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The temperatures this weekend made us remember that we still need to do some caulking before winter. When we moved in last November it was much draftier than we expected, and we spent some time fixing the worst of it: caulking the living room and bedroom windows, weatherstripping the doors and replacing the old sweeps, adding v-channel weatherstripping for the living room windows, and putting flanges around the radiator pipes where they led to the cellar. There was still a bunch left to do when summer came, but we’d at least made it livable.

Jason helped his parents finish their house, so he already had some experience with this.

The people who lived here before us had obviously put plastic around the windows—it was almost impossible to get the sticky tape off the sills when we painted. I really don’t understand that. It’s just as easy to caulk as to put up plastic, nicer looking, more effective, and longer lasting (the tube says it’s supposed to last 30 years). I know some people don’t want to improve houses that they’re just renting, but it’s the tenant who has to live with the results—especially if they’re the ones paying the heating bills!

I was glad that it was so windy this weekend. As I was filling in a particularly large gap I could actually feel the air blowing through onto my forehead. Afterwards, no breeze. It’s nice to see such an immediate effect.

I’d never done anything like this before we moved here, so here are a few tips that I learned along the way. For more, here’s an instructional video I found.

  • Wash and dry the area first, and scrape away any paint flakes.
  • Use latex (or latex mixed with silicone) so you can clean up any spills with just a wet rag. And, unlike silicone, you can paint over it.
  • Always move the caulk gun away from you to push the caulk deep into the gap for a better seal. This was a little awkward at first, but I found a lighter touch prevented all the starts and stops that made it glob around the nozzle.
  • Run a wet finger along the seam to press it in and make a cleaner line.
  • Laugh like a ten year old every time your significant other says the word “caulk.” Seriously. It makes the day go faster.


Comment from Brian B
Time September 27, 2009 at 9:21 pm

This post is a welcome reminder of all the things I have too do before winter hits to stop the cold in an old house. Caulking is definitely the best solution to stop air leaks the number one loss of heat in all homes. Although not the most aesthetic the use of plastic to cover the windows in addition is not entirely a bad idea as this will double the windows insulation value. More ideas for these projects are available here: particularly “the half project”

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Time September 28, 2009 at 5:43 am

[…] Brenda Pike from Pragmatic Environmentalism presents Caulk to Save Energy. […]

Comment from wyojeff
Time September 28, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Great tips. The previous owner could have been a tenant, and didnt feel the need to caulk the windows. I personally dont understand why, it’s not THAT expensive.

Comment from Brenda Pike
Time September 28, 2009 at 8:17 pm

We’re renters, too. But it’s us, not the owners, who have to deal with the drafts (and the gas bill).

Comment from Brenda Pike
Time September 28, 2009 at 8:22 pm

True, plastic definitely adds extra insulation, but I think people generally use it on older, single-paned windows. More modern ones already have an insulating layer of air between the two panes, right? Thanks for the website–although I think it goes far beyond our handyman skills!

Pingback from Looking Back at 2009 « Pragmatic Environmentalism
Time January 4, 2010 at 9:07 pm

[…] Caulk – It’s noticeably less drafty, although in a couple places the cracks seem to have widened as the house settled. We still need to finish the kitchen and office. […]

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