Now I'm no expert in bathroom construction, but I don't think six months is the expected lifespan of grouting/caulking considering that the tub and the tiling were both brand new. So I thought to myself, "well, maybe it's grout...but who would put grout where the tub and the wall connect?!"
A quick google search later I found this piece on DIYlife.com, that advocates using tiling grout in the spaces one would usually use "tub and toilet" caulk, claiming "It's cheap, long-lasting, looks great, and is better at resisting discoloration due to mildew." But unless you actually read through the comments section, you would think it's a great idea! (to think I actually learned something useful in a comments section!) Turns out it's not.
The consensus among most contractors (from the previous article as well as on the forums of ContractorTalk.com) is that caulking should be used wherever two different materials meet (wood and tile, tile and metal, etc.) as the two materials will shrink and expand at different rates and this will end up cracking the grout. Well, that certainly seems to be the case in our bathroom. Less than six months and we had cracks, small throughout all the grout at the joint with the bathtub.
So here's how to caulk a bathtub....(and some of the tips and catches I found)
- Clean out all old caulking (if re-caulking) or grout.
- Grout should technically be removed with a grout saw (although I didnt!) to avoid damaging the tiles.
- Caulking can be removed with a 5 in 1 painter's tool, or they do sell caulking removal kits at Lowe's that have plastic scrapers.
- Filling the tub exerts downward pressure so that when the caulk dries and the tub is emptied, the caulking will be compressed rather than caulking with an empty tub and the caulk being stretched when you use the tub)
- Wipe down the tub edge just to make sure it's dry!
- Caulking for areas exposed to water HAS to be silicon, regular all-purpose caulking is NOT waterproof.
- If you've not done caulking before and aren't sure you'll be smooth and even at applying the caulking, painter's tape is a great idea to keep the edges even and the caulking from getting all over the place (and it does!)
- Have a roll of paper towels around. The first time you lay down caulking, you will invariably have too much in some places. It's very useful to have something disposable to wipe the extra caulking on as it is VERY sticky.
- Make sure if you are using paint thinner or mineral spirits that they are compatible with your tiles/counters/whatever. I had a MAJOR scare when there was some slight discoloration of our marble countertop in the bathroom, thankfully it is very mild and actually improved with time.
I did the bathtub and the second bathroom sink before remembering to take before pictures (you'd think I'd remember one of these times!) but I've got the master bathroom sink all cleaned out and ready to go so those pictures should be up shortly as well as the finished bathtub pics!