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How to Fix Air Seepage from Windows

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Robin from Maryland listens to The Money Pit on WJFK and wants to talk about insulating windows.

    What’s happening, Robin? Do you see condensation? Are you freezing?

    ROBIN: Condensation and air seepage.


    TOM: Hmm, that’s not good; especially this winter.

    ROBIN: Yeah. Yeah. So I wanted to know if you have any suggestions to help alleviate some of the air seepage.

    TOM: Well, tell us about your windows right now. What kind of windows do you have?

    ROBIN: Single-pane …

    TOM: Are they wood or metal?

    ROBIN: Wood. Old wood. They’re about 40 years old.

    LESLIE: Oh.

    TOM: Well, therein lies the problem. (chuckles)

    ROBIN: (chuckles) I know. What can I do other than replace windows?

    LESLIE: Well – geez, this is going to be a hard problem. What you want to do is first go outside and make sure that the caulking around the window and around the frame is in good condition. If it’s cracked or worn in any way, use a caulk softener; get rid of it and recaulk those windows because that’ll help with the air leakage around the window frame.

    TOM: And adding a set of old-fashioned storm windows would help as well.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: But you know, the truth is by the time you buy storm windows, replacement windows today have gotten so inexpensive …

    LESLIE: And they’re so easy for you to do on your own.

    TOM: Yeah, they’re really not hard. I mean you know, a replacement window, the way it works is you essentially remove just the sliding parts, the sashes, of those old double-hung windows and you slide the replacement window inside the wood frame; except that the replacement window is made, typically, out of vinyl. It’s got thermal insulated glass – double-pane glass.

    LESLIE: Double-pane glass.

    TOM: It’s got low-e glass so you don’t have a lot of heat escape from the inside of the house in the winter time or a lot of heat get in from the summer heat. And they’re just so easy to clean; they tilt in. They’re just such a great investment today and you can buy one from, say, between $200 and $500 a window, depending on the size.

    The other thing that you can do also is to only replace one side of the house at a time. If you’re trying to do it on a budget, start on the north side of the house, follow that with the east side of the house, then do the south and the west. Because the north and the east are going to be the coldest sides of the house and that’s where you’re going to get the most energy leakage in the winter months.

    LESLIE: Also, you can invest in some good, heavyweight drapes like a big, heavy, cotton-based velvet or something that’s really weighty and lined, that’ll sort of cut that airflow that’s coming in through the glass.

    TOM: Yeah, you won’t feel the chill because as the warm air inside your house goes across that glass, it’s chilled and drops and you’ll feel a draft. You put a heavy drape up there, that will kind of cut that draft; you won’t feel it. It doesn’t really make it that much more efficient but it makes it more comfortable.

    LESLIE: Keeps it a little bit warmer.

    TOM: Yeah.

    ROBIN: So the air seepage that I’m feeling is actually where the window closes and where the window locks.

    TOM: Right. Well, you could weatherstrip those areas, too. Every place the window strikes, you could look for new weatherstripping from there. And there’s just so many different options on weatherstripping that you could add to that. There’s self-adhesive, there’s weatherstripping that tacks in place, there’s appliance gasketing. And if you have a window that you don’t use a lot – like one that you don’t open …

    LESLIE: Use that plastic sheathing.

    TOM: Well, either the plastic sheathing or you could use a peel-away, which is made by DAP. It’s a caulk but it’s a temporary caulk. And so you can essentially caulk the window shut – caulk all of those areas where there’s drafts – and then in the spring you peel the caulk away. It’s kind of like that silicone-like material that they use to stick credit cards, when you get them in the mail, to the paper. It’s like that and it doesn’t stick that well. So you put it on in the winter time, it seals up the drafts; and then in the summer time, you grab it and you peel it back.

    ROBIN: OK, and it’s called …

    TOM: Peel-away.

    ROBIN: Peel-away.

    TOM: Yep, yep. Now if they don’t have it at The Home Depot, have them special order it.

    ROBIN: Have them special order it. OK.

    TOM: OK?

    ROBIN: That’s a great idea for the winter. Yes, I appreciate that.

    LESLIE: Alright, well good luck and stay warm.

    ROBIN: Thank you very much.

    TOM: Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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