Home Inspection Tips – Inspect your Weatherstripping
When it comes to keeping your house warm in the winter months and cooler in the heat of summer, weatherstripping is a necessary task. Weatherstripping simply refers to sealing gaps around doors, windows, and garage doors. Even if your home was weatherstripped when it was built or redone recently, it is still a good idea to periodically inspect your weatherstripping.
Over time, gaps can occur which means your house will be leaking out colder air in the summer months and hot air in the winter. In fact, if you inspect your weatherstripping and ensure it is working as expected, you could save anywhere from 10-15% on future energy bills.
The key to weatherstripping a home correctly is to know what types of materials to use and how to use them. This breakdown provides information on how to best weatherstrip a home using one or more of the common types listed below.
Everything You Need to Know About Weatherstripping
Have you ever walked by a window and felt a nasty draft? Maybe you ran to find a bathrobe or blanket to save yourself from getting goosebumps. As uncomfortable as these currents can be, they can also increase your energy bill and wreak havoc on your home. Plus, if you ignore these air leaks long enough, they will become bigger and more expensive to fix.
Luckily, weatherstripping can effectively seal up gaps and cracks to protect you and your home from the elements. Here is how to inspect your weatherstripping to figure out where drafts are coming from, determine what materials you can use to plug them, and ways to install them so they last a long time.
What Causes Drafts?
Various factors can cause your home to develop air leaks and drafts, even if you do not notice any when you first move in. Wood and metal, which comprise most door and window frames, expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. Eventually, this cycle can cause materials to crack and warp.
Expansion can also create friction between surfaces that fit together tightly. Over time, this will wear down wood and create gaps that allow enough room for air exchange. While you might not see them, you can easily feel them in the form of drafts, especially during the colder months.
If you own or hope to buy a newly built home, you must also prepare to weatherstrip and seal up gaps. These days, designers and construction workers tend to prioritize sustainability and energy efficiency. However, even the greenest homes settle over time and end up with gaps around frames and sashes. Therefore, regardless of how old or new your home is, it’s important to look for and detect leaks in the building envelope.
Detecting Air Leaks
If you have detected a few drafts in your home, you may already be aware of where some air leakage occurs. However, there might be additional nooks and crannies you have not noticed. These cracks and gaps continuously let treated air escape your home while allowing the outside air in. This exchange can minimize your efficiency and increase your utility bills.
Therefore, it is essential to locate air leaks and seal them as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Hire a qualified technician or energy auditor to get the most accurate air leakage measurement in your home. Otherwise, you can inspect your weatherstripping using a few different techniques identified below.
Feel Around for Leaks
One of the easiest ways to determine where air is escaping and entering your home is to feel around your windows and doors. Place your hand near the frame and take note of any cold drafts. You might even notice that your window panes radiate warmth or give off a chill. In this case, you will need to apply more than weatherstripping. However, this initial test is an excellent way to figure out where you might need more insulation.
Dollar Bill Test
Because you are warm-blooded, it is easier to detect cold drafts than it is to find hot ones. Therefore, you may need to use a different method to find air leaks during the warmer months. Slip a dollar bill in an open doorway and close the door with the money in place. If you can slip it out, you will want to reseal it as soon as possible.
Candles or Incense
Check windows, outlets, attic hatches and other areas by lighting an incense stick or candle on windy days. Hold the flame close to these areas. Watch for it to flicker or the smoke to escape through otherwise undetectable gaps and cracks. All these indicate that you have a drafty home while giving you a better idea of which areas to reseal.
Once you know which areas need resealing, you can begin the search for weatherstripping materials. Here are a few of the most common options so you know just what to install to chase away the chill and keep your home comfortable year-round.
Vstrip or Tension Seal
Tension seals are durable plastic or metal strips that fold into a V shape and spring open to bridge gaps between sliding windows and door frames. This self-stick material creates a seal by pressing against the sides of a crack to block drafts.
