Learn From Our Princeton Caulking and Grouting Experience

learn from our princeton caulking and grouting experience

Are you considering a kitchen or bathroom remodel for your Princeton home? If so, tile is probably a key factor in your plans. Whether it’s on the walls or the floors, tile can really make or break the most utilitarian rooms in your house. Or, maybe your old tile isn't going anywhere, but you’re getting really tired of seeing gross, dingy lines that won't come clean no matter how much you scrub, and ragged seals that are peeling off the edges of your kitchen backsplash. If that sounds familiar, we’ve got you covered with key information based on our own experiences with Princeton caulking and grouting.

Whether you’re planning a new tile installation project or the material around your old tile is in desperate need of a refresh, you likely have some questions about caulking and grouting. These two activities are often confused with each other, but they are different and necessary parts of the tile installation or restoration process. We’re here to make sure you know about both, and about how we can help with Princeton caulking and grouting projects.

This guide gives answers to frequently asked questions about caulking and grouting, with expert advice from the experienced Princeton handyman team at Mr. Handyman of Princeton and Robbinsville. We have the local experience to provide guidance about caulking and grouting and to take care of both installation and replacement jobs efficiently and effectively.

What’s the Difference Between Caulking and Grouting?

Grout is used for holding tiles in place during tile installation, while caulk is used for sealing gaps and joints between two different surfaces, such as the area between the bottom of your bathtub and the bathroom floor. It is a masonry product that is mostly made of cement and sometimes sand or other additives. It’s sold as a dry powder and mixed with water to create a semi-solid paste, which is plastered into the spaces between tiles. It then cures into a rock-hard filler that holds the tiles in place. Caulk, on the other hand, comes in a tube and is made of silicone, latex or acrylic. After it cures, it’s still semi-flexible and can form a waterproof seal to help prevent water damage and mold growth.

Speaking of those substances, they are often mistaken for each other—or sometimes assumed to be the same thing. While both substances have waterproof properties and can be used in similar locations, they are definitely not the same. Caulking is the act of applying caulk, while grouting is the act of applying grout. The verb is often used interchangeably with the noun for each substance, but technically caulking and grouting are actions, not the actual substances themselves.

Caulking and Grouting: Tile Installation Differences

Both these substances have their own distinctive properties that make them unique from each other. But there are a few specific differences between grouting and caulking during tile installation as well:

  • Location: Grouting is done to fill the joints, or spaces, between tiles on a flat surface such as the floor or a wall. Caulking is for sealing off the edge or gap where tile meets another surface such as drywall, or at a seam where two sections of tile meet at a right angle, such as adjoining shower surfaces or where the wall meets the floor.
  • Ease of Application: Some people assume cement filler is more difficult to apply because it’s quite messy, and spacing tiles correctly can be challenging. It does take practice to make grout look nice and uniform, but it’s far more forgiving than caulk. It may sound easy—just squeeze it out of the tube—but caulking takes a surprising amount of skill and experience to get a smooth, even bead.
  • Replacement Process: Caulk is significantly easier to replace than joint filler. They both deteriorate over time, but caulk just peels away. A handyman will gently pull or scrape it off before reapplying. It is often easy to remove but the process can sometimes be very difficult and time-consuming. Grout crumbles when it deteriorates, but getting rid of all the cement that has hardened in tile joints requires a carbide removal tool, a steady hand, and a lot of patience.

Caulking and Grouting: Are they Interchangeable?

In a word, no. There is a little bit of overlap in how the different materials are used, but you can not replace one with the other. Grout is specifically used to fill tile joints. Caulk has a wide variety of applications, but when it comes to tile specifically, it’s used to seal gaps between where the tile meets another surface.

Caulking can also be useful for sealing the point where two tile planes intersect, such as a corner where two shower walls meet. The reason some Princeton caulking and grouting pros prefer caulk in that area is that all houses shift and settle over time and that the settling process can leave cracks in corners where grouting has been done. Caulk leaves a more flexible finish, so it allows for some "wiggle room" in the corner—an area that is more likely to be affected by settling over time.

Are there Alternatives to Grouting?

There are, of course, alternatives to using tile in Princeton homes. But if you have tiles, you can’t skip grouting. A skilled pro can try to minimize the appearance of the material as much as possible, but it’s still going to be there and be visible. If you don't like the way it looks, or you aren't interested in trying to keep it clean, consider options such as laminate shower wall panels that resemble tile but are actually one continuous piece.

You may be wondering if tiles can simply be installed without grout by eliminating the spaces between each individual piece. While that may technically be possible, it’s not a good idea and would not be up to professional tile installation standards. You may love the look of groutless tiles for a short time, but you will come to regret it for these reasons:

  • Without joint filler, tiles will rub and grind against each other when the house shifts or vibrates, causing them to crack.
  • It may look like tiles are completely uniform in size and shape, but any experienced installer will tell you they often aren't. Grout allows for small differences in size, while still maintaining an overall uniform appearance.
  • Even if tiles are completely flush with each other, there are still tiny cracks that can become filled with dirt and debris—making thorough cleaning virtually impossible.

