This winter I have something new to both love and loathe. A house! This is the first time in my life that I am responsible for an entire house. I am totally digging all the extra space and creature comforts: a spare bedroom, a laundry room, closet space and a backyard. I’m not really down with all the extra work: mowing the lawn, folding my own laundry, cleaning the extra square footage, and now – I have to winterize my windows and doors.
My biggest dread is opening my first winter-time heating bill. I’m determined to keep those suckers as low as possible so they don’t dent my cocoa budget. I’ve done loads of research on how to winterize my windows and doors and keep my hard-earned heat inside my lovely little house. (For tips on other household projects, check out Zing’s Home Improvement section.)
In my experience, most houses have windows. That’s a good thing. They let in delicious sunlight and warm breezes. They can also let in cold drafts and help heat the outside. If you have leaky windows and are not in the position to replace them, there are ways to cope with your old ones.
How to Winterize Your Windows:
- Find the leaks by holding a candle near the edges of the window frame. If the flame flickers or goes out, you have a leak.
- Remove your screens, clean the tracks and put in storm windows. This should be easy, if unlike at my old apartment, the windows are relatively square.
- If your storm windows aren’t cutting it, there’s the good old-fashioned shrink wrap trick. You can buy the kits or just buy the stuff on a big roll at the hardware store. Apply two-sided tape to the window frame, stick the plastic to it, and gently heat that puppy with a hair dryer until it’s taut. For extra drafty windows, and in areas without persnickety neighbors, you can also staple sheets of heavy-duty plastic to the outsides of window frames.
- Another neat trick is that bubble wrap makes for good insulation. Who knew? Apparently you just take a spray bottle and mist the inside of your window pane with water and stick a piece of the large-bubbled wrap to the glass, bubble side down. This method is very quick and easy – and is removable. Try it in your guest room. You can leave the windows covered when the room is not used and take it down when a visitor wants the ability to spy on your all-too-close next door neighbor. The bubble wrap seems like a good idea for sliding doors, or a window you may want to keep useful for ventilation.
Don’t forget the window frames! The downside to bubble and shrink wrap is that they don’t actually solve problems of drafty frames. Also, FYI, aluminum frames are much colder than wood or vinyl (if you’re thinking of replacements).
- You’ll need to find the leaks in your frame and fill them with caulk, inside and out. For bigger spaces, I’d recommend using wood filler and a coat of paint.
- A pair of heavy curtains will help insulate against drafty frames. You can buy curtains that are designed specifically to insulate and absorb heat from the sun or, you can go the cheap route (like me) and just buy dark curtains (because, as we all know, dark colors absorb more heat) or, you can even go dorm room chic and nail up an old blanket.
How to Winterize Your Doors:
- Doors need to remain usable (stupid fire code). Find leaks and seal with caulk or wood fill, as above.
- Replace the threshold if it’s worn, it will please the eye as well as the thermostat.
- Add a sweep to the bottom. They’re available in different varieties: the bristly kind, the rubber kind, and the kind that automatically rises so it won’t get stuck on your carpet (I know!).
- Check the door’s alignment. If it isn’t hanging straight, adjust the hinges and strike plate. This is your chance to break out the power tools, even though a Leatherman would probably do the trick.
- Don’t forget your garage door! Add weather stripping to fill the gap between the bottom of the door and the ground. Adhere foam panels to the backside of the door with double-sided tape.
The thing I’m most looking forward to in this whole process is single-handedly bringing back the draft snake. That’s right. You read it here. You can buy pre-fab ones that will do the job, but I plan on letting loose my inner craft nerd and making my own. In the shape of a dachshund? A hot dog (the food kind)? A Manhattan skyline as seen from Queens? Check back. If it turns out half as well as I see it in my mind, I’ll post a pic. In the meantime, follow these suggestions and stay warm and stocked with cocoa!