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Use grout, not caulk, for tub

By Peter Hotton
Peter Hotton
Peter Hotton has been the handyman expert for the Boston Globe for more than 30 years.

Q: I have a continuous problem with the caulking around the tub. This tub is used only for baths.

I dutifully wipe down and dry the caulk and tub after each use. Is it possible to edge the tub with small, rounded tiles (like quarter-round edging that is used on a floor, but smaller) so that I do not have to redo the caulking so often?

Should the caulking be left in place as a sort of inner seal or should it be removed?

A: The problem is due to the wrong material, caulking instead of grout (a little like white mortar). When a long-lasting caulk was developed, everyone thought it was a cure-all for sealing permanently. It didn’t work out.

Grout is still the best and only material to use, especially around tubs.

Dig out all that caulk, and install a sandless grout in the space. Compact it heavily with a pointing tool. Press it in with pressure. A pointing tool is an elongated S-shaped steel bar, normally used with brick and mortar, but will serve you well.

Q: We have a propane fireplace with marble stone and a wood frame with a mantel. The vertical stone on the left has shifted and moved to the right about 1/4 inch from the wood frame. You can almost put your finger between the stone and the frame. There might be some cement showing, too.

The stone on the right has also shifted slightly, but the big problem is the left one.

We haven’t spent a winter here for several years and wonder if it’s due to cold/hot expansion and contraction.

I bought a rubber hammer to try to move it back, but it’s stuck. I have contacted Anderson Fireplace, which installed the propane fireplace, but can’t get anybody to visit because they are busy. Any suggestions?

A: That is a lot of information just for a marble upright coming off the wood frame. Since it is outside of the firebox, I think it is OK to use the propane fireplace.

I suggest you get after the company that built it and get them to fix it.

Or if the wood is OK, take off the marble and secure it with adhesive caulk.

Q: I had iron railings installed on my front steps about seven years ago. The steps are poured concrete with a brick cap. Two years after the installation they became loose and within a year, I had them repaired. Two years after that, I had them repaired again by the same mason, who then used hydraulic cement.

Lo and behold, I have the same issue. What now? Is this an installation problem or repair issue?

A: It sounds as if the post is only going into the brick, and not into the concrete. You can have a wrought-iron worker extend the posts so they go at least 4 to 6 inches into the concrete.

photton@globe.com
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