While tension seals are durable, invisible and highly effective, they can be difficult to install if the application surface isn’t completely smooth. The primary places that you will use this type of weatherstripping is along the sides of windows as well as the top and sides of doors.
This is an easy to install material, making it desirable for many homeowners to try themselves. However, it may cause windows and doors to be more challenging to open and close so take that into consideration before installing it.
If you are looking for a more affordable option that is easier to install, look no further than felt. This weatherstripping material comes in rolls that you can cut to the correct length. Glue, staple or tack it around doors and windows or fit it into a door jamb to seal gaps. Replace your felt every year or two to combat wear and tear and maximize efficiency.
Felt is typically less effective than other materials. This material can be purchased as either plain felt or reinforced with a metal strip to provide some structure. The places that this weatherstripping material are most often found are around a door or window sash. It installs easily with staples or nails.
Although felt is desirable for many reasons, its primary disadvantage is lack of durability. In fact, although it is inexpensive, felt weatherstripping can only be expected to last a year or two. If you are on a strict budget this might be a good option for your specific needs.
Like felt, foam tape is relatively affordable and can be installed by anyone with basic DIY skills. This material is made from open or closed cell foam or ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber, which comes with a sticky back. Apply foam tape to the tops and bottoms of window sashes, door frames, attic hatches and windows you do not plan to open any time soon. It is an excellent solution for corners and irregular cracks because it comes in various lengths and widths. Reinforce the foam with staples if it peels.
While foam tape is a reasonably durable material, it can be more challenging to install for some novices, making it less desirable for some homeowners. An average DIYer should be able to handle this with ease but a complete novice may struggle at first so know your limitations before taking on a project.
The draftiest places call for heavy-duty solutions, and your front door is no exception. The bottom of this door sees frequent wear and tear as you enter and exit your home each day, eventually resulting in cracks and gaps. Luckily, door sweeps can block resulting drafts and are possibly the most durable type of weatherstripping.
This option is generally made from aluminum or stainless steel and features a brush of plastic, vinyl, sponge or felt. Place them on the bottom interior of in-swinging doors and the exterior of out-swinging ones for maximum efficiency.
They should only be installed in the bottom of the door on the interior side. Installation is more challenging with this material as it will have to be cut to the desired width and installed with screws.
In much the same way, fin seals can protect sliding doors and most windows from air leaks. This type of weatherstripping features a Mylar fin between two rows of brush material. Most people install fin seals on the inner edges of the vertical window frame. However, you may also secure them to the top and bottom of the window or door. Just make sure they do not interfere with functionality.
This is an incredibly durable choice, making it attractive for many consumers. The advantage is that it will last quite a while but the drawback is that it can be difficult to install.
If you have more room in your budget for higher-priced weatherstripping, you might consider magnetic air sealers. This material is similar to the rubber gaskets that help to seal your fridge shut. Place these strips on the tops and sides of drafty doors and double-hung and sliding windows.
If the seals fail to stick together after a few years, re-magnetize them by repeatedly running a magnet in a single direction along each side of the gaskets.
Interlocking Metal Channels
One of the most effective ways to weatherstrip your door is by using interlocking metal channels. This may very well be the most expensive option. However, they do provide an exceptional seal, even if they are more common in commercial buildings as opposed to residential ones.
Interlocking metal channels are quite difficult to install, as perfect alignment is critical. Therefore, if you choose this solution, you may have to hire a professional.
Vinyl or Rubber
Vinyl and rubber weatherstripping is just as costly as magnetic solutions. However, it is equally effective and, in some cases, easier to install. This material often features a narrow sponge tubing attached to a wood or metal mounting strip. Homeowners tack or staple them around a door to form a tight seal and guard against chills.
This material is fairly effective and available in a range of materials. It usually is inserted into a milled groove. This material can be used at the base of doors and windows, window sashes, and at the bottom of doors.
This material is fairly durable and fairly easy to install. However, they will show visibly when installed which may not be desirable for all homeowners.
