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Weatherstripping doors and windows can reduce drafty air in your home and lower utility bills. Take time to seal up leaky cracks and openings now, so you can stay warm and toasty all winter long.

Ryan McVay, Getty Images

The shortening days of autumn are a hint that winter are just around the corner. They're also our cue to start considering ways to keep the house warm and toasty -- without going broke. What's eating up your energy bill? Often, the major culprits are as simple as your home's doors and windows: prime escape routes for heat.

To better understand the financial impact of a drafty house, try this three-part exercise:

1. Take a $20 bill out of your wallet.
2. Walk over to one of those leaky windows or doors.
3. Toss the money out and let the wind carry it away.

It sounds funny, but that's essentially what's happening when you let indoor air escape through door and window openings. Combat these cracks with weatherstripping: an easy, inexpensive tool for sealing openings, staying warm, and reducing your heating bills.

Weatherize Your Home
There are a few easy ways to determine if your home needs weatherstripping. First, check for gaps around the doors and windows throughout the house. On a windy day, run your hand around the sides to feel if air is coming through. Also, look for light shining through. If you can feel air or see light, weatherstripping is needed.

Weatherstripping comes in many materials, including wood, rubber, metal and foam -- all of which are carried by most hardware stores and home centers. Different types of weatherstripping are necessary for different applications. Here are popular forms of weatherstipping that work well on both doors and windows:

Weatherstripping Windows
Different types of weatherstripping work best of different parts of a window. Below is a diagram for a double-hung window, the most common model, in which the upper and lower sashes move on a vertical track.

window, parts of a windowGetty/AOL

- Adhesive-backed foam is the easiest weatherstripping to apply, and it's very inexpensive -- a few dollars' worth covers one window. It works well when adhered to the friction-free parts of a window, such as the bottom of the lower window sash and the top of the upper sash. When sealing double-hung windows, do not install strips of foam weatherstripping in the vertical channels of the window frame. The up and down movement of the window will cause strips to peel off. For window sashes that move horizontally, place the foam strips on the vertical surface where the window closes. The foam will compress when the window shuts and block air infiltration.

Foam weatherstripping with an adhesive backing. Photo: Kathy Price-Robinson

- V-shaped vinyl strips work well for the top and sides of wood-framed windows. Durable and easy to install, this type of weatherstripping comes with a sticky adhesive backing folded along its length in a V-shape. The shape of the material creates a tension seal that bridges the gap between a window sash and the window frame. One side of the V sticks on the surface of the window frame and the other side folds in slightly as the window is closed, creating an air shield that blocks drafts.

V-shaped vinyl strips with an adhesive backing. Photo: Kathy Price-Robinson

weatherstrippingTop: Spring metal weatherstripping (Photo: Gridline Structures). Bottom: Felt weatherstripping (Photo: Sears).

- Spring-metal V-strips operate like the vinyl strips, but offer a more aesthetically pleasing appearance that can last decades. (Adhesive-backed foam is not a permanent type of weatherstripping, and needs to be replaced every one to three years.)

Because spring metal is nailed into place, installation is trickier than the self-adhesive vinyl strips.

Spring metal strips are also available in copper, aluminum, bronze or aluminum.

- Felt, while not the most attractive, is an older-fashioned type of weatherstripping that works well and is stapled, glued or nailed into pace.

Attach felt strips to the bottom of the lower sash, the top of the upper sash, and the interior sides of the upper sash to block out air. In the case of metal windows, where nailing or stapling into the frame can cause problems, weatherstripping with felt takes more finesse and may be a job better suited for a professional.

Weatherstripping Doors
For non-sliding doors, adhesive-backed foam can be attached to the door stop, the narrow strip of wood that stops the door from swinging all the way through the jamb when you close it. Foam strips provide the advantage of muffling noise from room to room, and silencing the sounds of the door closing.

Jolie Novak, AOL

Spring-metal V-strips are a more attractive form of weatherstripping for doors. When installed properly, along the sides and the top of the door frame, the strips are not visible when the door is closed. Before you install, determine if the door is hanging evenly within the frame. It will be hard to find weatherstripping that fills gaps with any consistency. Look to make sure the distance between the door and the frame is the same along all sides. If the door if not try adjusting the door. Sometimes, adjusting a door is as simple as tightening up the screws attached to the hinges.

For the bottom of the door, there are many ways to seal the gap between the threshold, the raised seal underneath the door. If the wooden threshold is worn down, consider replacing it. Use a door sweep, which attaches to the bottom of the door, to create an air block between the door and threshold. Follow these instructions to make your doors draft-free.

Weatherstripping Penetrations
Whenever the shell of the house is penetrated, there is an opportunity for conditioned air to escape. Check places where plumbing or electrical runs enter a house. It's very difficult for builders to cut the exact size hole for these penetrations, so you'll want to fill in the open area around those pipes with spray foam.

Weatherstripping Electrical Outlets
Foam gaskets are inexpensive and go behind electrical outlet covers to prevent drafty air from seeping inside the wall cavity.

Basic Weatherstripping Guidelines:
- No matter which adhesive weatherstripping you use, make sure the surface you stick it on is clean and dry.
- Weatherstripping should be applied to surfaces in temperatures above 20 degrees F.
- Apply weatherstripping tightly against both surfaces. The material should compress when the window or door is shut.


Install a Replacement Window
Fall Maintenance: Clean Your Fireplace
Weatherize Your Home (U.S. Department of Energy)

  • Rhonda

    First time at your site.. lovin it :-) One teeny lil problem.. you left out Illinois... :-(
    I see Chgo. but I'm not too close to Chgo. can you add Illinois? More towns?
    Thanks to you and your staff, for sharing all your ideas..
    signed.. never too old to learn :-)

  • 1 Comments / 1 Pages

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