Does “Caulking” Make a Shower Waterproof?
Is your shower waterproof?
This is not an easy question to answer with absolute certainty. It isn’t necessarily the products used, but rather how the products are installed. So is your shower waterproof? Maybe, but maybe not. An unhealthy trust in caulk might be why your bathroom isn’t waterproof, even though the caulk itself is waterproof. Confused? You aren’t alone.
Every day, consumers make assumptions regarding uses for caulk, and many use caulk to try to use caulk to try to fix a problem, not realizing that it’s not going to work. Bathtubs and showers in your home are probably the most hostile environment when it comes to keeping your house dry and structurally sound. Far too many consumers believe that caulking is what they need to keep their bathrooms dry. While this is true to some extent, it definitely is not the end all.
Bathroom Waterproof Membrane
Bathtubs and showers built today are required by building code to have a waterproof membrane and in some areas, a special drywall that is resistant to moisture. This membrane acts as a barrier behind the bathtub and wall/floor tile. This is the waterproofing needed for a long-term, healthy bathroom. A bath fan can also help to eliminate moist air during and after a shower.
The Truth About Grout and Tile
It’s important to understand that the tile and grout used in your bathtub or shower is “porous” and different types of tiles and grout materials allow differing amounts of moisture through the tile surface. That’s why the waterproof membrane mentioned above is critical to keeping your walls dry and healthy. Without this membrane, it is impossible to stop moisture from migrating through to your walls which over time will grow mold and eventually begin to rot.
Bathroom waterproofing is a serious job, and even with a waterproof membrane installed, you’ll need additional products to help protect you from mildew and mold destroying your bathroom. This is where caulking comes into play.
Waterproof Products Aren’t as Waterproof as You Might Think They Are
Caulking. It’s been the industry standard for too many years! Don’t get us wrong, caulking does help keep your walls and floor dry, but only solves a small part of the problem. Although most caulk products are waterproof, it’s the seal that isn’t waterproof.
Caulking should really be viewed as a trim product to finish off the joints between walls and floors. It works well as a transition between wall tile, where it meets the bathtub deck or where it meets the floor tile. But, it’s important to understand that once caulking is applied, you can’t just ignore it until it becomes black with mold and mildew and catches your attention.
Many caulking products will not stay adhered to the application surface over the long term and many products actually lose their adhesion due to something called “hydrophobic” surface conditions. In a nutshell this means that a shiny tile does not let anything stay bonded long term to its surface and over time will cause the caulking to “let go” of the surface on which you apply it. Water and moisture adds to this failure as well.
Caulk isn’t as easy to properly install as homeowner’s think it is. It requires a lot of prep work, expert hands, and a whole lot of patience. It’s one of the most important parts of a bathroom build, or reno. It has to be done with precision, or water will always find its way in through the forever deteriorating seal between the tile and the caulk.
Our advice: skip the caulk! There’s a much easier and effective way to finish your bathroom!
The Original Flexible Trim Provides an Easy Alternative to Caulk
InstaTrim is a patented, flexible PVC caulking strip that is an alternative to traditional caulk. It’s easy to install; simply peel, position, and press firmly into place. Prepping is the key to a healthy and secure bond between tiles, tubs, and all the surfaces you want to install it on!
When used with a waterproof membrane, its patented, self-centering wings provide a moisture and mildew resistant barrier for bathtubs and showers. And, it looks great for many years.