Old Man Winter is on the way! With home heating costs threatening to reach an all-time high this season, it's time to think about keeping the heat in and the cold out.
There are lots of ways to prepare your home for winter. No matter how much you insulate, you will always have a problem if you don't take care of the cracks.
You can install the best insulated windows on the market, but they have to be caulked securely, inside and out, or they won't be any better than your old ones. Any crack or open space around a window or door is a place where cold air can penetrate and heat can escape. If your home has wooden or laminate siding, any cracks where the siding laps should be caulked. Areas outside the living quarters are more important than gable and attic areas. Attics need to breathe if they are insulated, that's why lots of older homes are built with attic vents. If the attic isn't insulated, then it has to be sealed during the winter to minimize heat loss.
Heat rises to the top of your home and cold lingers in the lower places. A common place for cold air to enter is around the baseboards. If there is a crack between the wall and the baseboard, then there is a place for cold air to enter.
Be aware of floor subsidence. Floors tend to sag away from the bottom of the baseboard, sometimes leaving a sizable gap between the baseboard and floor. This gap may be hidden by a carpet, and it is a great place for cold air to blow in.
It's very important to choose the right caulking for the job. Silicone caulk is not paintable or stainable. The silicone will not allow paint or stain to adhere. Never use silicone if there is a possibility of future painting or staining.
Paintable and unpaintable caulk is available in various clear and color options. Major home improvement stores usually have the best color selection. Clear paintable caulking comes from the tube white and turns perfectly clear when it is completely dry.
Stained or Varnished Tongue and Groove or Wainscoting
Interior walls with stained and varnished trim have usually never been caulked. The baseboards and window areas should be caulked with paintable/stainable clear caulking. A lot of cold air enters the home around the baseboards of interior walls. The cold air channels through the floor joists and enters the home from underneath.
While you are sealing the air leaking areas in exterior and interior walls, you may as well go the distance and install insulating pads behind your electric receptacles and switch plates. In some buildings, large amounts of cold air enters through these areas.
Receptacle and switch plate insulators can be found either in the electric department or the home insulation department at all major home improvement stores. Before you go the store, examine under your entry doors. If you can see daylight under them, then cold air will be blowing through the opening.
Door sweeps are inexpensive and easy to install. The color selection is limited to either white or aluminum, except in the larger retail outlets. Mount the hard edge just a hair above the bottom of the door and let the rubber sweep the floor when the door is opened. That will ensure that the opening is sealed. There are usually 4 or 5 small self taping screws with the package. The holes can be started with an ice pick or awl.
Weather stripping for doors and windows is also available. Many older homes and apartments need extra help in these areas. The weather stripping that was installed on the older doors and windows deteriorates with age. There is a variety of different sizes and shapes of weather stripping available for these applications in major retail outlets.
Remember that when you are sealing up for winter, you are also sealing for summer. Keeping the heat in during the winter also keeps the cool in during the summer. Insulation also keeps the bugs out. Many insects squeeze through small cracks.
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