Caulk, the usually seamless solution


April 02, 1994|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

Here's a refreshing change: A whole batch of home-repair problems that have absolutely nothing to do with horrible winter weather. Can spring be far behind?

A reader in Harrison, N.Y., writes:

"We have painted wood panel doors throughout the house. Although I have removed the paint down to the wood and primed the surface prior to painting, I cannot prevent the paint from cracking in the area where the panel inserts into the door itself. It appears to me the panel moves with changes of climate and/or humidity.

"What solution do you recommend?"

In a word, caulk. That's the glue that will make the door and its panels appear to be a seamless whole.

First, however, each door should be sanded, cleaned and primed with a good-quality oil-based primer. When the primer is dry, the panels can be caulked. Use a paintable (check the label) latex caulk, the best quality you can find.

There's a little bit of art to fine caulking.

Start by cutting the smallest possible hole in the tip of the caulk tube -- you want an extremely fine bead. Draw the tip evenly along the panel joints. Do one panel at a time, and when there's a bead all around, go back over it with a moistened fingertip, spreading and pressing the caulk into the crevices. (If you've gotten the bead fine enough, this should not be a messy step.)

Then go back over the caulk with a soft, damp cloth, smoothing again and removing any excess. Let the caulk dry completely (check the label for optimum drying time), then apply two coats of latex finish paint.


A reader in Reisterstown writes:

"We have removed the plastic tile from our bathroom wall so we can have ceramic tile installed. The adhesive remained on the wall and I would like to know if there is an easy way to remove this."

This is an interesting question because the problem with tile removal is usually sort of the opposite: the tile and the adhesive are inseparable.

Randy's been working on remodeling a bathroom where changes in the layout meant removing some of the wall tile. The adhesive and the tile were so thoroughly bonded that despite careful handling, pulling off the tiles also pulled off chunks of the drywall behind them.

In this case, the drywall will have to be cut out down to the framing and replaced.

And even though the wall surface appears to be intact in the reader's case, replacing it still may be the best solution.

Ceramic tile has to be applied to a smooth, level surface, so that means the adhesive has to go.

Normal procedure would be to sand or scrape the adhesive, but there's a danger in that: Some older adhesives contain asbestos, which can cause serious lung problems if particles are inhaled. And scraping or sanding could release asbestos dust into the air. (The greatest risk seems to be associated with long-term exposure, but asbestos is still considered so dangerous that it must be removed by contractors certified in such work.)

If the adhesive bumps are not too pronounced, it might be possible to skim-coat the wall -- that is, apply a thin, smooth layer of waterproof plaster to even things up. Good skim-coating, however, requires a certain amount of skill with a 12-inch drywall knife, and it's quite time-consuming.

It could prove easier and cheaper to cut out the old drywall or plaster with adhesive and replace it with water-resistant drywall or cement board.

Places where old and new surfaces join should be taped and spackled; nail holes should be filled and then the new surface should be primed. And then the ceramic tile can be installed.


Finally, a reader in Baltimore has a suggestion for the folks we wrote about a couple of weeks ago who had water running down the bathroom walls after a shower or bath. We suggested adding ventilation to the room and toweling off the walls when they got wet.

"You mentioned that one could 'towel down the walls' in a bathroom," the reader says. "There is a much easier way. When I was traveling, I once used a shower stall that came equipped with a squeegee. When I got home, I bought a 12-inch squeegee for my bathroom shower area . . . After a shower, a few swipes of the squeegee leaves the walls dry -- so easy -- so effective."


Mr. Johnson is a Baltimore construction manager. Ms. Menzie is feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N.

Calvert St. Baltimore, 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

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