Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Caulk Is the Solution to All the World's Problems"

At least, that's what one of my architecture professors used to say.

But at the moment I'm wondering it it can cause more problems than it solves. In the short run, at least.

This noon, meaning Friday the 6th, the plumber sent by the home warranty company to unclog my bathroom sink asked if the drain assembly leaked. I told him I didn't think so.

But after he left and I was cleaning up, I noticed this ominous low place in the floor just behind the sink pedestal. And I noticed all the other gaps in the sealant between the ceramic tile wall and the sheet vinyl floor.

Yes, ever since my toilet overflowed the last day of 2007 I've had it on my To-Do list to renew the caulk in the upstairs bathroom. And today-- yesterday-- I finally got around to it.

In the afternoon, I started on the wall that the toilet and lav back up onto. Dug out the old sealant, made sure the floor and wall were nice and clean and dry, and activated the tube of tub and tile caulk bought for the purpose months ago, which was waiting in the basement just for this occasion.

This came out to be a pretty decent looking sealant joint, even if I did have to use three lengths of foam backer bead side by side in that low place. The other joint, the one on the wall next to the toilet, I don't like so much.

For more than one reason.

I didn't get started on it till after 10:00 PM. For one thing, I wanted to give the first joint time to dry a little before I pushed the storage unit up against it, and for another, I was actually, finally putting away Christmas decorations.

That joint was a real job to accomplish, and I was reminded why I'd been putting it off. The flooring there is curled up and in some places sits nearly 3/8" above the toe of the ceramic tile base. You can reach your fingers under the vinyl, there's that much of a gap.

But I washed it out with Simple Green on a sponge and removed as much of the old caulk as I could get at, then washed it out a little more. I dried it nicely and pushed in a long length of foam backer bead. Then I recut the tube tip so it was about the size of the Mississippi delta and ran a honking big bead of caulk all along that wall.

It looks awful. It covers the toe of the tile. It'll probably shrink and I'll have to go over it again in a day or two.

But it's done and the bathroom is clean and that should be the end of that.


Sorry, not exactly.

For after all this was completed, I went downstairs to take my dog out for his midnight constitutional. In the kitchen I heard something almost like a scratching sound-- was one of the cats on the counter getting into things?

I looked, and confound me if water wasn't dripping from my kitchen ceiling, in the same old places it always comes through when I have a leak from the upstairs bathroom!

I checked: Toilet wasn't overflowing. The bathroom sink nor the tub were running. Everything upstairs looked perfectly dry.

Oh, God, please let it be that I used too much water cleaning out that damned joint so I could caulk it! Pleeeeaaazzzzz don't let it be that the plumber's snake this afternoon hit a weak spot in the pipes and it took this long before it started letting water through! It only started a little while ago, and I've been using the sink to rinse out cleaning sponges all afternoon and evening! Pleeeeaazzzzz???

Nothing I could do about it tonight but lay a bathtowel on the kitchen floor and hope for the best. Oh yeah, and worry.

. . . It's after 2:00 AM by now and I just went down to the kitchen and checked. The dripping has stopped. So if it starts again, it has to be the bathroom lav drain pipe. I could even put food coloring in the washbasin and find out for sure. I mean, I'll have to repaint the kitchen ceiling anyway!

Well, plumbing repairs are covered by my home warranty, even should this not count as a followup call for the previous problem. The question is, does that cover replacing the drywall in my kitchen ceiling where they'll have to tear it out to do the plumbing repair? Or the bathroom tile if they have to go through the wall?
I guess I'll see. If I'm lucky the leak will only be an unintended consequence of a well-intended application of much-needed caulk.

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