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Over the weekend, I wanted to re-caulk the tub and shower corners in the guest bath. I’d been avoiding this step for weeks because it is a giant pain in the ass. For starters, all of the old caulk has to be removed before new caulk can go in.All of it? Yes, ALL. of. it. Even that tiny frickin’ piece right there that refuses to budge. I bought a nifty tool that was supposed to scrape everything away lightening fast. News flash:  nuh-uh. Pants on fire.

So, I went back to ol’ faithful:  my 4″ putty knife. Now that baby worked like magic.

Then, it was taping time. But since this post is short and sweet, I’ll share with you how I take care of corners. I use a blade to square off the tape line. I take one piece (the piece that comes off first, with a jagged end and finishes with the squared end) and place it in a corner exactly as I want it to stick.

Then I take the other (the part that begins with the squared end and just tear off the other end) and lay it on top of the first piece in the opposite direction so I have an L-shape exactly where it’s needed. (Update:  a few people have made strangely passionate comments about whether to tape or not to tape the shower before caulking. The simplest explanation is that silicone caulk is stickier/gooier than normal caulk that you use for the rest of the house. I am a perfectionist and silicone caulk can’t be painted, so I’d rather take an extra step here to give myself a clean line. I tried it the other way with no tape, and I was less pleased when there was no crisp line at the tub thanks in part to this being an old house with imperfections to work around. But I agree that if the caulk is very similar in color to the tile (like in the shower corners, for which I later used almond-colored caulk), it is overkill. In your own home, it may come down to preference/perfectionist levels here. You guys crack me up!)

I went ahead and used white silicone caulk and nearly finished the project, but ran into a snag that I’ll share later after taking a few more pictures. But I’m inching closer to a finished bath, and have several other updates ready (like that shadow in the above pic – it’s my new shower curtain, hung and bundled so I can see how it looks in the space without getting it gunky). So close!

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  1. I need to do this so badly! Maybe this is inspiration to get going! Question: Do you leave the caulk as is when coming from the tube or do you tool it to make it flat or concave? I hope that made sense.

    1. Oh, you definitely want to smooth it out. I never use a tool, just my finger. I'll share some of those details on my Part II post (including the best ways to get that caulk OFF your fingers afterward).

    2. I'm so sorry! I jumped the gun! I see now that this is Part I. I will sit and wait for part II!

    3. No worries! It was a good question and reminded me I need to get on it to finish the darn shower (plus all of the other updates I haven't revealed yet!).

  2. Hmm. Why do you use tape? I've done tons of caulking, but never used tape for it; in fact, I've never even heard of anyone taping off caulk lines before! Color me intrigued. Have you ever tried to do it without tape?

    1. I usually caulk everything else in the house without using tape, but I also normally use acrylic caulk in other places of the house, which can be painted. Since I'm working with contrast (bright white caulk + gray-beige tile) and silicone caulk is not paintable, I want to keep things looking as pristine as possible and have a completely straight line.

  3. I've never taped, either. If I want a straighter line, I'll come back with a razor blade after the caulk has dried and cut a line in, but I rarely do that either.

  4. You read my mind. For some reason, the dirty caulk in my house has really been bothering me this week. It looks like there is a crack at the top of the caulk where it meets the tile, and I never noticed that before. It's been bugging me, and I've been wondering how to fix it.

    I only have one bathroom in my house though, so I'm worried about how quickly I can do this as a newbie. Maybe during the long Thanksgiving day weekend, just in case I'm showerless for longer than anticipated! Looking forward to reading your part 2 for the after picture.

    1. You need 24 hours for silicone caulk to cure before getting it wet (ignore the “3-hour shower ready” labels, they all say 24 hours on the back of the tube).

      I could have done this in an afternoon and just waited the 24 hours to use the shower, but my problem has more to do with aesthetics than anything else. So shower, let the room dry fully, apply the tape and caulk, remove the tape, and 24 hours later you're usually good to go!

  5. I have never even heard of taping to caulk but I should have done it in my bathroom. I gave white tile with grey grout and it is super obvious where the caulk smeared into the grout lines.

  6. I have read good reviews of a product to remove that old silicone caulk residue. It is called 'Silicone Be Gone' by DAP. I bought some via Amazon but have not used it yet. DAP has a new product that allows you to use the shower in only a few hours called DAP 3.0 http://www.dap.com/3point0/kitchen_bath.html It claims to be water-resistant in 30 minutes and is paintable!

  7. I have also heard that when caulking the bath tub, fill up the tub with water, to weigh the actual tub down, then caulk. Let the caulk dry, and remove the water after. This helps the space to be filled when the actual tub is in use with no gap.
    Also, with plastic gloves on, tip your guide finger in oil, water or Vaseline, and run your finger tip along the edge to smooth it, if you don’t have ‘the tool’ to smooth it.

    Love the tape idea. Will use that one.

  8. Newbie question: do you remove the tape while the caulking is still wet? Or after 24 hours? Thanks! I am about to embark on this project soon!