Can You Caulk Over Grout In The Bathroom?


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Elegant washroom with pedestal sinks

Cracked and damaged grout can ruin the aesthetics of the bathroom. Along with its being unpleasant to look at, grouts can be quite a hassle to fix. The most common question asked about this particular bathroom issue is whether you can caulk over the damaged grout and be done with it. While it is possible to caulk over the grout, does that mean that you should? So, is placing a caulk over the grout in the bathroom a viable solution?

In general, we do not recommend you put caulk over damaged grout as this is simply a temporary fix. Cracked grout that suffers from water leakage cannot be fixed entirely by applying caulk, so you are pretty much incorporating a band-aid solution here. Completely replacing grout is still the best option to take. 

While caulking over grout is not the best solution, it is a practical short-term solution as it is faster and cheaper than re-applying grout on the bathroom wall and floor. Before you decide on whether to choose this route, we have compiled all the crucial factors that you should consider to make the best-informed decision in this matter. 

Advantages of Using Caulk:

Gorilla 8060002 100% Silicone Sealant, 10 oz, White, 1-Pack
Gorilla 8060002 100% Silicone Sealant (Image: Amazon)
  • Check the following factors to know if caulking will be enough to solve the bathroom issues that you are experiencing:
  • Caulking is ideal for improving the bond between tile surfaces.
  • Caulk is an excellent adhesive as it can stick firmly to two different surfaces. 
  • Caulk is best used for waterproofing joints of constantly wet areas, such as bathtubs and showers. 

Keep in mind that all types of caulks do have a significant flaw, in that it tends to shrink over time. This shrinking will cause the caulk to crack eventually. This downside is also an important reason why caulking is best suited for smaller applications and must not be an alternative to grout. 

There is also a special kind with fungicide added to the caulk for mold and mildew.

Advantages of Using Grout:

Red Devil 0425 Pre-Mixed Tile Grout Squeeze Tube, 5.5 oz, White
Red Devil Pre-Mixed Tile Grout Squeeze Tube (Image: Amazon)
  • Grouting establishes a pretty solid bond between joints, significantly more than caulk. 
  • There are two types of grout: sanded and unsanded. Sanded is best applied on larger areas, while unsanded is ideal for smaller spaces. 
  • Grout can effectively prevent the tile’s edges from cracking and chipping. 

Only caulk over grout if the area needing treatment is slight and only features minor damage. On these occasions, caulking will typically be an adequate solution. However, if the damage on the grout is considerable, it is more practical to simply re-grout the entire bathroom. While time-consuming, re-grouting will offer a more long-term solution to the problem. 

Read more about the differences between caulk and grout here.

How to Properly Apply Caulk Over Grout

Now, if you feel that caulking over the grout will suffice, you will still need to know how to apply it for optimum results properly. So here is the step-by-step guide on how to apply caulk correctly to the grout:

Step 1: Prepping the Grout

Clean the grout of any dirt and grime. You can use a fine brush or a handheld vacuum cleaner to do so. Wipe the surface clean and make sure it is dry before you start applying the caulk. 

Step 2: Applying the Caulk

Caulk application is pretty straightforward. First, go over the area thoroughly, evenly applying the caulk to seal up any hairline cracks or holes. Next, use your finger to go over the caulk and press it down firmly to ensure that it creates a solid connection with the surface and plugging up any cracks.

Step 3: Finishing Touches

Once you are confident that the caulk provided an adequate seal, it is time to clean up the smudges. Use a clean cloth and wipe off the caulk on the tile’s surface, if any. Make sure to wipe it clean before it dries, as it will be harder to remove then. 

As you can see, there is a good reason why caulking is widely popular. Applying caulk is quick, easy, and not to mention relatively cheap. However, we have to stress that caulking over the grout is anything but a long-term solution. The chances are pretty high that you will notice cracks and peels about a month or two after applying caulk. 

What Causes Damage to Grouts?

As is a famous adage in health and fitness: prevention is better than cure. So, to avoid having to re-grout your bathroom, it is best to understand the factors that contribute to these cracks, holes, and hairline fractures. 

Below are the significant factors that will affect the integrity of the grout in the bathroom:

Movement and Activity

Heavy foot traffic is one of the major causes of a hairline fracture and cracks on the grout. Since the bathroom is the most used area in any household, the grout will likely develop cracks. There is also the factor of foundational shifts caused by time and the renovating regions nearby the bathroom. 

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent grout cracks caused by this factor. However, a well-installed grout can withstand the effects of movement longer. Speaking of grout installation…

Incorrect Grout Installation

Another primary reason that contributes to grout damage is improper installation. Unlike the previous factor we discussed, this one is entirely avoidable. Make sure that you follow the instructions when mixing the grout solution. 

Adding too much water will cause the grout to have a somewhat brittle structure which is more susceptible to cracks and breaks. 

Environment

Next up, the environment will also impact the overall integrity and longevity of the grout. For example, high humidity can significantly speed up the deterioration of the grout compared to areas with the opposite climate. A way to avoid grout damage due to moisture is to ensure that the bathroom is always well-ventilated.  

Wear and Tear

Grout, no matter the brand, can last for as long as 15 years before replacement is required. However, signs of wear and tear might appear within the first ten years. Again, this factor is inevitable, but we advise you to act upon re-grouting the area once hairline fractures and cracks become noticeable. 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article answered your questions regarding caulks and grouts. While not recommended as the leading solution, caulking can be a suitable replacement for re-grouting, depending on the scope of the damage. However, keep in mind that grouting is mandatory as it provides more considerable durability and longevity.