Easy Fixes for Drafty Windows and Doors
8 things you can do yourself to keep warm inside your home
If winter winds have you reaching for your overcoat—while you’re inside inside the house—it’s time to seal up some windows and doors. Air gaps not only allow the cold in; they allow the heat to escape, leading to unnecessarily high energy costs. Whether you have old windows that need replacing or newer ones that have some wear, these easy fixes for drafty windows and doors will have you warm and toasty, and your heating bill lower, in no time.
Some areas of the country are prone to fickle winter weather. One day it’s 15 degrees with howling winds and two days later you’re outside in just a sweater. If you live in a more temperate climate you may not want your windows sealed shut for six months. The following fixes will stop the drafts and leave your windows and doors operational.
1. Lock your Windows and Apply Weatherstripping
The most important thing people forget to do when winterizing the home is to lock the windows. Window locks pull the sashes together, closing up the space that air leaks through. If your windows are large, consider installing two locks a few inches from the outside edges rather than just one in the center, to get the gap closed all the way across the sash. Before closing the locks, pull down on the top sash of your double-hung windows and insert some weatherstripping along the top edge. Then, push it the sash up as tight as you can before locking.
2. Weatherproof your Exterior Doors
Did you know that a ⅛-inch gap around the perimeter of a door will allow in as much air as a small window open halfway? If you feel drafts around your doors, apply weather strips to the sides and top and new door sweeps at the bottom.
3. Reglaze Loose Windowpanes
Check the glazing on your old wooden windows. If you have chunks missing or loose panes, reglaze before the temperatures dip below the 50s.
4. Use Physical Barriers
Door snakes are long tubes filled with sand that are placed the foot of a door to block drafts. If a door snake isn’t sufficient, try hanging an old quilt over your door to block drafts from the perimeter.
5. Layer Your Window Treatments
Combining blinds (hung on the inside of the frame), sheer curtains, and heavy drapes should provide enough protection for all weather. When it’s frigid outside, keep everything closed. If it’s cold (but not frigid) and the room gets direct sunlight, raise the blinds, open the drapes, and let the sunshine in to help warm the space. Also, pairing a cornice with close-fitting drapes that hang snugly to the window reduces airflow by 25 percent.
If you live in the great white North, rarely venturing out for fear of frostbite, you likely won’t mind having non-operational windows in the wintertime. For safety, though, be sure to keep at least one window in each room operable. Building codes require that basements and sleeping rooms have at least one functioning means of egress. The following easy fixes, while reversible, will keep you warm and draft-free for the entire season.
6. Fill in the Gaps
If you have gaps in your windows that you can insert a fingertip into, fill them with gap filler. Backer Rod is a foam rope that comes on a roll and in various sizes to fill large gaps. Press it into the gaps and trim with scissors.
7. Apply Temporary Caulk
Temporary caulking seals cracks like nothing else. You can buy it in a tube, like regular caulk, or on a roll. Mortite is a clay-like substance on a roll that you press into windows gaps, sealing out winter winds. In the summer, simply peel it off to open the window. Tip: For added protection, apply removable caulk over gap filler.
8. Cover with Plastic
Window insulation kits that seal the window with a plastic film are available from your local hardware store and online. These kits include plastic sheeting that you affix to the jambs with double-sided tape. Once in place, heat the plastic with a hairdryer, shrinking it to look like another glass pane.
If you’re not ready to replace your windows, these easy fixes will get you by. You may even wish to combine a couple of them—doubling up will help retain heat and protect you from the strongest winter winds.