Silicon Caulk Application

Prepare the Surface

This is the hardest part of the job—removing the old caulk. But you can learn a lot if you pay attention to the caulk you’re removing.

If the previous caulk was applied neatly (but is now old and possibly mildewed), you have an example of how you want your job to look when you’re done. If removing the caulk is a downright chore because it was originally applied sloppily and not smoothed and cleaned up well, then you have an example of what you don’t want your job to look like.

To clean up the old caulk, use a utility knife, putty knife, scouring sponge, and a window scraper (the single edged razor blade in a holder). Start at one corner, loosen enough of the caulk to get a grip on it, and pull out what you can. Tediously scrape and wipe every last remnant of the old caulk from the area, clean it with soap and water and let it dry.

Cut the Tip of the Tube

Here is where many people go wrong, cutting the tip of the caulk tube too large. Applying too much caulk increases the amount of caulk you have to remove and clean up, making the job take longer, and risking it starting to dry before you’re done.

Ideally, you want the width of the caulk bead about equal to the width of the gap you’re trying to fill. Err on the side of cutting the tip too small. If it’s too small you can cut it again. If it’s too large, you’re out of luck.

Apply the Bead Quickly

Here’s another place people go wrong. They go very slowly and carefully, thinking that if they can apply that initial bead perfectly, they won’t have to touch the caulk and there will be no clean up required.

First of all, even the pro knows it will not go perfectly. Second, a rounded bead of caulk, even if perfect, is not as attractive as a smoothed, concave seam. The bottom line is that there is no way you’re going to avoid putting your fingers in it, so you might as well go fast.

Be Fast, But Be Neat

Going fast doesn’t mean you have to be sloppy. Apply the caulk directly into the crack at a steady speed, and don’t worry about having to fill the crack perfectly on the first pass. When you smooth the caulk with your finger, the excess on your finger will fill in some gaps automatically. You can add a little extra caulk to any remaining gaps, and smooth it again.

Using this technique of applying quickly, smoothing quickly, applying again, and smoothing again, you can professionally finish one section of the tub in far less time than you would otherwise.

Clean Up

Even using the professional techniques above, there will still be ridges left behind where the excess oozed out around your fingers while you were smoothing the caulk. You probably encountered this annoying, film-like excess when you removed the old-caulk. Being a very thin coating, it will start to dry fast, so another secret to a great looking job is being ready with a damp linen rag to wipe the film away quickly.

As you’re wiping, avoid pressing the rag into the crack. If you do drag some of your caulk away unintentionally, don’t worry. Apply a little more, and smooth it again.

Final Tips

Until you become experienced, don’t try to do the entire tub at once. Do one wall at a time so you have a better chance of finishing that section before the caulk starts forming a skin. Then move to the next section or wall.

Have a bucket of water and some disposable terry cloth rags at hand. Smoothing caulk is easier when your fingers are damp (not dripping), and you’ll need to clean the caulk from your fingers frequently. With the water and rags at your side, you can clean up quickly as you go. Use the terry rags only for wiping your hands, not for wiping the tub.

Keep in mind; speed is the biggest factor for success. You can apply, smooth, and wipe five times if you have to, as long as you finish before the caulk starts to skin.

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