How to Weatherize Your Home
Time Required: Under 2 hours
Weather stripping and caulking around windows and doors are small projects that can have a big impact on how much energy – and money – you can save throughout the year. DIYers of any skill level can take on these easy updates and increase the energy-efficiency of their home.
This guide will teach you a few small projects you can tackle now to prepare your home for cooler weather.
Tools & Materials
- Homes, whether new or old, often have cracks and openings around doors and windows. These gaps are a major source of heat loss and can account for up to one-third of your home’s overall heating cost.
- Apply caulk and weather stripping around your doors and windows to prevent this heat loss. Here’s an easy way to detect leaks around doors and windows in your home:
- On a windy day, turn off your A/C unit and close all the doors and windows.
- Turn on any bath fans and stove vents in your home.
- Then, standing outside your home, light a stick of incense and pass it along the edges of your doors and windows.
- Wherever the smoke is sucked out or blown into the room, there’s a leak.
- There are several basic types of caulking compounds available including latex, silicone, polyurethane, and hybrid formulas.
- Most caulking products come in a 10-ounce cartridge and are applied with a caulking gun. You can also find latex and silicone products in smaller squeeze tube sizes if you don’t want to use a caulking gun or if a smaller amount of product is needed for your job.
- Remove any older caulking with a utility knife or scraper, also cleaning away any dirt and debris from the area. Allow the surface to dry.
- Load the caulk gun by pulling back the plunger and placing the tube of caulk into the chamber, bottom end first. Squeeze the trigger until it makes contact with the tube.
- Cut the tip to your desired bead size at an angle, using the pin on the caulk gun to puncture the seal if needed. Apply pressure by squeezing the gun until the product makes its way to the end of the nozzle.
- Holding the gun at a 45-degree angle to ensure the gap is covered, squeeze the trigger as you push the gun away from your body to ensure that you are using enough caulk to fill your gap.
- When finished, release the trigger at the end of the seam, pushing the tip of the nozzle into the corner to cut off the strip of caulk and twist slightly as you lift the nozzle. Make sure to cap the top of the nozzle as most caulks can be stored and reused at a future time.
- There are a variety of methods you can use to smooth the caulk, ranging from running your finger along the bead to using a professional caulk tool for optimal results. The type of caulk you use may also impact the method used to smooth the product.
- Use weather stripping around your doors and windows to keep air from entering your home. Use foam tape, V-strips, felt and door sweeps to help your home stay comfortable and save energy.
- To determine the type of weather stripping that will be the most effective in the area you are trying to seal, consider the amount of friction it will have to withstand, exposure to weather, and any cosmetic concerns you may have with it being seen.
- Adhesive-backed foam tape is sold in rolls in varying widths and thicknesses with a sticky back. Just cut it to the desired length and apply it to the top and bottom of window sashes or inside door frames.
- V-strip, also known as tension seal, is a durable plastic or metal strip folded into a V shape that springs open to bridge gaps. You can cut it to length and either peel and stick it or nail it along the sides of double-hung or sliding windows.
- Felt is another great choice for weather stripping around a door or window sash, or in the door jamb. Felt is easily nailed or stapled in place, and it compresses to allow smooth movement of doors and windows.
- For the base of doors and windows, the top or bottom of a window sash, or between a door and its jamb, tubular rubber is an effective air barrier. Made up of a narrow sponge rubber or vinyl tubing sometimes attached to a wood or metal mounting strip, tubular rubber comes peel and stick or can be fastened with screws through slot holes.
- Any well-sealed door requires door sweeps. Door sweeps are flat or U-shaped pieces of plastic, aluminum or stainless steel fitted with a strip of nylon, plastic, vinyl or a sponge brush to fill the space between the door and the threshold. Cut it to your door's width and install it along the bottom of the interior side of the door with screws. Door sweeps keep cool air and heat in and insects and other unwelcomed visitors out.
Tip: Before you install any insulation, remove any dirt or grease from the pipes with a rag and mild cleanser, and allow the pipes to completely dry.
- One of the best ways to protect the plumbing system of your home is to insulate your pipes. This helps keep your hot water pipes warm and prevents water from freezing and bursting pipes in cold temperatures.
- Fiberglass pipe wrap can be used in high-heat areas where tubular insulation shouldn’t be used, such as near furnaces and water heaters. It’s also suitable for pipes with many bends and turns.
- To apply the fiberglass pipe wrap, unroll it with the foil side facing upward. Slightly overlap the wrap as you go to ensure the pipe is fully covered, even around corners and complex angles. Don’t wrap it too tightly. Secure the ends of your wrap with acrylic tape or duct tape.
- Tubular pipe insulation, or pipe sticks, come in a variety of sizes and are useful for copper and iron pipes with long, straight runs. Measure your pipes to determine the appropriate sized pipe sticks to use for them.
- Some pipe sticks come pre-slit with an adhesive so you can conveniently slip it around pipes and seal the opening. Pipe sticks made of polyethylene foam are firm, whereas rubber foam pipe sticks are flexible. Rubber foam sticks are more durable, and are useful for lines connecting to refrigerators and air conditioners. To apply pipe sticks, dry fit and cut them to the length of your pipes. Carve out spaces for valves and tee joints.
- If you’re installing polyethylene foam pipe sticks, use tee foam connectors and elbow foam connectors to insulate corners and complex angles. Secure the pipe sticks with acrylic tape or duct tape.
- When measuring the pipe sticks, look for the R-value on the package. The R-value is the measure of thermal resistance, or the ability of insulation to resist air from passing through it. The higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation is in keeping hot water pipes warm and cold water pipes cool.
To help maintain your pipe insulation:
- Disconnect your garden hoses.
- Use caulking to seal any cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes.
- Allow a slow trickle of water to flow through faucets connected to pipes in unheated areas. If you plan to be away from your home during the cold season, consider draining your water system.
- Check on your pipe insulation regularly to make sure it is in good condition and that it fully covers your pipes.
Safety: Fiberglass has small glass particles that could break off. In addition to safety glasses and work gloves, wear a dust mask and a long-sleeve shirt for added protection.
- Doors and windows are the primary place you’ll want to check for air leaks, but there are a few other areas around the house also worth checking.
- Around attic stairs: If you have pull-down stairs that lead up to your attic, the back cover that holds the stairs in place once folded tends to have a gap between itself and the ceiling. Weather stripping around the edges of the back cover will keep the untreated attic air from entering the temperature-controlled areas of your home.
- Fireplaces: If your home has an active fireplace, consider using a glass door surround. With one-piece construction, it’s designed as a surface mount that sits outside the fireplace against a flat surface.
- Outdoor spigot/faucets: Using slip-on outdoor spigot/faucet covers protects your exposed pipes and valves against freezing and drafts from entering through faucet cutouts.
- Electrical outlets and switches: Using a foam insulation kit for electrical outlets and wall plates will reduce drafts that can enter your home for walls that are exposed to exterior elements on one side.
- Your attic and the floor above your basement: Make sure your attic and the floor above your basement has enough insulation. Depending on where you live, match up the amount of insulation in your attic and floor to the R-values assigned to your region. If your number comes up short, add the appropriate amount of insulation to ensure proper coverage.