If the caulk in your shower or other tiled surface is dried and cracking, then you replacing it is important to prevent water intrusion. Removing the old caulk and replacing it with new material isn't difficult, but many people fail because they don't do the little things of tile installation right. Below are six hints to making the job easier and faster, as well as provide results that are pleasing to the eye and durable:
Heat the dried caulk first
Before you can place a new bead of caulk in the joint between tile pieces, you have to remove the old caulk. There are chemical caulk removers available, but they can be messy and cost extra. A better way is to heat up the dried caulk in order to loosen its grip. You can use an ordinary hair dryer or a heat gun to provide the heat source necessary. Simply turn on your dryer or heat gun, and hold the nozzle about 8 to 10 inches away from the caulk. Move the nozzle back and forth along the old line of caulk for 30 seconds; be sure to keep the hot airflow aimed at the caulk, and also be careful not to damage any nearby items, such as plastic, with the hot air. The heat will soften the caulk, and the caulk can be removed much more easily from the tile at that point.
Use two razor-bladed tools for removal of old caulk
A single razor-bladed tool can cut and scrape caulk, but it is best to use two different cutting tools in tandem to perform the job most efficiently. These tools are the utility knife and razor blade scraper, and you need new, sharp blades in each to provide the most satisfactory results. Use the utility knife to slice between the caulk and tile; carefully run the blade into the joint while holding it parallel to the surface of the tile. Avoid positioning the blade at an angle, or you may scrape the tile. Once you have removed as much material as possible with the utility knife, use a razor blade scraper to finish the job by pushing the thin blade into the gap between tile pieces. This will scrape away whatever residual caulk may be left on the tiles.
Barely cut the tip of the caulk tube
The tip of the caulk tube needs to be cut to release the caulk, but rather than making a haphazard slash across the tip, take your time to make a deliberate cut. The cut should be within an inch of the end of the tip at a 45-degree angle. Use a sharp knife to make the cut, not a pair of shears or other tools that might create jagged edges and prevent the caulk from flowing freely.
Move the caulk gun tip at a quick pace
A common mistake made when applying caulk is to move the caulk gun too slowly; this permits too much caulk to flow and results in a sloppy, uneven application. To remedy this, keep the tip of the caulk moving quickly along the joint. Also, in order to keep a sufficient amount of caulk available during application, be sure to squeeze the handle firmly. If necessary, make a "dry run" along the joint to practice moving the gun quickly and to gain confidence in your ability to handle the tool.
Hit the quick-release lever promptly
Most high-quality caulk guns contain a quick-release lever to immediately remove pressure from the caulk tube. This component is helpful, because it prevents the caulk from flowing out uncontrolled once you have made an application. Make frequent use of the quick-release lever when applying caulk, and your beads will be neater. Just be sure you transition from the application handle to the quick-release lever in a fast motion to keep waste minimal.
Seat the caulk with your finger
The last step in applying caulk is to seat the caulk into the joint using your index finger. First, wet the tip of your index finger and shake off any excess water droplets. Next, push down into the caulk with moderate pressure and pull your finger along the caulk bead. Don't push too hard, though, or the caulk will squeeze out from the sides of your fingers. Wipe your finger with a damp paper towel before moving to another bead.