Tips for Winterizing Your Windows and Doors
When frigid weather blankets the area, there’s nothing quite as cozy as settling in for a night at home. If you want to keep your house toasty warm, winterizing the windows and doors can be your first line of defense. Not only will you appreciate the warmth, you’ll also love the fact that your home is now more energy efficient, saving you money while helping the environment.
Tips You Can Use to Winterize Both Windows and Doors
Check the glass. Make sure your glass panes are in good shape. If you discover cracked or broken glass, replace the panes and feel confident that they’re now doing their job all year long.
Add insulation. If you can access the area behind the window or door trim, adding batt insulation or spray foam insulation can stop air from sneaking in. If you opt for spray foam, look for the kind that’s made to be used with doors and windows. If you use batt insulation, don’t overstuff the area, it works best when it’s gently inserted and “fluffy.”
Add weather stripping. Both doors and windows can be weather stripped for added protection from drafts and cold weather. There are different types of weather stripping, so make sure you’re using the right stuff for your needs. The following suggestions will help you make a smart weather stripping purchase.
- Allow for movement. Will you be weather stripping the bottom of a door or window sashes? Both of these areas are prime spots for drafts but they need to be able to move freely.
- Customized requirements. Different areas of your home may need different types of weather stripping. Don’t adopt one standard without carefully reviewing each location.
- Does appearance matter? If you’re concerned about how the weather stripping looks, then a more expensive vinyl or metal solution might be your best bet. They look better and can last longer too.
- Is it permanent? Felt and open-cell foam is not as effective as vinyl or metal, but it’s inexpensive and easy to apply, so it can be a great temporary solution.
- More than one solution. Try pairing different types of weather stripping together. You may just come up with a creative solution that’s super-effective and attractive.
- Follow manufacturer instructions. To get the best results, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for use and instructions for application.
Caulk around windows and doors. Caulk is inexpensive and a few tubes goes a long way. There is some skill involved with caulking and it might take a little while for you to develop the technique. Get the best look and results by using the following tips.
- Pick the right caulk. For windows and doors (and even siding) a polyurethane caulk is best because it’s paintable, doesn’t shrink, it sticks better and doesn’t attract dust and dirt.
- Clean the area. Scrape off any old caulk or peeling paint and wipe away debris from the area so you’re starting with a clean, smooth surface.
- Let surface dry. If you used a wet rag to clean off the dust and debris, give the area a little time to thoroughly dry before you start caulking.
- Use painter’s tape. This isn’t a necessary step, but if you’re new to the task and want perfection, painter’s tape can help. Just remember to remove the tape immediately after you have smoothed out the caulk, you don’t want it permanently stuck there.
- Start in a “hidden” area. Since this takes a little practice, start somewhere that isn’t easily seen — just so you can get the feel for it. You’ll be caulking like a pro in no time.
- Push, don’t pull. The caulk works best if you can push it into the gap — not just drag it. By pushing it into the gap, it works its way into the crack and does a better job.
- Use a plastic spoon. You can try using a caulking tool to smooth out the caulk, but a wet plastic spoon is a great alternative. No matter what it is that you use though, remember to keep a little cup of fresh water and a rag nearby. You’ll want to keep the “smoother” damp and clean. Polyurethane caulks work best with a tool or spoon — save your finger for water-based caulk.
Ways to Winterize Your Windows
While the tips above work great for both windows and doors, there are some solutions that are specifically designed for winterizing windows. Let’s see how those stack up and you can decide which option is best for your situation.
Install storm windows. If your windows came with storms, then you probably already know the process of installing them in winter and taking them out so you can put your screens back in nice weather. But if your windows didn’t come with storm windows, you can purchase new ones and add them at any time to help you tackle stubborn drafts.
Window insulator kits. Many people swear by seasonal window insulator kits. They can actually do a good job of keeping out drafts and for the price they can’t be beat. Not to mention, it’s a super quick and easy fix.
