How to Properly Seal Your New Tub or Shower

Many bathroom remodeling projects include a new shower or tub. Showers and tubs will get wet, obviously, so the most important thing to do after your new shower is to protect it from all that water. That’s right—you’ve got to seal it! We’ve compiled a helpful guide to teach you the ins and outs of sealing a shower.

What to Know Before You Start

Are you considering a minor renovation or a complete overhaul to create the perfect bathroom in your home? Complete remodels and smaller renovations can refresh your space, but it’s essential to consider your remodeled space’s functional aspects and aesthetics. 

Waterproofing should be included in each step when you or your contractor installs the new tub or shower, including fixtures and a shower door

Use the appropriate backboard for bathroom spaces and tile, and install it according to directions. Use a one-piece shower pan with a proper slope to the drain to prevent pooling. Be sure to install flashing at all the points where materials meet. 

Assume water can and will splash all around your shower or tub! And if this all seems like a little too much to handle on your own, we recommend leaving things up to a reliable contractor.

How to Seal a Shower

Once everything has been installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, you’ll need to seal everything properly. But what’s the best way to seal a shower?

Start by reading up on the material used in your new shower. You’ll need to treat natural stone like granite, slate, travertine, or marble differently than porcelain tile with grout. Follow the instructions and work in a ventilated room. Natural stone will need to be resealed about once a year to keep your beautiful stone shower or tub looking like the spa-like natural retreat you designed it to be.

You’ll need to use caulk designed for the shower anywhere water will settle, such as where the wall meets the lip of your new soaking tub, for example, or along the wall seams.

Choosing Your Sealant

As we mentioned, different materials will require a different type of sealant. Let’s dive into the two materials most often used for showers.

  • Natural Stone: Marble, granite, limestone, and slate are commonly used to create gorgeous natural showers. These materials are porous and require a sealant that will soak into the stone to create a barrier that prevents water from getting into the material. An excellent option is water-based sealants. They’re non-toxic, easy to apply, and have a milder odor than solvent-based sealers.
  • Porcelain Tile and Grout: Porcelain tiles aren’t nearly as porous as natural stone, which is good news! Often, you won’t need to seal the tiles, especially if they’re glazed. However, if you want to seal them just for peace of mind, look for a penetrating sealer safe for glazed surfaces. 

As for the grout, you’ll need a sealant specifically made for grout. You generally have two options for sealing grout, including:

  • Penetrating Sealers: These are ideal for sealing grout in showers because they penetrate the grout, creating a breathable protective barrier against moisture and stains.
  • Membrane-Forming Sealers: These can be useful in wet areas as they create a coating on the surface of the grout, but you risk them peeling off over time or potentially locking in existing moisture. 

Once you’ve selected and purchased your materials, it’s time to move on to the application stage!

Applying the Sealant

This stage takes dedication and time, so make sure you have a day where you can commit yourself to the process. Learning to seal a shower isn’t tricky, but it can be time-consuming! Remember that your hard work will be worth it once your beautiful new shower is fully sealed and functional.

We’ll give you a step-by-step guide to walk you through the process, but first, here’s a couple of tips:

  • Prepare the Shower: Start by preparing the surfaces you’ll be sealing by thoroughly cleaning them. Remove any dirt, soap scum, mildew, etc., with appropriate cleaning solutions, or try a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water for a natural alternative. 

Expert tip: Do not use a vinegar mixture on natural stone! Acid is the enemy of natural stone. Always use the appropriate cleaner for natural materials.

  • Let It Dry: After cleaning, allow the shower to dry completely. This might take 24-48 hours, so factor that into your project timeline!

Now, let’s start by learning how to seal a shower made of natural stone:

  1. Take the sealant you’ve purchased and pour or spray it onto the stone. Be sure to use a generous amount.
  2. Spread the sealer evenly over the surface with a clean, lint-free cloth or sponge. Make sure the entire area is covered, including edges and corners. 
  3. Let the sealant penetrate the stone for about 10-15 minutes. Check your product’s directions to ensure you’re giving it the correct time!
  4. Wipe off any excess with a clean cloth.
  5. Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, allow the sealant to cure for about 24-72 hours. Do not use the shower or let it get wet until it’s cured appropriately!

Now let’s tackle porcelain tiles and grout! 

Remember, if the tiles are glazed, you likely don’t need to seal them. However, if you choose to seal them, use a penetrating sealer and follow a similar method to the one we described above while adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Steps for sealing the grout:

  1. Start by using painter’s tape to protect your tiles. Grout sealer should never be used on tiles!
  2. Determine your applicator. This will usually depend on the design of the product you purchased. You’ll likely use a grout sealer applicator bottle, a small brush, a roller, or a sponge.
  3. Using a suitable applicator, apply the sealant directly onto the grout lines. Start at the top of your shower and work your way down. This step will be time-consuming, but try to stay motivated and methodical. It’s essential you get even, full coverage for optimal protection.
  4. If any sealer gets on your tiles, wipe it off immediately to prevent hazing.
  5. Let the sealant dry according to the product’s instructions. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day.

Expert Tips on Sealing Your Shower or Tub

Sealing a shower is essential for the aesthetics and functionality of your shower. Not only do you want to prevent unsightly and unhygienic issues like mold and mildew, but you also want the job to look as professional as possible. 

Check out these pro tips to ensure the best chance at success:

  • Read the product instructions twice! Always ensure you follow the specific instructions on the sealant for best results.
  • Working in small sections will give you better control over the application process (especially when working with grout) and help you keep track of drying times. 
  • Set a timer after you finish the last section! This will help ensure sufficient time to dry before you use your new shower.
  • Some sealant products, especially for grout or more porous stone, will recommend multiple coats. Keep this in mind before you begin your project so you can create a realistic project timeline.
  • Always make sure the area you’re working in is well-ventilated! Open windows, run some fans, and keep the door open.
  • Mark your calendar with the date you need to reapply the sealant, usually once every one to two years.

Keeping Your Tub or Shower Beautiful

Besides that lovely new shower or tub, the best gift you can give yourself is to keep it clean every time you use it. Dry surfaces with a towel or invest in a squeegee, and remember to repeat the sealing process annually. 

If you’re thinking of creating the tub or shower of your spa dreams, or your bathroom needs some updates, Harkraft can help.