Home Repair Tips Every Renter Should Know: Showers & Floors

As renters round the world know, cleaning is one of the key home repair steps to getting a damage deposit back, and thanks to Philip Schmidt’s Upgrade Your House, impressing a landlord is easy. Re-caulking—the unsung hero of DIY problem solving—is a simple way to ensure a deposit return, since bathrooms are a key focus for both incoming renters and home buyers. And when it comes to tile, vinyl, or laminate flooring, stains can be a pain, but with the correct know-how, you can clean them to their original glory…or at least a brighter shine.

*A quick reminder about caulk: The first rule of Caulk Club is don’t add new caulk over old. (The second rule of Caulk Club: see previous statement.)

how to re-caulk tub or shower
Just about any tub or shower can benefit from a thorough cleaning and re-caulking of its seams.

Showers and Tubs

Adding a new layer of caulk over the old just makes a mess and may hide areas where the old caulk is failing without providing an adequate water seal.

If your tub or shower walls are tiled, inspect the grout lines for signs of deterioration. even the tiniest cracks or holes in grout can let water through, leading to major problems in the underlying wall surface and, potentially, the wall and floor structures.

Cracked tiles also permit water intrusion and must be replaced. Caulking the cracks can help for a while, but this looks terrible and won’t seal out water for long. If the grout is generally in poor condition but the tiles still look good and are well adhered, you can scrape out the old grout and add new.

If your tub or shower wall grout joints are less than perfect, arm yourself with a strong cleaner, such as oxygen bleach, and a stiff, nylon grout brush to rehab them. Once the grout and tiles are clean, seal the joints with a good grout sealer to help prevent stains.

How to Replace Caulk

  1. 1. A 5-in-1 tool works better than a putty or utility knife for removing caulk. Use the tool’s razor-sharp tooth to slice caulk from crevices.

how to replace caulk Upgrade Your House DIY shower bathroom renter

  1. Scrub the area with denatured alcohol to remove grime and film.

how to replace caulk Upgrade Your House bathroom repair shower tub DIY

  1. Filling—but not overfilling—the joint is the key to a neat caulk job. Smooth the freshly applied caulk with a damp finger, using a very light touch.

how to replace caulk Upgrade Your House bathroom repair shower tub DIY


Given their environment, bathroom floors often rank highly on the must-do checklist for home fix-ups. Of course, cleaning is the essential first step. Once that’s done, inspect the floor carefully for any areas that may be letting water through to the subflooring. Cracks in tiles and grout, and tears in vinyl flooring, are common culprits.

failed grout bathroom tile and repaired grout Upgrade Your House bathroom repair flooring DIY

Old ceramic tile that is still solid underfoot can be renewed with dramatic results. start by scrubbing the grout joints with a strong cleaner, such as oxygen bleach or a commercial grout-and-tile cleaner. For more severe problems, like deteriorated or badly stained grout or broken tiles, make the repairs described further in Update Your House.

With sheet vinyl flooring, you may be able to patch damaged areas, or consider replacing the flooring. Bathroom floors are usually small enough to be covered with a single piece of sheet vinyl.  Vinyl tiles can be cleaned up and damaged tiles can be replaced, although a better option may be to cover the old floor with new sheet vinyl.

Choosing new bathroom flooring is pretty straightforward. It should be waterproof and fairly slip-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about wiping up every drop of water to prevent an accident. You can quickly narrow down the options to ceramic (or porcelain) or glass tile, and sheet vinyl, or linoleum. In a small half-bath or powder room, you can get away with vinyl tiles, wood, or laminate, but any room with a tub or shower needs a seamless water barrier, period. And carpet doesn’t belong on a bathroom floor.

How to inspect and Clean Floors

inspect and clean floors determine if grout needs to be resealed

To determine if your grout needs to be resealed, test the existing sealer by putting a few drops of water on a grout line. If the water beads up, the sealer is still working. If the water absorbs into the grout, it needs to be resealed.

inspecting and cleaning floors clean with mineral spirits

Remove tough stains with mineral spirits or household bleach. Wet a rag with the solution, and place it over the stain. Lay a plastic bag over the rag to slow evaporation. Wait 1 to 2 hours, then wipe up the stain. Always test solvents in an inconspicuous area before using them elsewhere on the floor. Bleach may strip the protective finish off the floor, leaving it dull. If this happens, refinish.

inspect and clean floors clean with nail polish remover

On vinyl and laminate, you can remove tough spots like shoe polish or tar with nail polish remover containing acetone. When the spot is gone, wipe the area with a clean, damp cloth.

inspect and clean floors clean natural stone tile

For heavy stains on natural stone tile, try a manufacturer poultice specifically for porous stone materials. Cover the stain with the poultice, then tape plastic over it. Let the poultice set, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then remove it.






Upgrade Your House by Philip Schmidt

Homebuyers are busy again. An improving housing market and stabilizing economy, together with some lucrative first-time buyers’ incentives, have put thousands upon thousands of people in an unfamiliar spot: their own home. For new homeowners as well as long-time occupants, Upgrade Your House is packed with instructions and suggestions for more than 100 easy DIY projects that make your home more a more livable place.

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