How to Fix Cracked Tile Caulking

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Do you have cracking caulk between the back-splash tile and your kitchen counter-top? Have you wondered how hard it would be to fix it yourself? The answer is, it’s not hard at all as long as you follow the steps to do it right – the trick is using sanded caulk and not grout or plain caulk.

If you don’t wish to read you can skip down to the video which will demonstrate the end-to-end process.

There are two critical pieces involved in fixing counter top caulk:

  • Make sure your old caulking is thoroughly removed – This is VERY important. If you don’t do this right the new caulk will just end up cracked because you’re not getting that caulking “seal” since you are laying new caulk over a broken seal.
  • Use specific caulking that was meant for the purpose of joining tile to slick counter-top material like granite or marble – When you are trying to blend your tile grout to your counter-tops you need to take into consideration the color of the caulk (so that it matches the tile grout) and it needs to be silicone and mold-proof since it will be near water.

My Experience

I have been looking at the ugly cracked caulking between the tile and our counter-top in our kitchen since we moved in, 8 years ago.

It makes made me cringe. I thought about the mold, dirt, crumbs, and other yuckies that probably lived within that dirty line of shame and couldn’t deal with it – I would just leave the kitchen in avoidance.

About 2 years ago I bought sanded caulk in order to fix the cracking. But, I never actually fixed the caulk.

My friends, I am happy to report I FINALLY did it. And you know what, it was actually really easy to do!

I don’t know why I put it off for so long. I think I just worried about doing it wrong.

But even if this isn’t professionally done, it looks about a MILLION times better than it did.

Don’t you think?

Here are the before and after pictures – you be the judge.

Before cracked caulk

BEFORE

after caulking

AFTER

I will be shamed NO MORE.

To me, it’s like night and day. Which, coincidentally, it was night and day when I took the photos above which explains why they look a little different.

Every time I walk into the kitchen now I smile because I don’t see those ugly cracks anymore, except when I think to myself “why on Earth did I wait so long to do this?”, and then a small bit of remorse kicks in. But then I look more and smile again.

My hope is that you read this and it inspires you to take a page from Nike and JUST DO IT.

It doesn’t cost much and you don’t need prior experience.

You do need a little patience and some elbow grease.

I didn’t mention it in the video, but this is the first time I’ve ever even held a caulking gun. So, I am by no means experienced with this type of thing – AT. ALL.

What Materials You Need

I used all of the following:

  • Caulk Gun – These run the gambit as far as price goes. Since I don’t know better, I’m going to say any ol’  caulk gun will probably do just fine. Feel free to correct me on that. We used one that was probably on the lower end of the spectrum because that’s what we have owned for years. I didn’t have a specific need for massive thrust (which seems scary to me in the context of caulking) or any of the bells and whistles that come with the pricier models. Here is an example of one that is highly rated.
  • Sanded Caulk – This was the hardest item to obtain. I tried to buy at local hardware stores and found that none of them carried it (seems like this should be a common item?) – we ended up getting ours at Floor and Decor but you can also find it on Amazon here. Make sure you get the color specific to your tiles’ grout and don’t just go with the one I listed if it doesn’t match.
  • 5-in-1 Painting Tool – Some of these are now 6-in-1 or 9-in-1 tools – it doesn’t matter which you use for this purpose. You can opt for any of them I’m just listing one here as an example of what you will need. You can also use a screwdriver or a flat razor blade if you have that instead.
  • Nail – The sanded caulk we purchased did not have a cap. I don’t know if that’s common or if we lost it over the 2 years I kept it in the pantry. So, I just shoved a nail into it to stop it up when I was done. I also used this nail to puncture the seal of the caulk.
  • Scissors or knife – This is to cut the tip of the caulk off.
  • Bucket – This will hold your bleachy water and your sponge and toothbrush while you clean.
  • Bleach– Household bleach. Nothing fancy.
  • Sponge – Any used sponge will work here.
  • Toothbrush – A used toothbrush or other cleaning brush will do.
  • Hair Dryer – Any hair dryer should work for this.
  • Bowl of Water – You will need this to dip your finger in when you get to the re-caulking steps.
  • Paper Towels – Good for overall cleanup of your fingers and excess caulk.
  • Vacuum – I also used a vacuum to suck up the old caulking I had removed.

