All it takes to avoid a leaking shower stall is a bit of re-caulking when cracks begin to appear in the seams.

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Q: I think I may have a leak in my shower stall. Is this something I can fix myself or am I just going to get myself into deep water?

A: In the harsh haze of the early morning routine comes a sudden and powerful surge of redemption. It flows freely upon your head and down your shoulders until your entire being is enveloped in the warm embrace of comfort and courage. “I can do this,” you say. “I can face the day with all my talent and fury, for I am taking a shower!”

Whether or not you use your internal monologue to win imaginary arguments or merely take a few moments to tune out before the inevitability of the day’s duties unfold, the morning shower is our place of respite. It’s the wakeup before you can make it to coffee. It is the beginning of the day.

And you want to start your day on the right foot — preferably warm, clean and without water damage to your bathroom floor. One way to achieve a superior shower every day is to ensure your stall or tub is leak-proof. The drastic temperature changes and humidity that occur within your cleansing temple tend to do a number on seams, and each time you step into a bathtub-style shower, you’re causing the tub to flex.

It’s quite easy to corral your shower’s falling water, however, whether you’re stepping into a stall or tub. All it takes is a bit of re-caulking when cracks begin to appear in the seams. Being proactive takes just a few dollars, whereas waiting until something like dry rot to set in will likely cost hundreds or more. Save your cash and your shower by taking these steps.

1. Prep the shower and remove the old caulk

Just like you, your shower or tub likes to be clean. This means scrubbing away soap scum and residue from the walls and completely removing the old caulk from the corners and bases of your stall or wherever the water hits your tub. This can be done via a utility knife or with caulk remover, depending on your skill level and patience.

After you’re done removing the caulk, wipe away excess residue to ensure your surfaces are squeaky clean and free of debris.

2. Apply the new caulk

Cut a 1/8-inch hole in your tube of silicone or water-based caulk and squeeze it out along the edges. Go slowly, and work in sections of no more than three feet to prevent your lines from drying too quickly. If you’re using a caulking gun, drag it in a smooth motion so that you distribute evenly. Be sure to also wipe the tip of the tube after completing each section.

Note: Some experts will advise you to fill your tub with water before re-caulking to help expand the gaps you’ll be filling.

3. Smooth it out

Wet your finger and run it down each section to smooth out your work. This also helps fill the gaps completely. Be sure to re-wet your finger often! Wipe any excess caulk away with a cloth and continue the smoothing process until you’re satisfied. If you happen to encounter any excess caulk that has dried where you don’t want it, you can (carefully) remove it with your utility knife.

You’ll want to wait at least 12 hours before jumping into your newly sealed stall or tub and running the water.


Cameron Poague is a writer for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to