DEAR MIKE: I have a house that I rent to a family with small children. In the bathroom (coincidentally where the children take their baths) I have water damage along both sides of the tub down to the floor. I have had the damage repaired, but what can I do to prevent this from happening again? -- Richard C.
DEAR RICHARD: Probably the most effective way to prevent this is to remind the tenants that you hold their security deposit to cover damages they cause. Maybe they will more closely supervise the kids when they are a-splishin' and a-splashin'.
Kids tend to splash around in the bathtub and the water ends up on the ledge of the tub. Around the perimeter of the tub is the surround or other wall covering, and caulking between the walls and the tub makes for a watertight barrier.
However, at the front edge of the tub the water can fall to the floor, but it usually stops to spend some time on the wall first. What you typically see is that the water damage is least at the top front edge of the tub and gets worse as the tub meets the floor. This is most common on tub/shower combinations that don't have tub doors (they use a shower curtain).
Aside from supervision, you can install splash guards at both ends of the tub. These are triangular pieces of molded plastic that are secured to the front edge of the tub. They sit perpendicular to the wall along the top ledge of the tub and block the water from rolling down the front of the tub and onto the wall.
If the area where you want to install the splash guards will be affected by vertical grout lines, just move the guard over a little.
The splash guards are held in place by a small plastic track that sticks to the wall and tub. So before you install the track, make sure you have thoroughly cleaned the surfaces. Get rid of any residue that could impede the track from sticking. Scrub off the soap scum and then give the surface a final cleaning with rubbing alcohol.
The track has an adhesive backing on it and has precut grooves so you can crease it to fit the 90-degree angle from the wall to the tub. Fold the track and hold it onto the surface of the tub and wall. Mark the location of the track with a light pencil line and peel off the adhesive backing.
Push the track into place and apply pressure all along the track to make sure it stays put. The splash guard slides onto the track and snaps into place. Slide it from the top down and snap it into place on the horizontal side of the track. Apply a bead of silicone caulking along the edge of the splash guard and smoosh it into place with a wet finger. Do the same for the other side of the tub and let everything dry for 24 hours before you use the tub.
About the worst thing that can happen now is that you may get a little pooling of water at the splash guard. At least the floor and drywall outside the tub won't get damaged, unless of course your tenants are giving swimming lessons to their kids in the tub.
Come to think of it, you might also consider raising your security deposit.