Here comes spring; FINALLY!! I don’t understand it; somehow the older I get, the faster time seems to go by…and yet strangely, the winters keep getting longer and longer every year. Usually, every spring we remind everyone that it’s time to “Spring Into Maintenance,” the annual or semi-annual routine of going through our properties, cleaning and checking and repairing all the many things that need regular attention. Most of us have learned that if we don’t take care of these things regularly, we end up spending far more time and money on them downstream.
Rather than re-publishing another version or our Spring Into Maintenance Checklist that we often share this time of year, (email me if you want and I’ll send it) I thought it might be good to talk about the single most overlooked and neglected item that we see year after year after year without fail. As you can see on any maintenance checklist, there are a lot of items that need attention regularly with our buildings and homes, inside and out, but nothing is more ignored and neglected than this one thing: caulking.
Yes, I know, not very exciting or sexy…but it’s true nonetheless. Year after year we keep seeing that caulking gets skipped and neglected over and over, resulting in hundreds if not thousands of dollars in damages.
It might be that one of the reasons caulking gets neglected, is that a good caulking job can last for years without needing anything done to it. But the problem is… it can also last for only a few months. For a caulking seal to survive and do its job, it must have several things…
- Inspection: Every joint or surface that has a caulking seal must be inspected semi-annually. Inspect it closely and carefully. Do not just glance at it and move on. Use a good light, looking for anywhere it has failed or lifted or anywhere mold has gotten under it. Get down on your hands and knees and inspect every inch around a toilet and tub and shower. Test the caulk with your finger to see if it moves wrongly or lifts away. A few of the places that have caulked joints are around windows, doors, some siding joints, around sinks and toilets and tubs and showers and shower stalls and along countertops and backsplashes and along baseboards in bathrooms and mudrooms. Anywhere water or cold air can intrude, there might be a caulking joint that needs to be cared for.
- Preparation: The surfaces that are being caulked must be absolutely clean of all dirt and all film of any and all kinds. Clean with a good cleaner or soap and water, and then re-clean with alcohol or acetone depending on the surfaces. These surfaces must also be ‘sound’ and cannot move with normal use; they already move slightly due to temperature changes. And normally, caulking is not meant to ‘bridge’ large gaps. Use a proper filler if there is a wide space or gap that needs attention; caulking is a sealer not a filler. If pure silicone or silicone-based caulk is used, the surfaces must be completely dry.
Completely = using warm air and/or lots of drying time.
- Installation: Some say that water-based caulks are best. Some say pure silicone or siliconized caulk is best. My experience is that each has its own best application, and both can be excellent if done properly. With either one, several thin beads applied with time in between for drying is normally much better than one, thick bead.
- Cure Time: After the sealing is finished, it must be allowed to not only dry, but cure. Just slapping on a bead and hitting it with a heat-gun or hair dryer will not give good and lasting results. Curing can take up to 24 hours, and each caulk will tell you what’s needed in its instructions. I recently had my original windows replaced in my home, and the contractor assured me his thick, water-based silicone caulk was the very best; ‘nothing to worry about’. But an hour after he left one day, a violent micro-storm hit and washed out one half of the caulking he did on one side of the house in about 30 minutes. Cure time is important and needs to be planned for.
Around our structures and around our plumbing fixtures, caulking needs to be cared for carefully and regularly, I think semi-annually. Why spend thousands of dollars replacing floors, walls, or ceilings when a couple dollars and a couple hours can prevent it?
Next month I’ll talk about the Most Overlooked Maintenance Item we see every year in HVAC Systems.
What do you think it is?
Bruce Davis, Sr.
President, Director of Education and Learning, Sales Manager, Licensed Journeyman Plumber, Licensed Electrician,
HVAC/R Electrical Administrator, HVAC/R, Certified WA State C.E.U. Instructor
Bruce Sr is President of Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, a 67-year-old family owned and operated plumbing and heating business in Lynnwood, Washington. Bruce can be contacted at: Email: Bruce@dayandnite.net
Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating Inc. 16614 13th Ave. W. Lynnwood, WA 98037 800-972-7000