While draft stoppers can reduce air flow at the bottom of a door or window, you probably also want to use weatherstripping because it can be installed on all four sides of exterior doors and windows. Weatherstripping is meant for movable building components like doors and operable windows. For components that don't move, caulking is the more appropriate material to use for filling cracks and gaps that let in unwanted air.
Installing weatherstripping is a good do-it-yourself project for most homeowners. The biggest challenges are determining where to add weatherstripping and how it will affect your home's ventilation.
- Detecting air leaks needing weatherstripping – If you have a few leaky windows or sitting near the back door is uncomfortable, you can use a small, handheld heat detector like this one from Black & Decker (click to learn more). Alternatively you can get a more comprehensive home energy audit that can help you identify and prioritize all the improvements you can make to your home to save energy.
- Verifying adequate ventilation for indoor air quality – As our homes become more airtight to conserve energy, we trap and breathe unhealthy contaminants like formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds. If you're adding weatherstripping to a few doors and windows in an older house, you're probably fine or learn more on the government's energy website.
How to Buy the Right Weatherstripping
Ready to get started? To start you'll want to do some research on what type of weatherstripping fits your project best. You'll also want to consider what you can install easily, and then take measurements before heading to the store. So here are the things you want to consider:
- How much wear and tear will the weatherstripping get, e.g. how frequently will the windows be opened? You want weatherstripping that seals well when closed but allows windows and doors to open freely.
- How much friction or resistance will the weatherstripping be exposed to, like the bottom of the door dragging across carpeting each time the door opens or closes?
- How will the weatherstripping hold up to exposure to rain water? temperature changes?
- What is your budget for weatherstripping products, and possible installation by a home professional? Don't make your decision solely on today's cost as cheaper materials will need to be replaced more frequently.
The Different Types of Weatherstripping
Felt and open-cell foams tend to be inexpensive, susceptible to weather, visible, and inefficient at blocking airflow. However, the ease of applying these materials may make them valuable in low-traffic areas. Vinyl, which is slightly more expensive, holds up well and resists moisture. Metals (bronze, copper, stainless steel, and aluminum) last for years and are affordable. Metal weatherstripping can also provide a nice touch to older homes where vinyl might seem out of place.
- Cost and lifetime – felt is inexpensive but only lasts one to two years, because it doesn't hold up well to weather.
- Ease of installation – farily easy, requiring you to cut the felt to length and tack/staple into place.
- Description – comes plain or reinforced with a flexible, metal strip. Felt can be used on doors and windows but I've only seen dark felt, so you're going to see it which might not be acceptable.
- Cost and lifetime – open cell foam is inexpensive but needs to be replaced every one to two years.
- Ease of installation – easy because the tape is backed with an adhesive. You simply measure, cut to length with scissors, peel the tape off and stick in place.
- Description – this product is made from foam, rubber or a sponge rubber. It comes in multiple widths and thicknesses, making it a good solution for irregular cracks. It can be used to seal doors and windows and can be found in white, gray and black.
- Cost and lifetime – vinyl is slighty more expensive than felt or foam which makes sense because it holds up well and usually lasts five or more years.
- Ease of installation – a little more challenging to install because you've got to deal with the tube while stapling/tacking the flange in place.
- Description – these small tubes made of vinyl or sponge rubber can be used to weatherstrip both doors and windows. When closed, the tube flattens and forms a tight seal.
- Cost and lifetime – is inexpensive, durable and long-lasting.
- Ease of installation – easy to install because it comes with pressure sensitive adhesive on the back so you measure, cut and stick in place.
- Description – made of either vinyl or metal, the v-strip is folded back on itself to form a springy strip that bridges the gap … between doors and the door jam, or windows and the window frame surrounding them.
Foam Wrapped Choices
You'll need to visit your local hardware store to find these higher quality weatherstripping products. If you're fairly handy around the house, you can probably install them with ease or you might have your handyman do it.
- Cost and lifetime – are more expensive, combining the durability of vinyl with the look of wood or metal to match the style of your doors and windows.
- Ease of installation – are slightly more difficult to install because you've got to nail or screw the wood or metal which requires more tools and skill using them.
- Description – combine multiple materials to provide a more elegant weatherstripping solution. You may find what you're looking for at a hardware store or ask to see a catalog and order through the store if possible.
There are special weatherstripping products for the bottom of the door. We'll cover door sweeps and threshold seals in another article to follow shortly.