Sealing leaky doors and windows

Doors and windows make up about 20% of your home leakage. They are also some of the easiest leaks to find and most of the time the easiest to fix. There are however a few misconceptions when dealing with them though.

First let’s take on two misconceptions with the windows and then we will look at how to fix the leaks.

1. Not all that feels like a leak is a leak.

This is especially true with windows in the winter. Because of the properties of the windows what we truly fell is the heat radiating from our bodies and the convective flow created around the window due to heating and cooling of the air. The leaks are often time minimum around the window, usually around the joints between the jamb and sash. The largest “draft” or “leak” is created again from the thermal transfer occurring between the room, windows and our bodies. This leads us to “feel” a leak when one is not there. HVAC ducts are often times placed in front of windows to stop this from occurring but we often times place furniture over the ducts and prevent this effect. Below is a drawing showing the transfers.

2. It is not always better to replace than to repair a window.

I have discussed this many times before but to once again address this, payback on replacement windows can be anywhere from 15 to 30 years. This means it takes that long to get your investment back from the savings the windows create. A good pack is 0 to 5 years and acceptable 5 to 10. Also if replacement windows are not installed correctly you may end up with windows leaker than the ones you started with. If your windows are not in that bad of shape a little caulk, glazing and weather-stripping can get them back to new.

With that taken care of let’s move on to how to correct the leaks you feel. Most of the leaks you find are going to be around the joints in the doors and windows, this being the areas where the slabs or sashes join the jambs. This can typically be fixed with a little weather-stripping. Below is a diagram showing different types.


Most new doors have weather-stripping already installed but it can wear out sometimes. The best thing to do in this case is to remove and replace the weather-stripping. This is an easy task and material is inexpensive.

Sometimes the door does not have weather-stripping. If this is the case you can replace it with a metal tubular strip. This strip installs on the door stop/jamb and allows you to adjust the strip a small amount to the door to get a good fit.

Sometimes the door will not have a good fit in the jamb or against the weather stripping. This can be corrected in most cases by adjusting the striker plate to allow the door to close further in the jamb.

When repairing the door don’t forget the sweep. Some doors have them and these can easily be replaced if needed. Others will need on installed. This is a simple process and there are a wide variety of them. The most common can be seen above in the diagram. One of the most efficient but difficult to install is the spring loaded. These are hard to locate and require some expertise to install.


Like doors windows tend to leak at the joints. If you have old single pain windows with individual lites you will probably want to consider having them re-glazed and a storm window if they are leaky. The storm window will also help with the energy efficiency of the window and they typically have a better payback than replacement.

The first step with windows is to ensure that you have a tight fit against the top and bottom jambs. Weather-stripping is easily installed and there is a variety of types. You can use a peal and stick foam or a tack on metal strip. If you are using the peal and stick make sure you have a clean surface before applying.

If you have a leak in the middle between the two windows you can again use a peal and stick or tack on depending on the window. Your clearance will be less than the top and bottom so the weather-stripping cannot be as thick.

Finally for the sides, your fix for this will depend on the manufacture. For older windows you may have to use a spring metal. If you have older style windows that still have weights you can get covers for the holes where the ropes go through. For newer windows it may simply be a leak in the track and manufacturers have caps that can stop these leaks.

Also don’t forget to make sure your lock is in good shape and closing tight on your window. Your lock can help keep the window sealed at the top and bottom.

Use Solar Powered Lights

Most of your landscape lighting is used for accent lighting or safety. You can commonly find these lights powered by photovoltaics in your local home stores. The lights work well in areas that receive sunlight and can cut your electrical cost. They also are easy to install and don’t require any wiring.

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