Steps To Remove the Old Caulk

  1. Run the hair dryer over the old caulking, a few inches at a time. You will probably need to wave the hair dryer back and forth for about a minute before the silicone starts to loosen up. You will know it’s the right texture when you run your scraping tool over it and it starts to peel off rather than just stay in place.Remove Caulk
  2. Take the scraper tool (you can use a flat razor or a screwdriver in a pinch) and work  in small sections, getting the caulking off of the tile and the countertop. BE THOROUGH with these pieces and pick the scraps up with your fingers, tweezers, and/or a vacuum to make sure they’re not still in the gap.
  3. Double check that you have scraped ALL the old silicone caulking off of the back splash and counter tops.
  4. Make a mixture of 1/3 cup of bleach and 1 cup of warm water.
  5. Dip your sponge in the bleach water and squeeze it out. It should be damp but not soaked.
  6. Go over the gap between the counter and the wall with your bleachy sponge. Make sure you get the whole thing, you don’t want to have any mold creep up and get caulked into the wall. That could potentially smell very bad and make you have to start over again from the beginning.
  7. Go over the gap now with the toothbrush, after immersing it into the bleach water and shaking it out. Try to scrub off any leftover remnants of old caulk you encounter.
  8. Let this dry for 1/2 hour or so.
  9. Do not proceed until the bleach has dried completely.

Steps To Apply New Caulk

  1. Load your caulk into the caulk gun. For those of you who do not know how to use a caulking gun, you can find a quick tutorial on this here. For the record, I had no idea how to load a caulk gun before we did this – and my husband helped me get the tube loaded.
  2. Using the scissors or a knife, cut off the VERY VERY tip of the caulking. My advice here is to go to the very end and start there, then you can cut more if needed. You want the opening to be teeny tiny, and it’s much easier to cut off too much than not enough.
  3. Using your nail, puncture the tip to break the seal rather than squeezing the hand trigger to break it – if you use the hand trigger you run the risk of the caulk exploding out the back and making a mess. I know this because there was caulk all over the back of our caulk gun from exactly that.
  4. If you’ve pulled the trigger down to the tube already, caulk will probably start gooing out right away.  You can stop it from doing this with the cap or with the nail.
  5. Get positioned and ready to start caulking by having a bowl of water ready as well as LOTS of paper towels or rags. I probably went through a whole roll of paper towels to do my 8 feet or so of counter space.
  6. Before you start, mentally prepare how you will squeeze and pull. Try to get your caulk applied evenly and without too much excess, but at the same time filling the crack in completely. You don’t want holes you’ll have to go back and touch up later.
  7. Remove the nail and squeeze the trigger. AHHH – you’re doing this!!
  8. Repeatedly squeeze the trigger as needed and starting at the end, pull your caulk across the tile and counter gap, slowly, and controlled – work in small sections, a few feet at a time.
  9. I did not do this but I will next time – it is recommended that you spray aerosol (glass cleaner or anything else you have) over the applied caulk before you run your finger down the caulking. This supposedly will make the caulking less apt to stick to anything besides the gap it is meant to fill. I couldn’t find my aerosol glass cleaner so I didn’t do it.
  10. When you are done with one section (about 2 feet or so) dip your finger in the water and shake it off, then pushing kind of hard into the newly applied caulking, drag your finger down the bead so that it becomes smooth. Do this for a couple of inches and then wipe the excess from your finger on a paper towel. Repeat until the whole thing is done.
  11. Remove the excess caulking from the wall and counter. Be careful here, I actually had to apply caulk several times because I took too much caulking out when I was wiping it off, so I ended up letting it dry a little before wiping it off the wall and counter so that I wasn’t removing it all in doing so.
  12. While it will technically “dry” in a few hours, it needs 3 days to fully cure (or whatever the instructions say) – so make sure you don’t get it wet or put anything on top of it for that long.
  13. That’s it – you’re done – time to CELEBRATE!!

Video Tutorial

How to Fix Cracked Caulking

Learn how to repair your kitchen back-splash caulking

Watch the video for the full tutorial.

Reminder

Make sure you use the right caulking. This makes a world of difference. If you choose the one I’m recommending, it shows on the back that it is intended specifically for the area around the sink. If you use another one, make sure it also mentions that it can be used for that purpose.

If you tried this – please let me know how it turned out in the comments below!

What are your thoughts?

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