Weatherproofing Your Home

MATERIALS: Silicone caulk, expandable insulating foam, weather stripping, wood filler

TOOLS: Hammer, putty knives, screwdriver, pry bar, wood chisel, handsaw, tape measure, staple gun, caulking gun

MINIMIZE HEAT LOSS - Cover window wells with plastic window-well covers to minimize heat loss through your basement windows. Measure the widest point of your window well and note whether the front edge is rectangular or semicircular in design. Most covers have an upper flange designed to slip under the siding. Fasten the cover to foundation walls with masonry anchors and weigh down the bottom flange with stones or gravel. Caulk around the edges for extra weather protection.

Weatherproofing is the process of fixing unwanted leaks. While your doors and windows are designed to keep the cold out and the heat in, they cannot be airtight. In order to open and close, they need room to move—small gaps around the edges though which air quite easily seeps. In an average house, these cracks account for as much air as you’d lose through a 2-foot-diameter hole. Given the low cost of weather stripping and the ease of installation, you’ll get a quick return on your investment. Of the many types available, the metal, foam-filled vinyl tubes, plastic V, and closed-cell vinyl foam have been found the most effective and easiest to install. Metal is the most durable, lasting from 10 to 20 years. Plastic V weather stripping lasts from 2 to 10 years. Foam-filled vinyl has a life expectancy of 5 to 10 years. Sealing out also means you’re sealing air in. Beware of carbon monoxide or other inside air problems.

CAULK AROUND THE DRYER VENT, WINDOWS, EXHAUST FAN VENTS, and any other fittings mounted to the sides of your house. Fill any cracks larger than 1/2 inch with expandable foam or foam "backer rods" before caulking.

SEAL BETWEEN BASEBOARDS AND FLOORBOARDS. Remove the base molding and spray in expandable insulating foam. This not only prevents drafts, it helps stop insects from entering your living areas. Be aware that a little foam goes a long way. It will expand too much if you overuse it.

INSULATE AROUND SPIGOTS, TELEVISION CABLE JACKS, TELEPHONE LINES, AND OTHER ENTRY POINTS TO YOUR HOUSE with expandable insulating foam. Trim off the excess with a utility knife, but avoid cutting into wires when trimming around electrical lines.

Weatherproofing an entry door

1 ADJUST THE DOOR IF IT HAS FALLEN OUT OF ALIGNMENT. Reset and shim hinges to even out the gaps around the door, making the door easier to weatherstrip. Adjust strike plates and latches to keep doors snug in their frames.

2 WITH TIN SNIPS, CUT METAL TENSION STRIPS TO FIT IN THE DOORJAMB. Tack the strips in place and open them slightly to create a tight seal, if using vinyl, cut them with scissors and fold them lengthwise along the seam. Remove the adhesive backing and stick the weather stripping in place.

3 TO CREATE A DOUBLE SEAL, PUT TUBE GASKETS WITH METAL BACKING ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE DOOR. Cut them to length with tin snips, and screw or tack them in place so that they are snug against the door.

4 OPTION A: SCREW A BRISTLE SWEEP TO THE BOTTOM OF THE DOOR. Sweeps help keep air from leaking under the door, and you can attach one without trimming the door. Sweeps also are available on rollers to compensate for an uneven floor.

4 PTION B: ATTACH A NEW DOOR BOTTOM WITH AN INTEGRAL SWEEP on the inside and a drip edge on the outside. This may require you to adjust your threshold height or plane the bottom of the door slightly. If you plane the door, seal the wood by painting it before you attach the sweep.

5 FIX ANY CRACKS IN DOOR PANELS or around sidelight panels with wood filler or caulk.

Weatherproofing an entry door threshold

1 OLDER THRESHOLDS LACK THE BUILT-IN WEATHER STRIPPING THAT NEWER ONES HAVE. To replace an old threshold, protect the floor, cut through the threshold with a handsaw, then pry out the pieces. Clean out the area beneath it.

2 MEASURE THE OPENING FOR THE NEW THRESHOLD AND CUT IT TO FIT. Make sure the threshold will slope away from the house when installed, shimming it if necessary. Lay a bead of caulk along the bottom of the threshold, then screw it in place through the area that will be underneath the gasket.