Thermal window fashions. Heavy, thermally-lined drapes block breezes very effectively, which is why they’ve been a favorite solution for so long. They cost more than plastic insulator kits but you can re-use them year after year. Hang them as close as you can to the windows for the best results and enjoy the look of new drapes!
Cellular shades. If you like the idea of a window treatment that helps keep your home insulated, but don’t like the look of thermal drapes or you want something to use year-round, try cellular shades. They have a more versatile look and can be custom ordered to fit your windows perfectly.
Cover basement window wells. If you have basement windows with wells, a great way to increase energy efficiency in your home is to cap those wells with covers. They will save you both energy and money by trapping in heat and preventing drafts. They can also block moisture from seeping in and causing other concerns.
Reinforce your windows. Have drafty double-hung windows? If they have a single sash lock in the middle you can optimize the fit and secure it better with two sash locks. Remove the original sash lock and then reinstall it about a third of the way in on one side and add the new sash lock one a third of the way in on the other side. You’ve just added more security to your home and locked out air leaks.
Buy new windows. Buying energy efficient windows is clearly a more expensive solution to a winter chill but, in the long run, it might be an investment that’s worth it. If air leaks are your primary frustration, look for new windows with a low air leakage rating — it means they have a tighter window seal. It’s also a good idea to look for windows that are ENERGY STAR rated. It’s estimated that replacing old windows with ENERGY STAR certified ones can lower household energy bills by an average of 12% nationwide and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Bubble wrap quick fix. If you live in a warm climate that doesn’t see many cold weather snaps, you might be looking for a quick fix for a day or two. If so, grab the bubble wrap! If you have gaps between your windows and the frame, use a butter knife or putty knife to slip bubble wrap into the crack to fill it. Don’t put the bubble wrap away yet. Now you’ll want to cut a piece the size of the glass pane. Spritz the glass with water and gently press-apply the bubble wrap with the bubble side toward the window. This gives you an almost-instant solution that’s perfect for a surprise chill.
Ways to Winterize Your Doors and Stop Drafts
Of course, if there are specific tips for winterizing windows then there have to be tips for winterizing doors, too. Doors can be a little more difficult because most of them still need to function in the winter months, but we do have some tips that you can try on your doors.
Use the deadbolt. How’s this for a tip — it’s easy and free! Using the deadbolt pulls the door tight and strengthens the seal.
Add a draft guard. Don’t want to buy a draft guard? You can roll up an old towel or even a blanket to keep that breeze from slipping in under the door.
Install door gaskets. While rubber weather stripping is a form of simple gasket, you can go even further with stop mounted gaskets. These aluminum extrusions are mounted to the stop molding of the door frame or to the frame itself. This provides a more secure seal that can be adjusted as needed, rubber gaskets can’t be modified after they’re installed. If you already have gaskets, check to see if they can be adjusted to make the seal even better.
Pay attention to windows. If your door has a window in it, make sure it’s not the cause of your drafts. If so, follow the steps for caulking and winterizing windows to add some winter protection.
Add a storm door. Adding a storm door can be a good investment if you have an older door that’s no longer doing a good job of insulating you from the weather.
Buy a new door. If your home is older, it might be a good financial decision, to simply swap the old doors with newer, energy efficient models. Look for doors with higher R-values. The R-value refers to the door’s capacity to resist heat flow. This basically means its ability to insulate. While new doors can be expensive, they can also save you money on heating and cooling costs. You can also choose a more durable, secure model for safety.
Upgrade your pet door. Do your pets enjoy the freedom of going in and out at their leisure? Don’t forget to check your pet door for drafts! Consider replacing your old pet door with an all-weather variety that’s designed to let your pet in and out while maintaining a weather-tight seal when not in use.
With all these winter weatherizing tips, your home will feel so comfy-cozy you’ll never want to leave. Of course there are more ways to protect your home. It’s a great idea to check with your American Family Insurance agent to conduct a homeowners insurance review, just to make sure you’re as protected as you want to be.