Sealing Windows

Owners of older homes that still have their original windows are often dismayed by the amount of cold air leaking through those old windows during the winter. There are several ways of dealing with this problem that don't involve a lot of time or money.

One option involves using a caulk gun and "weatherstripping caulk sealant" or "temporary" caulking to seal up the cracks between the window and window frame. Weatherstripping sealant is caulk that is designed to stick in place nearly as well as regular caulk but can be peeled off when it is no longer needed. It is available inexpensively in regular caulk tubes and comes in a clear color. It is nearly invisible when in place and removes easily without damaging either paint or clear finishes.

One drawback to temporarily caulking windows is that once the caulk is in place, the window can't be opened without destroying the seal. This could pose a problem if, for instance, there is a day when you'd like to open the windows to take advantage of a warm breeze. Of course, you could peel the caulk off and then reapply it when the weather turns cool again. But it's better to wait until you're sure there will be no more warm days.

Several lightweight plastic, disposable, interior "storm window systems" are also on the market and are effective in keeping out cold drafts and increasing the insulative value of a window assembly. These kits consist of double-stick tape that is applied to the trim casing around the window, and lightweight plastic sheeting that is pressed onto the tape. Once the plastic is in place, a hair dryer is blown across the surface of the sheeting, causing the plastic to shrink and remove the wrinkles. Like caulking windows shut, this system is best used once you're pretty sure you won't be opening the windows for a couple of months.

While plastic interior storm window kits are effective in helping to prevent heat loss through windows, they are noticeable and might look out of place in formal areas of your home.

Storm Windows

Storm windows can play a key part in your energy-saving plans. They act as a wind buffer, and the air trapped between the storms and the prime windows acts as insulation. In addition, storm windows protect the prime windows from the weather, which can extend the time between paint jobs required on the house.

Older homes are often equipped with heavy wooden storm windows that need to be put up in the fall and taken down in the spring when they are usually replaced with wooden-framed screens. Newer options, and a worthy upgrade to wooden storm windows, include permanently installed aluminum or vinyl storms, which self-store the window glazing and screens. Instead of lugging large storm windows up and down a ladder twice a year, you can simply open each prime window from the inside and slide the glazing or screen portions up or down. This reconfigures the storm window depending on the season.

Many people choose to remove the lightweight screen portion of the storm window during the winter, preferring to look only through window glass instead of screening.

Not only is the window glass more aesthetically pleasing, but without a screen in place sunlight can also shine more directly into the house, allowing you to benefit from solar heating.

Another advantage to having storm windows installed on your house is that the extra layer of glazing cuts down on neighborhood and traffic noise. And storms keep out dust and dirt that otherwise might filter in through leaky prime windows.

Securing windows isn't enough to block drafts. It's also important to check how well your sidewall insulation is holding up. We'll show you how in the next section.