Weatherstripping is a very useful tool to stop air leaks around your doors and windows. Where ever you can see, or more important, feel air moving, there's a gap and you're losing your warm (or cooled) air to the outdoors.Weatherstripping can be added to your doors and window sashes to reduce the loss of conditioned air saving you money and keeping your living areas more comfortable.
There are many different types of weatherstripping and you're likely to find they have different names so the important thing is to understand the concept. Weatherstripping is flexible as it needs to expand and contract as the gaps between parts of your home move. For example, when you open a door the rubber weatherstripping expands and then when the door is closed, it contracts to fill the open space between the door and the door jambs.
Where Do You Install Weather Stripping?
You first want to identify which parts of your home have conditioned air, i.e. are heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. The unconditioned areas of your home may include:
- Attic – so you'll want to add weatherstripping (and insulation) to the door into the attic.
- Basements if unfinished – may benefit from weatherstripping around the door into the house.
- Garage – needs lots of weatherstripping, around the garage door(s), the exterior door going into the garage and the door from the garage into the house.
- Sun rooms – and other unconditioned space that is attached to the house will need weatherstripping to reduce air leaks.
- Doors and windows – are caulked on the outside of your house where they meet the siding. The weather stripping, i.e. foam you place at the bottom of your window sash (the part that moves) expand and contract when you open and close them, to fill the gaps when the doors and windows are closed. Don't forget your patio doors and bulk head doors into the basement.
- Air conditioners – and other fixtures that stick out through your home's exterior walls may need weatherstripping. A window or wall air conditioner has enough movement that there are sure to be gaps you'll want to fill with weatherstripping.
Weatherstripping is often installed on new windows and doors. Over the years the materials used will become less effective so you should check the weatherstripping once a year and replace when it loses it's flexibility. It's a good idea to check your home as you enter the heating (cooling) season to make sure you have adequate weatherstripping or you'll want to add it. After construction, a new house will settle for several years and may only need weatherstripping after this occurs.
Note: Many people think only those who live in cold weather need to be concerned about weatherstripping. People in warm climates also need weatherstripping, to keep from losing cooled air to the outside.
Windows may be equipped with the same type of rubber strip. Often, this is the type of weatherstripping that is used when new homes are built. For older homes, it is possible to purchase rolls of foam weatherstripping with an adhesive back. Homeowners can install this type of sealing agent with ease, while still allowing the windows to be opened and closed at will. Weatherstripping windows in this manner is usually an inexpensive way to deal with drafts, and will save a great deal of money on heating and cooling costs.
Tips for Buying Your Weatherstripping
Here's a quick checklist to help you buy the right weatherstripping for your home. For more information, visit The US Dept of Energy's, A Consumer's Guide to Energy Efficiency.
- Determine which doors and windows have gaps leaking air.
- Calculate the linear feet needed to cover all 4 sides of each door/window you want to cover.
- Assess the weather, temperature changes and wear (friction) that weatherstripping will be exposed to, i.e. the bottom of a door will have more wear than a window. You also need to choose a material that allows the door/window to open freely once closed.
- Decide which type of weatherstripping you want to use. Here are the most common ones:
- Inexpensive – felt and open-cell foam are easy to apply but won't hold up to weather.
- Flexible vinyl weatherstripping – slightly more expensive but holds up well and resists moisture.
- Metal weatherstripping – lasts for years and you can match to existing door hardware. Door sweeps go at the bottom of a door and have either rubber or bristles to reduce the amount of air which can flow under the door when closed.
- Clean and dry surface before applying weatherstripping.
- Always measure twice, cut once when doing any type of home maintenance.
- Apply weatherstripping snugly against both surfaces (temperature should be above 20°F (-7° C). The material should compress when the window or door is shut.