How to Caulk Tile Floors

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Whether your ceramic tile floor is newly installed or decades old, it will require caulking. This simple and inexpensive task can help to keep out excess moisture, which can cause rotted substructure and loose tiles and will give that desired "finished" look to the room. Typical places where caulking should be applied are around cabinets, at fixture bases, where the floor and wall tile meet and anywhere water, HVAC, and/or plumbing lines go through.

Things You'll Need

  • Latex or silicone-based caulk
  • Utility (razor) knife
  • Putty knife
  • Vacuum
  • Tile cleaner
  • Water
  • Caulk gun (optional)
  • Damp rag
  • Silicone sealer (optional)
  • Select a caulk that will complement your existing grout color, or choose a clear product. Make sure that any caulk purchased is approved for use with ceramic tile. Be aware that the caulking product may require a caulking gun, but it can be purchased in a self-dispensing tube if desired.

  • Use a utility knife to cut out any caulking that is already in place. Use a putty knife to scrape off the excess caulk where needed. Use a vacuum to remove any debris, leftover pieces of grout or bits of caulk. Clean the area with approved tile cleaner and water. Rinse well. Allow the area to dry thoroughly.

  • Put the tube of caulk into the caulk gun if one is being used, or take the cap off the self-dispensing tube. Cut off the tip of the tube at an angle with a utility knife. Some brands may have a raised line or mark indicating where to cut. After cutting, the tip opening should be roughly ¼ inch in diameter.

  • Apply the caulk to any cracks or gaps by placing the open tip of the tube at a corner and pulling it towards you. Only apply 10 to 12 inches of caulk at a time. Use steady pressure and enough caulk to fill the gap but not overflow. Smooth the caulk with a damp finger. Wipe excess caulk off on a damp rag.

  • Allow at least 2 to 3 days for the caulking to dry. Actual dry time will depend upon the product used. Touch up any areas that may need additional caulk. Apply a silicone sealer to tile and grout joints if desired.

Tips & Warnings

  • Apply caulk after grout has hardened on new projects. Wear thin latex gloves when using silicone-based caulking. If too much caulk is in the crack, remove it all and start again.
  • Open windows for ventilation. Keep children away from fresh caulk. Silicone-based caulking can be messy to work with.

References

  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Home Repair and Maintenance; Tenenbaum; 2004; pp. 107-108
  • "Ceramic Tile Maintenance;" Henkennius; Popular Mechanics; Hearst Magazines; MAR 1993; Vol 179, No. 3; ISSN 0032-4558; pp. 64-66
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