When & How to Recaulk Kitchen Sink? (Beginner’s Guide)

You’ve noticed some mold growing along the edge of your kitchen sink and you’re wondering if it’s about time to recaulk it. Or, you just bought a new sink and you’re wondering how often you should check for upgrades. You’re in the right place for answers!

When to Recaulk Kitchen Sink?

When you find your kitchen sink leaking around the perimeter and damaging your kitchen cabinets, it’s time to recaulk it. Initially, all sinks come with a bead of caulk lining the rim to protect from water damage.  Over time, this caulk cracks and breaks down. That’s when you need replacing.

Caulk is an adhesive and flexible material often used in sinks, bathtubs, etc. The function of the caulk in the kitchen sink is to create a water-tight seal to prevent leakage. Retained moisture in materials tends to weaken them, so you don’t want any water leaking to areas you can’t see.

In wooden cabinets, for example, the wood can start molding and rotting. Mold can cause sickness in the people living inside the house. Aesthetically, watermarks also ruin the finish of the wood. 

So, to prevent further problems down the line, it’s best to replace the caulk in your sink as soon as you see signs of wear and tear. Some common signs that you need to recaulk are: mold or mildew growing near the surface of the caulk, the caulk drying out and peeling, or parts of it being missing and shrinking.

How Often Should You Recaulk?

Typically, caulk in sinks and bathtubs don’t need replacing before 3-5 years. However, the actual numbers differ due to several reasons. For example, in the case of brand new homes, the caulk may need replacing after a year only.

Homes settle in the first year after movement near the area. After re-assessing the first year, it’s normal for caulk to go without replacement for 5 years.

While having an idea of the time range is helpful, the answer of how often you should recaulk is ‘as often as you need’. It’s something that you need to keep an eye on. If it shows worrying signs, it needs changing. If it doesn’t, you can let it be. 

Here are the warning signs:

  • Cracks in the caulk
  • Discoloration
  • Mold and mildew growing around the surface. Mold is usually dark brown or green. A specific type, which is the most dangerous, looks almost black. Though mold is hard to tell from one another, so you should recaulk as soon as possible to prevent colds, runny noses, etc. It can be dangerous to people with compromised respiratory systems.
  • Gaps in the caulk
  • Caulk peeling or breaking off
  • Spots that don’t go away after cleaning
  • The area around the caulk is smelly. New caulk is not permeable but through exposure, the material breaks down and starts absorbing smells. 

How Long Does Caulking Last?

Caulking lasts anywhere from about 5-20 years. The reason for this large range is because many variables affect how long your caulking will remain intact.

These are the factors that affect the time your caulk will last:

Type of caulk

Silicone caulks have a lifespan of 20 years. Acrylic lasts for about 10-20 years and siliconized acrylic lasts for 20-30 years.

Quality of caulk

The higher the quality, the more water-resistant and less likely to chip away your caulk will be.

Installation process

During installation, if gaps are left or it’s not properly fit, that will decrease the lifespan of your caulking. So, it’s important to install it properly.

High/low humidity

High humidity means more moisture, which increases the likelihood of mold growth.

Ventilation

Without proper airflow, any absorbed water will not get a chance to dry off. So, it’s important to keep the area ventilated. You can do so by using an electric fan or popping open a window.

Seasonal weather in the area

Due to weather changes, the house will undergo expansions and contractions. That’s how cracks can form.

Surface conditions during application

If the surface was properly prepped and intact during the application, it will help keep your caulk in good condition for longer.

House settings

The surroundings, materials used in the walls, furniture placement, etc. all affect ventilation, humidity, and factors like that. 

How much you keep it clean

Maintenance is one factor you can control. Keeping your appliance clean and free of dirt and moisture will discourage mold and bacteria from attacking it. Sometimes, owners use overly harsh chemicals to clean the caulk, which you should avoid. Get the appropriate cleaner for the best results.

