Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

Reuben’s Quick Tip: Caulk Doesn’t Belong Here, Part II

November 16th, 2010 | 4 comments

Last week I blogged about not caulking at the base of storm windows, which is a simple no-brainer. Another place that should never be caulked is the space between the siding and the flashing above a window; this piece of flashing is often referred to as drip flashing, drip cap, or head flashing.  Caulking this opening shut is a very common defect, even on new construction.

Caulked head flashing

Why not caulk here? The head flashing at the window provides a drainage plane for water that could potentially get in behind the siding; the head flashing allows the water to drain out above the top of the window.  If the space between the flashing and the siding gets caulked shut, where will water go?  It will get trapped behind the siding and potentially cause damage to the home.

Some siding manufacturers already require this space to be left open, such as fiber-cement siding manufacturers.  Unfortunately, this detail isn’t spelled out in any window installation instruction manuals, or if it is, I haven’t found them yet.   I also haven’t found any vinyl siding manufacturers that specifically say “don’t caulk here“.  For fiber-cement siding, it’s an installation defect.  For just about any other type of siding, including vinyl, it’s a ‘best practice’ not to caulk here.

Don't caulk head flashing

Just wait though… I’m sure that the manufacturers of windows and other types of siding will catch up on this detail soon enough, and they’ll start explicitly telling you “don’t caulk here”.  Installation instructions for windows are getting longer and more specific every year.  Case in point: about ten years ago, Windsor Windows published a one page installation sheet; today it’s a ten page installation manual.  Did the windows change significantly?  No.  Manufacturers are just doing their part to help prevent failures from improper installations.

Is this really a defect? Well, technically no, not on all installations.  It’s not a defect until the manufacturers put it in writing or it’s specified in the building code… but it sure isn’t wise.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minneapolis Home Inspections

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Reuben’s Quick Tip: Caulk Doesn’t Belong Here

November 9th, 2010 | 2 comments

If I’m going to write a blog about caulk, I need to get something out of the way first; it’s pronounced kawk, not kallllk.  The “L” is silent, and the word rhymes with walk or talk.  If you’re uncomfortable uttering this word aloud, try ‘sealant’ instead.  Moving on.

As we learned from Charles Buelle’s blog about caulking not caulking at the base of tiled shower walls, there are just some places where caulking doesn’t belong.

One of the most common offenders is at the bottom of storm windows; if the base of the storm window gets caulked shut, where does the water go?

Caulk at base of storm window

Nowhere.  It just sits there and rots the window out.  Most storm windows already come with weep holes in the bottom of the window to allow water to drain out; keep these holes open.

Weep holes

When I find caulking at the base of storm windows, I recommend repair.  The fix can be as simple as drilling a bunch of holes at the base of the storm window.

POST EDIT 11/10/10 – Please read the insightful comment about this blog post left by Chad.  This post is about a very specific issue, while Chad’s comment is about the bigger picture.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minneapolis Home Inspections

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Don’t Caulk Here – Bath Tubs

June 17th, 2010 | 8 comments

This is another blog post by Charles Buell, a Seattle, WA, Home Inspector.

Let’s play “Myth Busters.”

Everyone knows that it is important to keep the connections between tubs and its shower surround well caulked.

I often find these areas recently caulked in an attempt to “spiff things up” for the sale.

Take a look at this first picture.  This is brand new construction—-doesn’t it look “SAWEEEEET?”  Don’t you wish you could lay a bead of caulk like that?

Very neat caulking at tub and wall connection

Before you get too envious (you knew this was coming) I am here to tell you that the caulk should not be there.

As commonplace as it may be—-as seemingly logical as it may be—-it is still wrong in many cases.  Caulking this connection is fine if the wall is some sort of one piece sheet or enclosure, but with tile it should not be there.  The grout joints are designed to prevent water from penetrating the wall but any small amount that does penetrate is able to evaporate out and/or weep out along the bottom.  If the tub/tile connection is caulked the water cannot wick out through the bottom grout joint and moisture builds up and is able to feed the mold that eventually develops.  I am sure you have all seen that grey discolored staining of the caulk that you would swear is “behind” the caulk—-where it cannot be cleaned off?  And you would be right—it is behind the caulk.

Mold behind the caulk at the tub and shower wall connection

The next thing that happens is that if there is enough water building up behind this area the water runs around the edge of the tub and down the walls behind the tiles “outside” the tub with the common resultant damage to walls and floors outside of the tub.  Sometimes this damage is just from water not being corralled into the tub by the shower curtain, but when the same thing happens with a shower door in place, these other factors may be at play.

These conditions also “complicate” the inspector’s moisture meter readings.

So if you have a tile tub enclosure—-keep the grout well repaired—-but don’t caulk the connection and the enclosure will behave itself much better.

Charles Buell