Caulking and Grouting: Which Should be Used Around a Bathtub?

When it comes to bathroom fixtures like bathtubs, they often meet a tile wall or floor (or both), usually at a right angle. That means caulking is the most suitable choice to seal the gap. It creates a waterproof barrier to make sure moisture can't get between the fixture and the wall or floor, and allows for some movement of the tub, shower pan, and other plumbing fixtures.

Are your Princeton caulking and grouting projects part of a bathroom remodel? At Mr. Handyman of Princeton and Robbinsville, we have other services to help with that and can offer expert advice for Princeton bathroom remodeling projects.

Should You Caulk Over Grout?

It is not always necessary to apply caulk over the top of cement filler, but it is an extra step that some installers in Princeton like to do. Whether you take this step depends on the type of grout you’re working with—high-performance epoxy grouts don’t really need to be sealed. But there are some good reasons to consider sealing traditional cement-based varieties:

  • Cement is somewhat porous, and over time those microscopic nooks and crannies fill up with dirt and grime that gives it a dingy appearance, no matter how hard you scrub. Sealant blocks out dirt and keeps the cement material looking clean and bright for much longer.
  • The sealant also makes cleaning easier, as it forms a silicone layer that wipes clean easily. Too much scrubbing can cause the edges of the seal to lift, though.
  • If your joint filler is sealed, it will not deteriorate as rapidly. That extension on its lifespan means you don't need to worry about replacement as frequently.
  • Dirt and bacteria collect in the porous crevices of joint filler, encouraging mold and mildew growth that can be prevented with sealant.

Is Grout Waterproof?

It is highly water-resistant, but not entirely waterproof. Joint filler looks—and is—a lot more porous than silicone or latex sealant, so it’s understandable that people tend to wonder if it’s really capable of keeping moisture away from the surfaces underneath. Cement firmly bonds to the backerboard and thin-set tiles are laid out on top, so it’s acceptable to use in a shower. However, it couldn't soak in water for a long period of time and remain water-tight.

How Often Does Princeton Caulking and Grouting Need to Be Redone?

There are a few factors that can contribute to accelerating the deterioration of your tile materials. But in general, caulk should be replaced every five years, while grout in a shower may not need to be redone for 10 to 15 years—and could last significantly longer outside a shower where it isn't exposed to as much water and dirt. While the joint filler may not be as bright and new looking as it once was after a decade, that doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be replaced. When you’re looking it over, check for two key signs that it’s ready for replacement: cracking and crumbling. If you spot either of these issues, it’s time to call your local handyman for Princeton caulking and grouting services.

Can You Put Old Grout on Top of New Grout?

This would definitely not work out well. It may be tempting to just slap a thin layer of fresh joint filler over the old, dingy cement, but it would not adhere properly and would start to flake off. A minimum thickness must be met for the material to cure properly and form a strong bond. There isn't enough space in between tiles for multiple layers—even a thin layer would get rubbed off with your sponge while wiping off any excess. The old material has to be removed to at least half the tile’s thickness, though lower is better.

If you aren't willing or able to spend the time on proper replacement grouting, that's understandable. The experienced Princeton caulking and grouting experts at Mr. Handyman of Princeton and Robbinsville can get it taken care of efficiently and effectively, so you don't have to worry.

How Do You Get Even Lines While Caulking?

This may not be the answer you are looking for, but in all honesty, it’s just one of those things that take practice. It looks simple enough—squeeze it like a tube of toothpaste, right? The difficult part, however, requires experience and a steady hand to get a smooth, even bead of caulk all the way along a seam. That’s why any project that involves Princeton caulking and grouting is best handled by a skilled professional, such as the team at Mr. Handyman of Princeton and Robbinsville.

How Do You Fix Caulking Mistakes?

If you or someone messed up while caulking, the good news is there are steps you can take to get the mess removed fairly easily and have another try—or better yet, call a Princeton caulking and grouting professional to get the job done properly. As long as you didn’t apply acrylic sealant and it hasn’t fully cured, you may be able to soften the material up by covering it with damp rags. Then simply get a hold of an edge and gently pull it off. If that doesn't do the trick, you will need to scrape the sealant off or treat it with dissolving chemicals. If you go that route, make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

Mr. Handyman is Your Local Princeton Caulking and Grouting Expert!

Whether you are in Princeton or a nearby area like Montgomery, you can count on the professionals at Mr. Handyman of Princeton and Robbinsville to deliver the highest standards of quality workmanship and excellent customer service.

Pick up the phone and get in touch with us at to book a service appointment, or to chat with our friendly office staff about Princeton caulking and grouting—or dozens of other reliable handyman services we provide.