seals for the bottom of the door come in two main forms—a vinyl
“bulb” seal that attaches to the threshold, or a “sweep” that attaches
to the bottom interior face of the door. Bulb seals require
slightly more skills, but even at that basic hand-tools are all that's
needed… usually a small handsaw, screwdriver and scissors.
Remove the rubber bulb seal from its framework, and measure and cut
the frame to fit over the threshold of the door. Secure it down
with the supplied screws. Then measure and trim the rubber or
vinyl bulb seal to the correct length and reattach in the frame—usually a simple press fit.
time-honored way to attack the problem is with a sweep seal.
There are many kinds available including rubber and vinyl, and one
that looks like thousands of short nylon broom bristles. A
rubber or vinyl sweep is usually used for residential applications.
The seals attach in one of two ways, a screw-on vinyl or metal strip
which holds the rubber or vinyl sweep in place, or a self-adhesive
backing… a simple trim to fit, peel and stick application. A
bulb seal might take 30 minutes or more to install, while a
peel-n-stick sweep seal can be installed in five minutes or less.
step is to assure you're not losing heat or gaining cold air through a
poorly-fitted door or window frame. The steps for installing a
window or door have improved tremendously in the past several decades.
Rubberized adhesive membranes and better replacement door and window
designs allow an installer to really “button up” a window or door into
a wall nowadays. Most older openings in walls were not installed
with such attention to potential air leaks around the perimeter.
resealing a door or window is not as fast or easy as adding a
self-adhesive foam strip or sweep to the bottom of the door, taking
the extra steps will pay in big dividends in cost savings from this
point forward. Here's what I suggest. Start by removing
either the exterior or interior trim around a door or window.
Either way the main concern is always that the trim will split where
it is nailed in place. Work with a small pry bar and slowly work
your way along the length of the trim pieces. Once the trim is
removed set it aside in a safe place. Now look between the door
frame and wall framing. What is there? If your house is old or
exceptionally draft it's likely you won't find anything by air hanging
out in there, and a few nails or screws holding the door frame in
Generally the best
winterization bang for your buck is attic insulation.
Installing more roll insulation is simple. Measure, cut the
insulation with a utility knife, and lay it in place.
two approaches here. The first is to loosely stuff the open area
with batton insulation. You don't want to tightly wad insulation
into a hole. It is much more effective if left loosely packed,
but be sure to see that it touches all edges. The other option,
which I thoroughly enjoy, is filling those open areas with expanding
spray foam. Several companies manufacture the spray-able foam in
disposable cans, and it comes in regular or “high fill”. You
must use caution when filling a boxed in area with high fill foam
because the expansion from it's normal chemical reaction can
potentially flex boards and cause a door or window to bind. But
if you have trim from one side or another of the door or window frame
removed you can fill the entire crevice with foam and let the excess
expand outside the opening.
foam had had a chance to set up, use a knife or hacksaw blade to trim
off the excess flush with the door or window frame. Reattach the
facing trim and you have a perfectly-sealed perimeter to block out the
scavenging cold air.
Newer homes usually have
double or triple-pane vinyl or metal clad windows. The air gap
between the multiple layers is filled with a gas which displaces
oxygen and aids in heating and cooling and ultraviolet protection.
Many older homes will have single-pane windows, likely set in wood
frames. There's little in the way of aid for help in cooling or
heating … except maybe to cool in the winter and heat in the summer.
A single pane of glass serves as a heat sink, reaching an average of
the temperatures both on the inside and outside. It wicks cold
to the hot side, and heat to the cold side. And most old windows
also suffer from dried out and cracked glazing which held the glass
panes in the wooden frames anyway.
Single pane or other drafty
windows can be made more efficient by installing a temporary
plastic insulation kit.
answer to less drafty windows for years was the addition of storm
windows. First in aluminum and then later vinyl frames, storm
windows provided a first line of defense against the winter's cold,
and a screen window to keep vermin out when windows were opened in the
summertime prior to today's practice of using central air cooling and
never letting the fresh air in.
with single glass windows with the benefit of storm windows you'll
want to make sure the lower glass is down and in place for the winter.
While nowhere near as efficient as dual pane windows, having that
second glass as a wind break can make a significant difference.