Frost Break Threshold
This type of weatherstripping can only be used to seal beneath a door and is made from aluminum or other types of metal. This is one of the more effective methods to limit cold transfer which is why it has become a popular choice.
The only disadvantage of frost brake thresholds is that they are fairly difficult to install. Homeowners will also have to replace their threshold which may be more than you wish to tackle.
You do not have to spend top dollar on expensive weatherstripping for it to be effective. However, you must install it correctly. Properly applying whichever material you choose will more effectively block drafts.
Although this task can be done by a professional, many homeowners will have no difficulty taking on this home maintenance project. The good news is it is usually a fairly straightforward and quick undertaking. In order to get started, first decide on the material to use. Review availability of those resources and choose based on durability, price, or ease of installation.
After deciding on the material, determine how much weatherstripping you will need. Measure the perimeters of all windows and doors that need to be weatherstripped. Add 5-10% to accommodate any waste.
All weatherstripping should be done only when the temperatures are above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Weatherstripping should only be applied to clean, dry surfaces so avoid installing during extremely cold or wet weather.
Here are a few ways to ensure a tight seal around the two most drafty elements in your home: doors and windows
Weatherstripping techniques vary depending on your supplies and the size of your air leak. However, there are a few basic guidelines that will help you complete the installation process with minimal hiccups.
- Apply weatherstripping to clean, dry surfaces above 20° F to prevent curling, peeling and an otherwise ineffective seal.
- Measure the frame or door jamb twice before cutting your material, or order a precut strip.
- Apply one continuous strip to the door and the frame and make sure it is thick enough that both strips compress when the door is shut.
- Cut and apply your material so it meets tightly at the corners but does not impede the door’s functionality.
- Avoid applying weatherstripping to the stash or inside the jamb unless you need to. It can interfere with proper functioning of the sash weight system or require you to replace your old one.
- You do not want to see or feel any gaps. You can use a flashlight at night to quickly determine if there are any gaps (light will shine through). You can also try to slide a piece of between the door jamb and the door. If it works, you will need to take some action to seal off that leak.
If you have the right materials and tools for the job, weatherstripping your door should take no longer than an hour or so from start to finish. If it does, you may be better off hiring a professional, especially if you have invested in materials with a higher price tag.
As long as your windows do not have cracks or missing glass, weatherstripping can ward off air leaks year-round. Here are a few tips for sealing off your drafty windows without shuttering them forever.
- An easy way to see if you have a leaky window is to light a lighter or match inside the home and run it along the window casing. If you see the flame is disturbed by air coming from outside the home you know your home is not as energy efficient as it should be. Like doors, the first step is to remove old weatherstripping before starting the replacement install.
- To replace weatherstripping, remove old adhesives, nails and screws. Fill holes, clean and sand the area, and wipe dry.
- Some peel-and-stick solutions adhere best when temperatures are at least 50° F. Check the product labels for temperature-specific instructions.
- Face the opening of tension strips out toward the elements to prevent moisture from seeping inside.
- Cut all metal strips with tin snips, being careful not to bend the material and render it ineffective.
- If you do install weatherstripping that temporarily seals doors or windows shut, remember to remove it before attempting to pull or push them open. Otherwise, you may damage the frame or sash.
Typically, the cheaper and easier your weatherstripping is to install, the sooner you will need to replace it. Inspect it every few months or at least once a year and replace it when you begin to feel drafts or notice any peeling or bending.
Insulating Your Home
Weatherstripping will not do much good if other areas of your home are drafty. Garage doors, attic hatches, in-wall air conditioner units and baseboards are all susceptible to gaps and cracks, which can render your efforts useless if you do not address them, too.
While you can apply weatherstripping to some of these areas, others may require foam or fiberglass insulation.
Protect your garage and everything in it by installing insulation. Use a kit to apply the material to the inside of the door and even the walls. Doing so can prevent the door from freezing to the floor and keep your car safe and warm during the winter.
The same principles apply…remove, clean, replace, check for leaks, and resolve any issues that remain. You will most likely use weatherstripping that needs to be screwed in so take that into account when looking at the local hardware store for your options.
