Addressing Drafty Windows

Save money with these easy DIY Tips

Tis the season! With Jack Frost nipping at your nose, you may have again felt some uncomfortable drafts or have seen your drapes moving as the chill of winter makes its way into your home. Less noticeable in the warmer months, with older homes in particular, window leaks can rob you by increasing your heating bills. Of course you can simply call a professional contractor, but there are some Home Hacks you can try while saving a few bucks in the process. These temporary DIY measures should not be considered permanent fixes, but they can help you get through the cold season without a large cash expenditure.

Cracks: The most noticeable window defects are of course cracked panes. For a relatively tight crack without any missing pieces of glass, seal the cracks with clear nail polish. For loose cracks, use dome clear, weather-seal tape, or in a pinch, some clear shipping tape.

Worn Sash: What about where the bottom, top or sides of the window meet up with the frame? If it is not a tight fit, go to the hardware store or home improvement center and get some V-Seal weather stripping. Apply this around the entire perimeter of the sash. These peal-n-stick foam strips may not be very attractive, but will fend off those chilling drafts.
A sash window is made of one or more movable panels (sashes) that form a frame to hold the panes of glass, which are often separated from other panes by glazing bars, or moulded strips of wood. Most windows with this style of glazing are usually opened by sliding vertically, or horizontally in a style known as a Yorkshire light, sliding sash. If this is the case, and you do not mind being able to open the window, you can always apply a bead of caulking.

Plastic Film: Though not the best looking solution, a popular draft prevention technique is to use plastic film insulation, also readily available at home improvement stores. The film is applied over the entire window using double-sided foam tape, and then after the film has been cut to size and pressed onto the tape, is shrunk to remove all wrinkles and to create a seal with a simple hair dryer. The film is used to create insulation from the cold air by trapping a buffering layer of air between the window and the room.

Unnoticed Leaks: Additionally, you should consider checking windows in less used areas of your home like the basement, heated garages or utility rooms. Here where the esthetics are not important, consider blocking off the window completely. Use a piece of foam board insulation cut to fit your window and use a thin sheet of paneling slightly larger all around. Use duct tape to hold the foam against the window and then seal off the frame by screwing the wood paneling in place around the frame. Now when the seasons change and the weather warms up, you can easily remove the panel and foam to welcome in the sunshine.

Picking the right Caulking
An absolute must have for any homeowner’s toolbox is a caulk gun. And, even though there are dozens and dozens of brands of caulking labeled “multi-use”, you will achieve much better and longer lasting results if you use products specifically formulated for specific fix it up tasks. For most of your jobs, look for caulks that are water-based or at least can be cleaned up with a damp sponge or paper towel.


HELPFUL TIP: 2 Steps to Remove Silicone Caulk from your Hands
1. Since silicone is not water-based and won’t just wash away. Remove as much as you can before it dries. Silicone caulk is seriously sticky stuff, so the more you can get off of your hands before it dries, the easier it will be to get your hands completely clean. Use a tissue or paper towel and immediately wipe it away then discard the tissue or paper towel to avoid accidentally spreading it. Don’t use a fabric towel.
2. Once you wipe the excess caulk off of your hands, grab a cheap plastic bag (like a grocery bag). Rub your hands with the bag, using it like it was a washcloth. If the silicone hasn’t already dried, it will cling to the bag more readily than to your hands, removing most of the remaining caulk. If you don’t have a grocery bag handy, most trash can liner bags work well also. Courtesy of

Indoor/Outdoor: The basic choice is whether you are applying the draft stopping caulk indoors or outdoors. Are you applying the bead of caulk in the bathroom or kitchen? Look for an interior grade caulk that contains ingredients that help fight mold and mildew. For most indoor caulking jobs against smooth and/or painted surfaces, I prefer to use a colorless (clear) caulking. Clear can appear aesthetically better than mismatched shades of white. With the outside of your home in your sights, there are exterior-grade caulks for sealing up gaps between siding and flashing, and this can even be used to fix leaky seams in your gutters.

Window and Door Caulks: These tubes of draft stopper are usually formulated to easily seal up unwanted openings. Being more viscous (thicker), you can apply multiple beads and then use a wet finger to smooth out the caulk to form a neat fillet.
Concrete Sealant? What about cracks in your foundation, use this type of caulk in between cinderblocks, cracks in your basement wall, and even in driveways or sidewalks to prevent water and air from finding their way in.

Heat Resistant: Did you know there is also caulking designed to hold up against heat and to block the spread of fire? Though not intended for windows, these sealants help improve efficiency by closing off leaks from where your furnace flue enters your chimney or around the flue pipe of your fire burning stove.

Removing old caulk: In all cases, remember to clean the area where you’re applying the new caulking. And, here a little bit of grunt work may be needed, but don’t be tempted to apply new caulk over the old. The best way to remove the old cracked and dirty caulking is to pick away all you can by hand and then use an inexpensive caulking removal tool. For individual panes of glass however, check to see if they are held in place with putty. If so, do not use caulking from your gun, ask for advice from your local hardware store expert. It’s a different product and should be applied with a putty knife.
Though the beginning of the winter season is when you’ll feel those forgotten drafts in the living room, the best time to deal with leaky windows is before the cold weather sets in. Put it on you summer or autumn to-do list and get ahead of the problem. And of course, the next time you decide to pick up some caulk, don’t just look at the bottom line sale price. Determine what your specific needs are and then get the right tool for your draft-eliminating job.