Removing and replacing window glazing compound is more of a handyman
skill than a easy homeowner fix, but if you're handy and your windows
are falling into disrepair you might want to familiarize yourself with
the relatively easy fix. A lesser temporary fix is to closely
examine the entire window and fill any cracks or gaps around the glass
panes with exterior-grade caulk. The repairs will not look as
original or smooth as glazing compound, but will keep out drafts and
keep in heat.
low-cost window winterization step that anyone can do is a plastic
sheet shrinkable film such as the ones made popular by 3M corporation.
The only tool required to apply the film, which becomes akin to an
additional pane of glass, is a pair of scissors or sharp knife and a
tape measure or ruler. Start by measuring the size of the window
frame. Now cut the sheet of clear film one inch larger than the
frame. Next, apply the double-sided tape to the window frame,
then starting at the top apply the film and work downward keeping it
taunt. A better looking fit can be had by applying heat to the
face of the film with an electric handheld hair dryer. Films can
be applied to the exterior of the window as another option.
While not the most visually appealing, the temporary window
applications can offer significant savings for only a few dollars
each. One window film can be installed in 10 to 20 minutes start
Exterior Surfaces: The next step is
addressing any cracks or gaps found in the siding, soffits or
roofline. Small gaps in wood sheet goods or board and batten
exterior can be patched with wood putty. Gaps where vinyl siding
meets other surfaces can often be repaired by slightly shifting the
siding pieces. Normally vinyl siding is merely a cosmetic
covering anyway. The walls will either have a layer of foam
insulation or an older layer of siding beneath. When installed
properly vinyl siding trim assures moisture is kept out. If your
siding was not installed properly and there are gaps where walls
intersect or the siding meets other materials such as masonry flues,
you might consider using exterior-grade caulk to seal the openings.
winterization measures discussed so far, all can be done by a
homeowner with minimal skills or tools required. The final
winterization measure mentioned so far requires more skill and is best
left to a handyman or other carpenter. Flashing repairs around
flues and chimneys and where differing roof angles meet should be left
to someone with the proper tools and know-how. Fortunately the
country is rich with handymen and neighbors who possess all kinds of
fix-it skills. Many will do small jobs for honest pay, or even
trade skills for other labor or goods.
Winterization Measures: With the
exterior better sealed, now it's time to turn your attention to the
interior. There area several simple, inexpensive things you can
do to save on heating costs. The next several suggestions are
listed in no particular order, but all are good ideas to address.
more insulation in the attic—One of the best investments in
winterization (best because you can get good returns for the
investment) is adding more attic insulation. I know, reading the
labels of insulation packages can be mind-boggling. But it
doesn't have to be. Just know that more is usually better.
You should have a minimum of a foot (12 inches) if insulation in the
attic laying on the top of the ceiling.
many things, the higher the insulating properties (the larger “R”
value) the higher the cost will be. But do what you can afford,
keeping in mind that anything is better than nothing, and more is
better than a little. Just remember that when you lay out the
insulation it should be snug to the exterior walls to eliminate any
air gaps. And insulation works best if not packed too tight.
It should maintain nearly the same “fluff” it has when unrolled from
the package. Cutting and installing can be done with a utility
knife and tape measure.
Electrical receptacles—any openings in exterior walls, even openings
on the interior side only, can let in cold air from inside the walls.
Electrical outlet and switch boxes are cut into walls, often with
small gaps between the boxes and interior wall covering. Those
gaps can be a quarter-inch wide. A typical box is 4-by-2 inches.
That quarter-inch gap around the perimeter is equal to a 1-by-3 inch
hole in your wall. Let's say your home has 10 outlets or
switches on exterior walls. All total, that's equivalent to a
5-by-6 inch hole in the interior wall letting cold air in. You'd
certainly want to patch that hole, wouldn't you? Well you can for
The initial steps are
taking to seal up the exterior, turn your attention to assuring
pipes are wrapped as needed.
stores and home centers sell outlet gaskets, thin foam rectangles that
sit behind the faceplate of a switch or receptacle and insulate the
gap between the box and surrounding wall board. Installing them
is the easiest repair discussed yet. Simply remove the cover
plate of the outlet or switch, slip the foam gasket in place, and
replace the cover. It's that simple but can really save you from
heating unwanted outside air.
