How to Caulk a Bathtub or Shower Like a Pro: Easy Steps

How To Caulk A Bathtub

Taking on a caulking project for the first time can seem daunting, but it’s an essential home repair or bathroom remodel task that will prevent water damage and keep your bathtub and shower looking fresh. Re-caulking a bathtub or shower is actually quite straightforward once you understand the basic steps.

Read on to learn the easy process for removing old caulk and applying new caulk around a bathtub or shower enclosure. We’ll provide tips to help it turn out smooth and professional-looking.

What is Caulk and Why Do You Need Re-Caulking the Tub?

Caulk is a flexible sealant used to fill in joints and gaps to prevent water from seeping through. The most common types used for bathtub and shower caulking projects are silicone and latex caulks. Over time, the old caulk can crack, peel away, or develop mold and mildew. Re-caulking helps prevent leaks that can cause water damage. It also keeps the surfaces smooth and renewed-looking.

When recaulking a bathtub or shower, you’ll need to:

  • Remove all the old caulk
  • Clean and prepare the surface
  • Apply new caulk in a smooth, consistent bead
  • Allow proper drying/curing time

Supplies Needed for Caulking a Bathtub

Caulking a bathtub or shower is an easy DIY project with minimal supplies needed:

  • Caulk gun
  • Caulk – silicone or latex
  • Utility knife and/or razor scraper
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Paper towels or rags

Optional handy tools: spray bottle of water, caulk remover, bleach cleaner, sandpaper.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of caulk for the project. Silicone caulk is mold/mildew-resistant, flexible and works well for wet areas like tubs and showers. Latex caulks are easier to apply smoothly and clean up with water, but are not as waterproof.

How to Caulk a Bathtub

Step 1: Remove the Old Caulk

Before applying fresh caulk, it’s important to fully remove the old caulk and clean the area. Over time, caulk can develop mold, mildew and soap residue buildup. Removing all remnants ensures the new caulk bonds properly for a watertight seal.

You can slice into the old caulk using a utility knife or razor scraper. Spraying water or caulk remover product helps soften old caulk to make it easier to scrape off. Take your time removing all traces of old caulk from the seam between the tub and tile and any vertical corners.

Use paper towels to wipe the area down with household cleaner or bleach. This kills any remaining mold and removes soap scum. Let it fully dry before moving onto the next step. The new caulk will adhere much better to a clean, dry surface.

Step 2: Prepare the Surface Area

Once the old caulk is stripped away and the corners and seams are clean and dry, you can prep the area for fresh caulk.

Apply painter’s tape along the edges of the tub or shower borders. Place the tape 1/8 inch away from the caulk line rather than directly over it. This ensures you have room to smooth the new caulk and creates a straight guide line.

Make sure the tape lies flat and crease it firmly at any curved corners with a utility knife. Flatten any remaining ridges left by the old caulk using light sandpaper. This helps the new bead of caulk make full contact with the surface.

Step 3: Load the Caulk Gun

With the surface prepped, it’s time to load the caulking gun with a fresh caulk tube.Latex and silicone caulks come in standardized caulk gun tubes with a plastic nozzle tip.

Start by cutting the plastic tip straight across at a 45-degree angle. This angled tip helps guide the caulk seamlessly into the corners. Load the caulk tube into the back of the caulking gun. Pull out the rod slightly and insert the tube nozzle-end first.

Slowly pull the gun trigger while pushing the rod handle to puncture the inner caulk tube seal. You’ll hear a pop when it punctures. Continue pulling the rod handle until the caulk flows out the nozzle tip. This ensures it’s ready to use without gaps once you start caulking.

Wipe off any excess caulk and create a clean edge at the nozzle tip. Release the gun pressure plate to prevent caulk from oozing out prematurely.

Step 4: Apply the New Caulk

Now you’re ready to apply the fresh caulk. Hold the caulk gun at a 45-degree angle to the seam corners. Begin pushing the gun slowly and steadily along the length of the joints, keeping the nozzle immersed in the gap to fill it.

Apply even pressure on the gun trigger to keep the caulk flowing smoothly. For vertical gaps, apply caulk from top-to-bottom while horizontal seams are easiest filled left-to-right.

As you apply the steady bead of caulk, gently smooth it with a dampened finger, tool or rag. The key is to create a consistent, convex shaped bead that fills the gaps fully without excessive overflow or uneven ridges.

If the caulk nozzle gets clogged, insert a small wire or pin into the tip to clear it. Wipe any excess caulk off the nozzle to keep the bead lines clean.

Once finished caulking the length of the seams, release the pressure on the gun and pull it away. Exhale with satisfaction over conquering the most crucial caulking step!

Step 5: Smooth the Bead

The last crucial step is smoothing the applied caulk for a seamless look. You have 10-15 minutes after applying the caulk before it begins to dry.

Gently glide your dampened finger or a wet smoothing tool over the length of caulk. Apply light pressure and round off any sharp points to prevent cracks or fissures. Eliminate any gaps or bubbles beneath the caulk.

You can wrap a little plastic bag around your finger to smooth the still-wet caulk neatly. Or use plastic spoon-shaped caulking tools made specifically for shaping and smoothing caulk.

Take your time working the length of caulk until you achieve a consistent rounded bead. Remove the painters tape promptly while the caulk is still wet enough not to adhere to it.

Step back and admire your straight, smooth caulk lines! Now comes the hardest part…waiting patiently while the caulk dries and cures fully. Avoid bathing for at least 24 hours.

Allow Proper Curing Time

It’s important not to get the new caulk wet during the curing process or it can fail to seal properly. Read your caulk tube instructions for exact drying times. Most standard tub caulks need 24 hours drying time before light use of the tub or shower.

Silicone caulk fully cures in 24-48 hours by exposure to moisture in the air. Avoid immersing it underwater for 5-7 days. Using the shower lightly after 2 days helps accelerate the silicone curing.

Latex caulks dry faster initially but take longer to fully cure. Avoid shower spray or soaking tubs for 3-5 days with latex caulks.

Pat yourself on the back for successfully renewing your bathtub or shower caulking! Taking your time with each step results in watertight, professional-looking caulk lines. You’ve prevented potential leaks while restoring the beauty of your bathroom.

Common Bathtub & Shower Caulking Questions:

How long does caulk last around a bathtub?

With proper application and curing time, quality tub caulk lasts 2-5 years before needing replacement. Signs it’s time to re-caulk include cracks, extensive water exposure, mold/mildew, and wherever you notice failing seals.

Can old caulk be reused?

While very small cracks or gaps can be repaired by applying new caulk overtop, it’s always best to fully remove old caulk and start fresh. Old caulk develops soap scum residue over time which interferes with proper adhesion.

What’s the best caulk to use on a bathtub?

The best caulk for bathtubs and showers is silicone because it withstands moisture and humidity. 100% silicone caulks formulated especially for bathrooms provide maximum leak protection. They resist mold and mildew growth better than latex caulks.

Should I caulk before or after grouting a bathroom?

It’s best practice to apply tub or shower caulking after all grouting is complete. Grout residue left on the corners can prevent caulk from properly adhering. Doing caulk last provides the most finished look.


Caulking a bathtub may seem like a daunting task, but by following these easy steps, you can achieve a professional-looking result that will keep your bathroom dry and free from water damage. Remember to choose the right type of caulk for your project, whether it’s silicone or latex, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. With proper caulking, you can maintain the beauty and functionality of your bathtub for years to come.

Contact Pinnacle Building Group for a stunning bathroom remodel project in Atlanta, Marietta and nearby Georgia areas.

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