said, start by looking for leaks. As you progress around the
house multiple times checking the different components – foundation,
windows, doors, siding, soffits, roof, etc. – carry a notebook
and list all concerns. You're not going to be fixing as you go,
and if you rely on your memory to recall what all needs tightened up
at a later time I can assure you'll miss a few things.
Once you've inspected doors
and windows, turn your attention to gaps or cracks in the siding
or other exterior materials.
rule is that heat rises and cold settles. While cold air will
enter around a window or soffit, let's start at the bottom and work
up. Inspect the foundation. Look for cracks or gaps.
Check any built-in vents to assure they are closed for the season.
Foundation vents with screens can be left open in summer to allow cool
air to reach the crawlspace and help cool the floors. Leaving
them open in cold weather can mean cold feet and indoor heat robbed
through absorption through the floorboards. Also check close
where different sections of the foundation intersect at corners.
later on we'll discuss winterization of plumbing beneath the floor,
but for now we're only looking for heat-robbing exterior concerns.
inspect windows and doors. Look for visible gaps around facings
and sills. At the same time check for gaps in doors where the
actual door meets the jamb. Inspect windows where the upper and
lower panes meet in the middle. If the drapes move when the wind
blows then you've got a leak. Another way to check is to move a
lighter or burning candle, or even better a lit incense stick, along
an inch or so from the sealed edges of windows and doors on a windy
day and look for the flame or smoke being pushed about by an otherwise
undetectable breeze. While these gaps might be small, even
invisible on first inspection, the amount of heat they can rob from a
home is unbelievable.
Look at soffits and the
roofline. Here a facing board was replaced to seal a hole made by
no mystery that single-pane windows are robbers of heat. A
double, or better triple, pane window has a gas-filled air gap that
provides a buffer between the cold outer pane and warm inter pane on a
winter day. A single pane window is little more than a hole in
your wall. It might not let the wind or rain through, but the
glass will constantly be wicking the indoor heat out and the outdoor
cold in. Still, for many reasons a homeowner can find himself or
herself working with the older, less-efficient windows – you cannot
afford new replacement windows, used single pane windows were within
your budget while building your home, or you choose to keep the old
windows for aesthetic reasons. If you choice of dwelling is a
temporary or portable structure you might have opted to install
cheaper “storm” windows as a starting point. A quality
double-pane, vinyl-framed replacement window can start at $200 and go
up from there. Later we'll talk about the cheap way to add a
second “pane” to your single windows to dramatically save on heat
Most winterization steps
can be accomplished with inexpensive materials and a few basic
hand tools. From caulk for cracks and gaps, to replacement felt or
gaskets for doors or windows, the homeowner can accomplish most
repairs and save on winter heating costs.
comes looking at the siding or whatever covers the exterior of your
dwelling. Whether it be 4x8 sheet goods, board and batten, wood
or vinyl siding, brick or stone, any exterior can have leaks… whether
due to poor quality installation, or shifting or shrinkage of an older
surface. Wood products dry and shrink over time. Moisture
can gather in mortar between bricks or stones and freeze and
eventually open up gaps. Vinyl siding ultimately becomes brittle
after years of ultra violent and weather exposure. Transition
areas between two exterior surfaces, even with proper flashing, can
open over time and create a crack or even a gap.
check the roofline. Look for gaps between wall covering and
soffits. Look for missing or damaged shingles, or openings along
flashing around vents or flues. Chances are if you have flashing
problems you've already seen signs by way or water stains or actual
dripping during heavy rain or snow or ice thaws. But remember
that heat rises, so any problems with the roof or flashing fit can
result in warmth escaping upward.
Sealing around framed
windows and doors can be accomplished with ease using expanding
Address The List
list made of possible concerns it's time to simply start at the top of
the page and address each entry. It makes sense at this point to
create a shopping list. Yes, you'll likely have to make return
trips to the hardware store. But you can collect most of what
you'll need on the first visit. When it comes time to actually
address your winterization concerns you will want to buy the supplies
first, but since this is an informational article I'll move ahead with
explaining the simple, do-it-yourself fixes needed for each area.
I'll include a sample shopping list later on.
Foundation: Visible cracks in mortar between stones (blocks,
brick, etc.) or concrete walls - Compound, caulk or grout… those are
the top three choices. Of the three, grout would be considered
the most permanent repair but is primarily for horizontal cracks only.
It's hard to adhere grout to a vertical crack and keep it in place
until it dries. Most likely the cracks you find in a foundation
will be vertical or close to it. That said, look for “crack
filler” compound or an exterior-grade latex caulk. Compound can
be added to foundation cracks with a putty knife or clean paint stir
stick. Work to press the material deep into the crack instead of
simply smearing it over the surface. You want to eliminate any
places for water to pool and freeze deep in the crack.
comes in a tube and can be easily applied by snipping the end off the
applicator on the tube and then squeezing the contents out using a
caulk gun. Caulk is usually much more pliable than compound for
the first several minutes, and can easily be shot into deep cracks for
complete penetration. Regardless of the method you use, spread
enough material on the surface of the crack to not allow any water or
ice to find its way back in. Caulk will need to be replaced
every year or two, while a good grout or compound repair can last from
a few years to permanent. Whichever option you choose, make sure
the surface of the material around the crack is clean to promote good
you're buttoning up things down below, make sure any foundation vents
are closed for the season. And look to see if there's some way
to add an extra layer of insulation in front of or behind the vents to
help block cold air.