I don’t want to point fingers, but let’s just say that the person who originally caulked around my bathroom vanity did a pretty sloppy job.
It’s important to caulk around a bathroom vanity to protect water from seeping into cracks and damaging the vanity cabinet or bathroom walls. Caulking around a bathroom vanity can prevent a future mold or mildew problem that could cost thousands to fix, so it’s worth the extra hour or so to caulk.
That said, not every bathroom vanity needs caulking, and if you do decide to caulk, take the time to make it look right–and by look right, I mean it should probably not be noticeable at all.
A Cautionary Bathroom Vanity Tale
My bathroom vanity countertop is off-white engineered quartz with integrated double sinks. The person—the one I won’t name–used a bright white caulk between the four-inch backsplash and the countertop, and the lines were hardly uniform around the side splash and backsplash. A clear silicone applied with a caulking gun would have been a much better choice.
So with this cautionary tale in mind, let’s take a look at which bathroom vanities need caulking around them and which don’t. And then let’s consider the best type of caulk to use, as well as some quick guidelines for caulking around your bathroom vanity. This way, unlike me, you can get it right the first time.
Types of Bathroom Vanities to Caulk Around
Here are three of the most common types of bathroom vanities:
1. The Cabinet Bathroom Vanity
A cabinet bathroom vanity has pull-out drawers and cupboards. It sits flush against the wall and is often nestled to fit snugly against two or three walls. Caulk around a cabinet bathroom vanity where the backsplash and side splash rest against the walls to provide extra protection.
Also, caulk between the countertop and side splash and backsplash to prevent water from seeping in the cracks.
2. The Wall-Mounted (aka Floating) Bathroom Vanity
This type of bathroom vanity is often affixed to just one wall and doesn’t touch the floor, so it appears to float several feet above it. With this type of bathroom vanity, you’ll only need to run a bead of caulk between the horizontal edge where the vanity top meets the back wall.
3. Freestanding Bathroom Vanity
A freestanding bathroom vanity is made from a piece of furniture that is repurposed as a vanity. It is pushed against the plumbing wall, though may not be affixed to it. If your furniture does rest flush against the back wall, it’s great to run a line of caulk between the back edge of the countertop and the wall. But often, with a freestanding bathroom vanity, the furniture won’t be flush to the wall and so you won’t be able to seal it.
Is Grout the Same as Caulk?
People often confuse caulk and grout, or use the terms interchangeably. So we’ll need to clear up this misconception, before moving onto your bathroom vanity:
Caulk and grout are different, although both are often used in the bathroom. Grout is cement-based or epoxy-based. It is usually used between tiles to keep them from moving. Caulk can be made of latex, acrylic or silicone. It is used to create a flexible and often waterproof seal between two construction surfaces.
While you don’t need to seal caulk because it’s waterproof, you do need to seal grout. Read my post Don’t Forget the Sealer! for details.
Now that we’ve cleared this up, let’s talk about exactly how to caulk around your bathroom vanity.
How Should You Caulk Around a Bathroom Vanity?
The question “How should you caulk around a bathroom vanity?” can really be answered in one word: carefully. By this, I mean with a silicone, well-chosen color of caulk and a steady hand.
Choose Silicone Caulk for a Bathroom Vanity
There are a variety of types of caulk available for various home projects, including latex and acrylic caulk. However, since you’ll be caulking in a high-moisture area, the choice is easily made: you need a silicone caulk. It’s mold-resistant, easy to clean with soap and water, resistant to heat and UV rays, and has a rubbery feel even after it dries.
While silicone caulk can’t be painted, it’s available in many colors. Silicone caulk will usually adhere to most ceramic tile, porcelain, glass, metal, plastic, granite and wood.
Select the Color
The topic of selecting the color of caulk for your bathroom vanity is giving me waves of anxiety. It’s just so easy to go wrong here. And there really aren’t that many color choices anyway. Don’t leave this choice to any bathroom vanity installer.
It might seem simple to go with a white or off-white and call it a day, but you really need to follow a few simple (but important!) rules.