lines: In many cases wrapping water lines with insulation is
unnecessary. But if the crawlspace of a home is not sealed up—such as a mobile home with inadequate underpinning—or a water line
runs along an exterior wall of the foundation, then you might want to
consider covering it with insulation or installing a heat tape.
case of the example home mentioned in this story, the homeowner, this
author, made a major engineering mistake while rerouting water lines
one summer day several years ago during the kitchen remodel and snaked
the water lines for the faucet and dishwasher along an exterior
footing in an area that has only about two inches of clearance between
the soil and bottom of the floor joists. The next winter I
discovered, to my own dismay, that when the temperature dropped below
15 degrees outside for more than 24 hours or so that my water lines,
both hot and cold, would freeze.
were not wrapped with insulation or a heat tape. They sit just
inches in from the concrete footing and practically lay on top of the
ground. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the
cold wicks through the soil and quickly reaches the PVC pipes.
After a few freeze instances early that first winter I temporarily
removed a couple siding boards from the exterior wall and insulated
the pipes as best as possible with little space to work. The
afterthought fix has helped considerably, but during prolonged times
with temperatures hovering around 5 Fahrenheit or less I am sure to
leave that particular faucet dripping as a precaution. Never run
water lines along exterior walls if it can possibly be avoided! Simple
stuff a plumber would know, but not a novice first-time homeowner.
furnace clean—Replace the furnace filter regularly. Although
it sound simple, how many people actually do it religiously? Not the
people I know, anyway. But it pays to create a routine of
switching out filters on a regular basis. Old houses seem to
manufacture dust at a rapid rate, so I switch out my furnace filters
every month. In a newer, less productive dust factory that might
only be required once or twice a heating season. But find what
works best for your furnace and then mark a reminder on a calendar.
with a combination of an electric furnace during mild fall and spring
days, and a wood furnace during hard winter. At the end of each
heating season I clean the ashes from my wood furnace and coat the
interior of the firebox with a film of used oil. I tie a rag to
a stick and use it as a mop to apply the oil. It keeps down the
likelihood of rust forming during summer when heating and cooling can
create moisture on metal surfaces. I also sweep my chimney good
at the same time. Come wood heating season I climb on the roof
and make a visual inspection of the flue with a flashlight to assure
birds have not built a nest in the pipe. Then I'm ready to fire
the furnace for the season. The amount of oil I use in the
spring for coating the firebox is only a half a quart or so at little
cost. I bought my chimney brush and fiberglass cleaning rods to
attach it to several years ago, and I intend to use the same setup
until I'm too old to keep up with a woodstove.
Other steps that can keep
heating costs down include keeping your heat source maintained.
For wood burning stoves or furnaces that means a clean flue. A
brush and cleaning rods are generally a one-time purchase that
will last year after year.
the ceiling fans—Most ceiling fans have a small switch near the
bottom that allow the user to reverse the electric motor. In the
summertime the blades should be turning counter-clockwise, drawing
heat up and away from center of the room. In the winter the
blades should turn clockwise, pushing the warmer air (hot air rises,
remember that from high school science class) downward and causing it
to recirculate through the room.
gutters and yard debris—One last winterization tip is to take time
and clean out the gutters after the last leaves have fallen and before
winter's dampness starts freezing ice on the roof. Clean gutters
and downspouts will not necessarily keep your home warmer in winter,
but it will certainly make it last longer. Winter involves lots
of water—rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow—all of which needs an
easy way to get off your roof and away from your home's exterior.
look to make sure any landscaping you might have done during the
summer months hasn't created drainage issues around the foundation.
Adding a flower bed or regrading a section of lawn can cause runoff to
divert toward the house instead of away. Check immediately after
a heavy fall or early winter rain for signs of water pooling near the
can really be trying, and especially to a homeowner. But by
taking the initiative to correct a few minor concerns and staying on
top of any issues, you can have a warm, inviting oasis from Old Man
Winter's foul breath. Robert Byrne is credited for saying
“Winter is nature's way of saying 'Up yours'.” But by following
these helpful tips just discussed you can have the final say in how
winter treats you.