Whether your attic is insulated or not, it is wise to add some insulation around the hatch to prevent heat from escaping during winter or coming in during summer. Use weatherstripping to air seal the trim and hatch perimeter, and use foam insulation on each side of the hatch.
Air Conditioner Units
Before winter rolls around, you should remove all in-window air conditioner units and close your windows. However, you should also add insulation around these units to prevent hot air from seeping in or cold air from escaping during the summer and fall.
Sometimes, you will notice drafts around baseboards. In this case, you will have to remove the quarter-rounds and apply insulating spray foam to fill any large gaps under each board. You can also place a bead of caulk where the baseboard meets the floorboards before reinstalling the quarter round.
Weather-Stripping Self-Installation Versus a Professional
There are many benefits to having a professional weatherstrip your home. These trained individuals will be able to weatherstrip any doors or windows in your home efficiently. If you have never tried weatherstripping before, then you may benefit from having someone trained in this skill. However, if you enjoy home improvement projects, you can usually complete this task on your own. Make your decision based on your comfort and skill level with these tasks.
You should evaluate ad inspect your weatherstripping on an annual basis for the best results. Most weatherstripping materials can be expected to last longer than this but wear and tear, especially during periods of harsh weather may lead to leaks or damage.
Here are 10 weatherstripping frequently asked questions that may help you decide what, how, when, why, where, and who can resolve any weatherstripping issues you may have. If nothing else, you will have more insight into several key weatherstripping practices helpful tips.
1. Does weatherstripping really work?
If properly installed weatherstripping can lower your energy bill. Weatherstripping can also significantly cut down or eliminate drafts. Also, because of its versatility, it can be easily installed in both older and newer homes.
2. What is the purpose of weather stripping?
To prevent air, ice, pests, rain, sand, water, and wind from entering a property unwanted. It can also increase both the function and life of doors and windows.
3. When should your replace weather-stripping?
The best time to replace your weather-stripping is when you feel, hear, or see a change in airflow around your doors and/or windows. As part of a regular home maintenance plan, it is smart to check your weather-stripping every year at a minimum.
4. Where do you put weatherstripping on a door?
On the inside of the door or surrounding frame grooves for newer houses but for older homes you will need to add the weatherstripping.
5. How do you know what size weatherstripping to buy?
Measure from corner to corner and allow for slight overlap or excess. As a rule, measure twice so you know what size weatherstripping to buy when you visit a local hardware store.
6. Why is there a gap under my door?
The gap acts as an air return when the door is closed. The gap ensures airflow thru the supply ductwork.
7. Where do you put weatherstripping on windows?
For casement windows, place the weatherstripping around the window jamb next to the stops. For double hung windows, apply weatherstripping between the sash and jamb.
8. What is the best weather-stripping for windows?
Generally, foam tape is excellent to use for weather-stripping windows. It comes in varying widths and thickness.
9. What is the gap between door and frame called?
It is called an architrave. An Architrave is a piece of wood that is placed around the door frame to cover the gap between the door frame and the wall.
10. Does weather stripping keep rain out?
Yes if installed correctly. Weather stripping seals gaps around doors and windows to keep out air and water.
Final Tips on Weatherstripping
Weatherstripping your home for improved energy efficiency is fairly easy and inexpensive. It is also one of those projects most homeowners can tackle themselves. Just remember, not only are you trying to conserve energy, but you are also trying to prevent insects and bugs from having easy access to your home.
If you are unsure how drafty your home is, or want to make sure your weatherstripping is up to par, hire an energy auditor to inspect your home. They can tell you how efficient it is and how you can further improve insulation, weatherstripping and more to save money and the planet. Hopefully, you will never have to deal with those bothersome and costly drafts again.
When done correctly, you should see utility bill savings, and have peace of mind knowing you have eliminated both window and door drafts. With many options to pick from, there is little doubt you will find exactly what you need for your home. Happy installation!
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