3 CUT AND INSTALL THE GASKET. Test to see how the door closes over the new threshold. If the fit is too tight, cut or plane the door as necessary.

Weatherproofing other door types

SEAL THE JAMB CHANNELS WITH CLOSED-CELL VINYL FOAM (not to be confused with foam rubber, which is less effective). If the door doesn't have thermal glass, buy clear plastic sheeting made to fit over the inside of windows, and use a hair dryer to shrink it until tight.

ATTACH A NEW RUBBER GASKET TO THE BOTTOM OF A GARAGE DOOR IF THE OLD ONE HAS DETERIORATED. Weather stripping for the top and sides of the door is sold separately.


Tips for maintaining storm doors:

TEST LATCHES AND ADJUST AS NEEDED. A properly functioning storm-door latch draws the door tightly and securely into the frame and holds it in place. A loose door lets air in around the edges.

ADD A WIND CHAIN IF YOUR STORM DOOR DOES NOT HAVE ONE. Wind chains prevent doors from blowing open and off the hinges. Set the chain so that the door will not open more than 90 degrees. You can temporarily disconnect the chain if you ever need to open the door farther.

ADJUST DOOR-CLOSER TENSION TO CLOSE THE DOOR SECURELY. The tension on most closers is adjustable so that you can set the door to close without slamming. Most closers also lock in place to hold doors open when necessary, making it much easier on the people delivering your new couch.

Weatherproofing windows

1 CUT METAL OR VINYL V-STRIPS TO FIT IN THE SASH CHANNELS. Cut them long enough to extend at least 1 inch beyond the sash ends when the window is closed. Cut vinyl with scissors; cut metal with tin snips.

2 REMOVE THE ADHESIVE BACKING AND STICK THE VINYL IN PLACE. Tack metal strips in place, driving the tacks flush so that the window sash will not snag on them. Flare out the open ends of the metal V-channels with a putty knife to create a tight seal with the sash.

3 WIPE DOWN THE UNDERSIDE OF THE BOTTOM SASH WITH A DAMP RAG AND WAIT FOR IT TO DRY; then attach self-adhesive closed-cell vinyl foam to the edges of the underside. The surface must be at least 50 degrees for self-adhesive strips to stick.

4 SEAL THE GAP WHERE THE TOP SASH MEETS THE BOTTOM SASH. For double-hung windows, raise the bottom sash completely to the top, and then lower the upper sash a couple of inches. This reveals the lower rail, which is normally hidden. Seal with V-channel weather stripping. If the top sash is stationary, tack tubular gasket to the outside of the lower sash so that it compresses slightly against the top sash when the window is locked shut.


POLYETHYLENE SHEETING KITS PROVIDE A QUICK WAY TO WEATHERPROOF A WINDOW WITHOUT STORMS. They come with nailing strips and nails. Installation is a matter of cutting the plastic and then attaching it with the nailing strips. Polyethylene is cloudy, however. While you might not mind it over a bathroom window, you probably want to avoid putting it over a picture window in the front of your house.

INTERIOR PLASTIC SHEETING IS A CLEAR SHRINK-WRAP PRODUCT THAT IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN KITS. It's even easier to install than polyethylene. Tape the plastic to the inside of the window with double-stick tape; then warm it with a hair dryer to remove the wrinkles. Once installed, it’s virtually invisible and easy to remove.

Weatherproofing other window types

STEEL WINDOWS, WHICH WERE POPULAR ABOUT 40 YEARS AGO, can best be sealed with closed-cell foam adhesive tape.

JALOUSIE WINDOWS ARE NOTORIOUSLY LEAKY. Cover them with polyethylene sheeting.

USE THE SAME STRATEGY ON METAL-CLAD AND VINYL-CLAD WINDOWS AS ON WOOD-FRAME WINDOWS, but use only self-adhesive weather-stripping products that will not puncture the cladding.

Tips for weatherproofing storm windows:

CREATE A TIGHT SEAL BY CAULKING AROUND THE WINDOW. Rope caulking, a puttylike material sold in strips, will fit nicely along the gap between the storm and the house and can be easily pressed into place.

THE WEEP HOLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WINDOW LETS MOISTURE OUT so that it doesn't condense on the window. Check to see that the hole isn't plugged. If it is, clean it out with a small nail. If there's no weep hole, create one by poking a nail through the caulk at the bottom of the window.

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