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Question DetailsAsked on 3/9/2014

How long should caulk last in a shower

Bathroom was remodeled 6 months ago. One corner of shower has cracked peeling caulk along entire edge. Contractor installed acrylic caulk with a layer of clear silicone caulk on top. Contractor says cracking is expected in corners and it needing to be replaced after 6 months is a maintenance item. Honestly all bathrooms in my house the caulking has held up at least 15 years.

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In my experience, a properly done caulk job should last 5 years minimum (excluding mold, which is a cleaning issue), and generally 10 years in a normal tub or shower - excluding steam showers and saunas, where I would say 5 years is probably a decent life. In my house, 15 years is about where I figure it is time to tackle it and strip out and replace caulk in heavy use areas - most of the minor contact areas like around the edges of tile, basin sealing, etc are 30 years and no defects. I have never, in my recollection, had a caulk job peel loose unless water was coming through from behind the caulk - say from rotted wood window frames - the usual reason to replace is enough roughening from cleaning that the surface starts getting mold prone. Of course, as Todd said, you have to buy quality products and make sure they are not too old and partly set up in the tube already. For my purposes, Dap Tub and Tile Caulk for bathrooms, M-D paintable latex modified silicone 25 or 30 year exterior caulks for windows and doors, and 3M Silicone for extreme service locations or to prevent pipe vibrations.

His big mistake was two- or probably three-fold - first double caulking, then putting silicone caulk over acrylic or latex, and probably applying caulk over an uncured bead. Caulk is made to cure with a high gloss, dirt-resistant skin on the surface - nearly the worst thing to apply another caulk layer to. The second mistake that compounded this more was putting silicone caulk, which uses a volatile solvent (normally acetone or laquer thinner based), over an acrylic or latex, whcih is dissolved by such solvents. Therefore, the second caulk layer would have chemically damaged the bottom layer, promoting peeling from just chemical interaction alone. Third, most likely, unless he waited a week or more before the second layer, the first coat would have still been outgassing solvents, so the second coat would not only prevent it from curing correctly and vice versa, but also damage its waterproofing nature. You should NEVER put caulk over caulk except as a short-term emergency water sealing measure.

I suspect this was an honest attempt to give you a good product by putting a highly water resistant and scum-resistant silicone finish - unfortunately, the thought was better than the execution. With failure in siz months, he should offer to redo the caulking for free - starting with complete removal, proper surface cleaning (I use razor blade, detergent scrubbed in with bristle brush and rinsed, dried, then mineral spirits for plastic/fiberglass surfaces or acetone for porcelain/enamel/tile with an dry wipe immediately after to prevent crazing or lifting the finish for final oil and chemical removal), then after throough drying a single bead of mildew-resistant tub and tile caulk, followed by minimum 3 day cure. I prefer 5 days cure if you schedule work so caulked wet areas and tile are the first completed. To ensure curing time, I block off the tub/shower with wood bracing - I have a habit of putting 2x4 "X-bracing" against the walls to ensure it is not used too early - little does the client know the "bracing" to hold the tile or surround against the walls is unnecessary, and is there to prevent use rather than hold the wall covering up till it cures.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


I'm not sure why he would have put in two layers of caulk. That isn't typical. However, there are many factors which affect the life of the caulk such as cleaning regiment (frequency, scrubbing, and cleaning products used), frequency of use and water hardness/minerals. My experience is that shower caulking usually only lasts 6 months to a year. Usually more towards a year but I also specify that caulking is a maintenance item. It is getting harder to find decent tub and tile caulks that hold up as well as the stuff available 10 years ago. Most of the brands have been sold or outsourced oversees, the caulking is shipped in various weather conditions that affect the quality of the caulk at the time of purchase and application, and in instances of recaulking sometimes don't bond well to old surfaces with buildup and deposits that can't all be removed without damaging the surfaces.

In your new shower there could be some settling issues if there was framing changed which could cause some movement. Corners in showers move anyway, especially with the corners that are often cut in new construction these days. Tract built homes/large scale development homes are the worse for eliminating any "extra" blocking. That is why they are caulked and not grouted. Was this simply a re-tile or was the bathroom reconfigured? If you had a cheap plastic surround before but tile now it will move differently that it used to as well.

Even though I tell customers to expect to check the caulking and grout sealant at 6 months and then every year thereafter if I have a customer that is so bent out of shape about it at 6 months it doesn't cost much to go rip it out and put a new layer of caulk down. Of course, that is up to him and his desire to keep you happy as a future customer. A note worthy of mention: Any decent tub and tile caulk will require anywhere from 24 to 72 hours to cure before being exposed to water. Otherwise, it won't cure properly. Ask the contractor to see the specifications of the caulking he uses or look on the tube you use if you do it yourself so you know how long to wait before use.

Answered 6 years ago by Todd's Home Services


Your telling me you remove and recaulk the shower in your house every 6 months. This was simply a retile of the shower that was currently existing with a tile surround. I have lived in this house for almost 17 years and none of the caulk in any of the showers had cracked previously.

Answered 6 years ago by Savvygal


Maybe your contractor didn't do it right the first time and is now trying to claim this is normal. Maybe the workers who put in all those layers didn't allow sufficient drying time between applications. Who knows? Six months is barely enough time for grime or mold to build up, unless you haven't cleaned the shower in six months -- and we know that's not the case, right?

Here's the result of a quick internet search: This says 18 months.

However, I redid one of my bathrooms more than 8 years ago and the caulking only very recently began to look as if needs to be replaced. The tub/shower in the other bathroom (which is a fiberglass "unit" -- no tile or grout -- and is very seldom used) was recaulked more than 10 years ago and I see no cracks or signs of separation, at all.

Take a close look at your contract to see what work may have been warranted. If there are no warranties or guarantees, you may be able to appeal to the good will of the contractor if you approach this firmly and politely. In any event, since there is already cracking in the corners, this is definitely something that needs to be done as soon as possible.

Answered 6 years ago by Oleron

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