Preformed mold or mildew

Existing mold or mildew during installation will leave you with a root problem that will show itself when it’s too late. You won’t be able to see it in time and it won’t go away without complete replacement. It’s always a good idea to take preventive measures from the start. So, check the surfaces thoroughly before installing.

How Much Does It Cost for Caulking?

A handyman can caulk at an hourly rate of about $35-$50. After including the supply cost of about $15-$30, you can expect your sink or showers to be caulked for $150-$200. A licensed contractor will cost about $50 more. Remember that the removal of the old caulk is also part of the process. 

Is It Ok to Caulk Over Old Caulk?

You should not caulk over old caulk because new caulk will not stick to the old one. Covering up the old caulk will not solve the problems with it. So, you should remove it completely before applying the new caulk.

How Do You Remove Old Caulk and Recaulk?

Things you need for removing old caulk or doing recaulk:

  • Caulk removal product like acetone or denatured alcohol
  • Utility knife/straight-edged razor blade
  • Paper towels or dishrag
  • Plastic bags or trash bags
  • Paint thinner or mineral spirits
  • Scraper
  • Protective face mask and gloves (if the caulk is moldy)
  • Suitable caulk like silicone-based for metal sinks and latex-based for porcelain sinks
  • Caulk applicator
  • Towels or cardboard to protect the floor
  • Painters tape (optional)

To remove the old caulk, follow these steps:

  1. Use your caulk removal product on the caulk. Take special care if it’s moldy by wearing a face mask and gloves.
  2. Let the removal product sit for a few hours so the caulk gets the chance to soften up.
  3. Using your knife/blade, cut and strip off the caulk carefully and thoroughly. This step requires patience.
  4. Dispose of the old caulk in your plastic/trash bags, and seal them properly. This is extra important if the caulk is moldy.
  5. Dip your rag/paper towels with the paint thinner, and using the scraper carefully remove all the residual caulk.
  6. Give it a final wipe with the thinner and let dry completely.

To apply the new caulk, follow these steps:

  1. Apply a thin layer of caulk along the rim of the sink, with the tip of the applicator pointing at a 45-degree angle. It’s best to use an applicator tool rather than simply cutting the tip of the tube of caulk. You can find caulk tubes like, Dap 18001 Kwik Seal Caulk or Gorilla 100 Percent Silicone Sealant Caulk on Amazon.
  2. Using your finger or a painter’s tool, smooth out the wet caulk. This will seal in the material properly as well as give a proper finish.
  3. Clean the excess off of the counter and surrounding surfaces using paper towels or dishrag. You want your caulk to be as less noticeable as possible because it can be a sore to the eye. For your ease and precise lines, use painters’ tape to block off areas.
  4. Let dry for 24 hours before using or letting it come into contact with water. Wetting caulk without fully curing will compromise it.

Should You Caulk Around Kitchen Sink?

Yes, you should caulk around the kitchen sink. Without caulking, the sink will start leaking into surfaces. Your surrounding furniture like cabinets and counters will be susceptible to water damage. Caulking is the prevention method against that. Make sure to get a water-resistant caulk suitable for use in a sink.

How to Re-Caulk Under-Mount Kitchen Sink?

Undermount kitchen sinks are the type that has to be supported from below, so it’s usually placed in a cut-out portion of the countertop. So, the edge of the countertop is exposed. A gap remains, between the top of the counter edge and the bottom of the sink. This is the area that usually has a bead of silicone caulking. 

To recaulk an under-mount sink, you have to remove the sink from the countertop. Then, cut away the previously used caulk. After cleaning and drying the sink, squeeze the caulk into the rim. Then, place it carefully into the designated cut-out. Then, seal your sink in by screwing it down.

Caulking is necessary in preventing water damage to your cabinets, counters, etc. Spotting the warning signs like mold or cracks before irreparable damage occurs can help us keep our overall kitchen in good condition. Recaulking your sinks is easy and much less expensive than replacing furniture and sinks. So, make sure to keep the caulk clean and replace it regularly!

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