube in the caulking gun, puncture the foil or plastic at the tip, screw on the nozzle, and then use the razor blade to lop the end of the nozzle off. How much of the nozzle you take off will determine the thickness of the stream of sealant that comes out the end. Squeezing the trigger on the caulking gun will activate the sealant and it will begin oozing out of the nozzle. By keeping pressure on the trigger, the sealant will keep coming out, so be sure not to squeeze too hard or too soft.
To apply the sealant, drag the tip of the nozzle along the area you’re sealing in a steady and swift motion that matches the speed at which the sealant is coming out of the caulking gun. If some spots are lumpy, too thin, or streaky, these can be touched up. When you’ve sealed your area, get some clean water, a cloth, and, if you’d prefer not to use your finger, a paddle pop stick. Wet your finger or paddle pop stick and slowly drag it along the line of sealant to smooth it out. This will get ride of the imperfections and spread some of the sealant into the thinner areas. Clean your finger or stick regularly and re-wet. If any sealant spreads out, clean it off with a wet cloth before it dries. It may take a bit of practise to use the caulking gun and to touch up the sealant, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never have to worry about deteriorating seals again.