Airing Out: A Guide on Fixing Drafty Windows

Authored by Dr. Jeff Bennert

If you’ve had the experience of feeling a cold breeze in your home even though the windows and doors are shut tight, the culprit could be an air leak around your window frame that’s letting in a draft. The best way to check whether a draft exists in your home is to light a candle and slowly move it around the window frame. If the flame flickers, your window has a draft.

Drafty windows are a common problem that plagues many homes across America. A draft could be caused by faulty caulking on your home’s exterior, leaving a gap between the window and the frame. A draft could also be caused by damaged glazing, a common problem with older glass window panes. On the inside of the house, a draft could be caused by poor weather-stripping or a faulty window lock. Regardless of the cause, drafty windows can cause discomfort in the home and waste a lot of energy, ultimately costing you more money to heat your home.

Techniques for Fixing Drafty Windows

If you have drafty windows in your home, there are a few inexpensive ways you can address this issue yourself. For instance, you could apply new V-channel weather-stripping around the inside of your windows. This plastic sealer will close any gaps between your windows and the frame they are set in and is fairly inexpensive at most hardware stores. Similarly, rope caulk is a good way to seal gaps in old windows. This method is great for uneven gaps between old windows and the house, as it can be molded to fit the necessary space. Most hardware stores also sell shrink film, which you apply to your windows with double-sided tape. Then, using a hair dryer, you heat the film so that it forms a tight seal over the window, containing the draft. Caulk is another great solution to your draft problems. Simply fill any cracks you see with caulk to stop the draft from occurring.

If your draft problem is minor, you might want to invest in good-quality shades or drapes as well as window snakes. Layering curtains can help keep minor drafts out and prevent the warm air from escaping from your home. Window snakes also help with this, as they are placed on the window sill near the bottom seam to stop air leaks.

If your drafty windows require a long-term solution, you might need to take more drastic measures. If your windows are old, it might be a good idea to replace them. Newer models of windows are designed to be energy-efficient and stop drafts. If replacement windows are not in your budget, you can add interior storm panels. These are made of PVC or vinyl and are easily installed in the winter and then removed in the warmer months.

These interior solutions are great, but they might not be the answer to your problems. For this reason, make sure that you check the exterior of your home if you are experiencing draft problems, as the problem could be outside. If you notice gaps in your home between the windows and the siding, you have found the cause of the draft. The easiest remedy to fix this problem for the long term is to use a can of spray foam. You can easily aim the nozzle into the gap and watch this insulating foam expand to fill in the problem area.

If your home has major draft problems and they’re not contained to just one or two windows, you might consider calling in an expert. They can properly assess your problem and provide you with a solution. This is the most costly method of fixing a drafty home, but it can be the most effective. The solutions they offer will stand the test of time and help you save money on your energy bills.