Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Grokking Grout and Caulk

I paced and watched the youtube videos again. Then there was no avoiding it. I would have to caulk.

But it took me an hour to figure out how to pierce the inner foil in the caulking gun. I had cut a small hole in the tip, like they said to. But that inner wrap was way in there. My jewelers’ screwdrivers would not fit down there. Would I have to go to Home Desperate and buy something? That seemed silly. The salespeople there would peg me as a novice. So I paced. Maybe I had some wire stiff enough to poke down in there. I finally found my smallest Allen wrench, and this was skinny enough and just barely long enough.

The caulk did not seem to flow like it had in the videos. I realized that maybe my silicone caulk was different from what they were using. Mine did not seem to fill the gap between the tiles that well. Then again, in some places the gaps were huge. The previous owner had done this tile, and the next door neighbor had expressed his pride in this. “He did the remodeling himself,” he had said.

Yeah. And now I’m having to redo his shower corners.

He had sealed the corners with grout, but it was now crumbling. The internet says not to use grout on the corners because the joining of two planes is where the movement and stress occurs. Grout is not flexible and simply cracks under this stress, while caulk does have the flexibility to remain sound.

So, I wondered during my hours of research, why does everyone use grout in the corners? Why, in the demonstrations, are they having to show us how to take out the grout before putting in the caulk?

I finally learned. It is because, when tile is first installed, grout is mostly what they use to cement it in place. And since it is there, on hand, it is used in the corners too. So then it’s just a matter of time before the grout crumbles in the corners and needs to be sawed out and replaced with caulk.

This is how it is. Someone does what’s easy at first. Then someone else has to come along and redo it later.

My caulk bead is uneven, the lumpy wake from one motorboat that you bound across in yours. But the tiles are also unevenly spaced, with bumps that stop the tip and cause extra build-up; and gaps of varying width that need varying amounts. I use my finger a lot to rub off the excess on the edges, and shove it into the gap. The guys on TV didn’t use their fingers that much. I practically do everything with my finger. Why don’t I just caulk my finger and rub it all on that way like hydrocortizone?

I know there’s a little hole in my work somewhere. In five years, there will be water damage under the shower despite my efforts. We’ll just have to pay for that then, and not trouble ourselves too much with thoughts of far-ranging causes, because normal people who own houses don’t do that.

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