Having a 1-inch gap between a tub and tile presents two problems. The gap looks ugly and smacks of inferior craftsmanship.
More importantly, water that spills out of the tub can find its way into the gap and cause potentially expensive water damage to the floor and maybe a ceiling below as well.
Having a waterproof barrier is mandatory. The good news is that bathroom caulk is all you need. A novice can learn to lay caulk in a short time and make the job look professional.
How To Fix a 1-Inch Gap Between the Tub and Tile
The best way to fix a 1-inch gap between a tub and tile is to apply some caulk. Caulk is affordable, easy to apply, and forms a waterproof seal that lasts for years. You do not need special tools, and you can learn the skills in a few minutes.
Choose a Caulk Type and Color
Most people apply white caulk, but there are other colors to match your bathroom. Silicone household caulk is the standard caulk people use in bathrooms and kitchens. However, marketing departments need to advertise, so caulk tubes say many different things.
Brands of caulk should always prominently display the word “silicone.” Most brands advertise kitchen and bathroom use along with waterproof, which will work for your gap between the tub and tiles.
The Tools You Will Need
Caulking only requires one specialized tool, the caulk gun. You can also purchase caulk in squeeze tubes and omit the gun. The other tools are household items, and you can simplify the process down to needing almost no tools if you like.
For cleanup, you can use mineral spirits on a rag which removes excess caulk immediately. Honestly, caulk stays wet for a while after application, and all you need is a damp rag or paper towel to remove any mess.
Some people apply caulk, smoothen the line with wet fingers from soapy water, and clean up with a damp rag, and they’re done. Other people use a caulk tool or popsicle sticks to shape the caulk. Some people even use the same rag to make a clean line and wipe up excess caulk.
If you are the sort of person who likes to do prep work that saves time later, you can add tape to the list. Check the next section to learn how to use tape with caulk.
If the bathroom is not new, you may need to clean the area first with water, bleach, and an old toothbrush. For our one-inch gap, I recommend using a vacuum cleaner before caulking. See why below.
How To Apply the Caulk
Since a one-inch cap is fairly significant, having a vacuum cleaner with a narrow slit attachment is important because you do not want to apply your caulk to a bunch of dust. You should only have to vacuum for about a minute to clean the areas near the gap.
In addition to the vacuum, you want to remove any old caulk and clean the area using a bowl of water and a capful of bleach with an old toothbrush. If the tub and tile are new, skip this cleaning step. The bleach kills any mold or mildew and removes stains if the area is old enough to be dirty.
Using caulk is the best solution to seal the gap, and know you have created a waterproof barrier. You have a few options for applying caulk. You can use a caulk tool that has an edge that creates a clean line and scrapes up excess caulk for reuse.
The tried and trusted method for applying caulk is to simply use your index finger. You want to wet your finger with water at the very least, but if you put water and a bit of soap in a bowl, the soap helps smooth the caulk. You can do the same thing with a damp rag or sponge.
Either way, the goal is to push the caulk into the gap and make a compact seal. Some caulks come in a squeeze tube, and others require a caulk gun. Since a one-inch gap is large, apply enough caulk to cover the gap.
Caulk is easy to clean up before drying if you make a mess. If you have the patience, lay down tape lines above and below the gap in straight lines. With tape, you can make a mess on the tub and tile and have nothing to clean up later. When you remove the tape, excess caulk comes up and leaves a clean line in the gap.
Whichever method you choose, read the instructions on your brand of caulk carefully. Some caulks are quick-drying, and others might need up to a day to set and harden properly.
Caulking is so simple, and there are usually not many questions. However, some obstacles can arise.
What if I have old caulk to remove first?
The age of old caulk determines the difficulty of the job. Old caulk hardens and may need a caulk removal chemical to help. More recent caulk cuts out more easily with a razor or utility knife.
You may also find that having a scraping tool like a putty knife helps remove caulk as well. Rely on manual cutting and scraping methods as much as you can because using any chemical can pose a health risk.
How long does caulk last?
Caulk can break down at different rates depending on factors like climate, sunlight, and how much water runs over the area. Under perfect conditions, caulk might last for a few decades.
Everyone knows that living in a home can be naturally abusive toward the structure, and some things fall apart sooner than expected. Regardless of how much abuse your caulk takes, lasting for at least several years is normal and expected.
There are a lot of professionals who work in home repairs that regularly lay caulk. If you want to save money while learning a skill instead, applying caulk is an easy place to start.
The bare minimum materials are a squeeze tube of caulk, your index finger, and some water. You do not need much more to apply caulk like a professional.