Bathtubber contributor and bathroom designer Kathleen Stacy Finley told me:
“I only use white if the grout is white. Otherwise I choose clear, because it’s not introducing another color. Usually, you don’t want the caulk to fight with the other colors in your bathroom vanity caulk.”
So, just to be sure you’ve got this, if you are caulking to seal the bathroom countertop backsplash against a tiled wall, consider matching the color of the grout between the tiles. However, if you don’t have tile on the plumbing wall, use clear silicone to really make the caulk invisible.
Choose an Application Method
There are several options available to help you apply caulk.
First, you can try to go “freehand” with your caulking. If you were the kind of student who could always cut a straight line with scissors back in kindergarten, then hats off and go for it! You’d just buy a regular tube of caulk, cut off the rubber tip, and squeeze away.
Or, if that makes you uncomfortable, look for a “pressurized” tube of caulk. This is designed so you don’t need quite as perfect of a hand to get a straight line out of the tube.
Your third option is to buy a caulking gun, which helps you squeeze the product in a perfectly straight line between the wall and your bathroom vanity. (Trust me, this can make a huge difference in the overall appearance of your finished vanity installation!)
Even if you’re only doing one small DIY project, consider making the investment of less than $10 in a caulking gun. I recommend the super-easy to operate 930-GDT Hex Rod Cradle Caulking Gun.
Are You Re-Caulking to Get Rid of Bathroom Mold?
Maybe you made a horrifying discovery that mold or mildew was growing on the caulking in your bathroom. You might have spotted it on the caulking or seeming to grow around it.
What you see with the naked eye, unfortunately, could only be the tip of the iceberg. Though painful, better to find out sooner rather than later, if there’s hidden mold growing inside the walls behind the caulking. One way to find out if you’ve got a moisture problem is to get what’s called a “moisture meter.”
This invaluable tool can tell you exactly how much of a moisture problem you’ve got. Even though it costs about $25, it can save you thousands that you’d have to pay down the road should you ignore a developing issue and need to tear down drywall later. I recommend the MMD4E Digital Moisture Meter that you can see here on Amazon.
For information about how to spot clean mold on grout or tile, plus a comprehensive plan to prevent future outbreaks of bathroom mold, do yourself a favor and read my post Bathroom Mold: A Battleplan to Destroy It.
How to Caulk Around Your Bathroom Vanity
By now you know what type of caulk to use, what color caulk you want, where to place it on your bathroom vanity, and what type of application you will use (e.g. caulking gun or pressurized tube). The last thing to cover is the exact technique for caulking, so that you adequately seal your bathroom vanity to the surrounding tile, or backsplash, or painted wall.
Here’s a youtube video from HGMM that shows you exactly how to remove old caulk and apply new caulk.
- Rubber gloves
- Heat gun (optional)
- Silicone caulk
- Caulking gun
- Caulk remover
- Painter’s tape
- Caulk trowel or plastic spoon
- Put on rubber gloves
- Warm up old caulk with heat gun on low
- Use caulk removing tool to get rid of old caulk
- Apply blue tape
- Use even pressure to fill void with caulk
- Wet your finger and run along the bead of caulk
- Use caulk trowel or plastic spoon along tape to create sharp line
- Pull tape back from the corner
- Allow 30 minutes to dry
So Should You Caulk Around a Bathroom Vanity?
Use silicone caulk to seal the bathroom vanity side splash, backsplash, and countertop to tile or drywall, if your vanity rests flush to the walls. Caulking is important to provide a waterproof seal that can prevent water damage, mold, and mildew in the future.
There is a lot to know about bathroom vanities, from how to choose one that’s the right proportions for your space to what size sink will fit best to whether you need a backsplash or not. Get all our bathroom vanity wisdom in this comprehensive post—8 Tips to Pick the Perfect Bathroom Vanity.
Also, if you’re about to start a bathroom remodel—or are in the middle of the project!—download genius designer hacks that can literally save you thousands of dollars on your project. Just fill out the form below and I’ll send this money-saving PDF straight to your inbox.