Easy fixes for 3 common complaints about windows

June 30, 2015

Drafty windows can be unsightly, make your home feel chilly and bloat your heating bill. To keep your place looking good, feeling cozy and cost effective to heat, here are some easy fixes for your windows to address three common complaints about them.

Easy fixes for 3 common complaints about windows

[Image credit: iStock.com/HotHibiscus]

Windows are the thinnest barriers between you and the great outdoors. When they leak cold air you naturally feel it. If ignored, those leaks can lead to condensation forming on the glass; rotten window frames; mould; chilly drafts; higher heating bills and much more. So what can you do to about those annoyingly drafty windows? Here are some easy fixes to help solve these three common problems.

1. "There’s condensation on my windows"

Solution: reduce water vapour in the air and raise the temperature
Condensation running down your windows is not only unsightly, but will stain curtains and carpets, cause wooden window frames to rot and encourage the growth of mildew.

Although there's no simple way to eliminate condensation, you can help make a difference by following two main strategies:

  1. Reduce the amount of water vapour in the air of your house.
  2. Raise the temperature of the inner surfaces of the windows.

To do this:

  • Run the extractor fans in your kitchen and bathroom. Running ceiling fans will also help by mixing moist and dry air.
  • Open windows very slightly to balance the amount of water vapour inside with that outside, but don't open them fully if it is cool outside.
  • Don't keep house plants or stacks of firewood in rooms that are prone to condensation. The soil and wood contain moisture.
  • Try rearranging the furniture. An armchair in front of the window may be stopping heat from reaching the glass and encouraging condensation on its surface.
  • Run a dehumidifier in the affected room(s).
  • Buy a window-film kit from a home improvement centre or hardware store to add temporary "double glazing" through the cold winter months.

2. "My windows rattle and are drafty around the edges"

Solution: install inexpensive weatherstripping
This type of weatherstripping could save you an average of 15 per cent on heating bills. As well, it may silence any annoying window rattles. Self-adhesive weatherstripping is made from various materials and is available in different thicknesses and colours.

Common types of weatherstripping

  • Squishy adhesive rubber strips, available in "P" or "E" profiles, compress so that the rubber forms a tight seal.
  • "V" profile weatherstripping, made of polypropylene, has a fold down its length. It is ideal for filling thinner gaps between the frame and the window.
  • Strips of siliconized nylon brushes form a seal between the bristles and the window edge.
  • Strips of foam about 0.8 centimetres (1/3 inch) wide make a seal when compressed.

To install the strips:

  • First clean the surfaces where you intend to stick the strips with a damp rag; allow them to dry fully.
  • For best efficiency, stick the weatherstripping to the inside of the window frame, as close as possible to the inside of the house.
  • Before weather stripping the entire window, stick on a short test strip and close the window. Insert a credit card between the strip and window; if it is loose and falls out, you'll need a deeper strip to effectively block the drafts.
  • Sash windows are notoriously drafty. Fit brush strip onto the inside of the bottom sash and the outside of the top one. Then stick a compressible foam strip onto the top and bottom edges of the sashes.
  • Seal casement windows with self-adhesive foam or rubber stripping around the inner edge so it compresses when the window is shut. If there's not enough of a gap to fit foam or rubber, fit a V-strip instead.

3. "My windows leak heat and feel cold to the touch"

Solution: install some temporary double glazing
Single-glazed windows are very poor insulators and will develop condensation, frost and feel very cold to the touch in winter.

  • You're likely to find single-glaze windows on older homes where the windows haven't been changed recently (or ever.)

Fortunately, there's a temporary fix that will help you keep warmer in the winter months – installing some temporary double glazing, which adds an extra layer of insulation to the windows.

To install double glazing:

  • Clean the inside of your window frames thoroughly with a cloth and mild detergent; allow to dry.
  • Stick double-sided tape along the window frames.
  • Stretch clear, colourless plastic wrap tightly across the window frame and secure it to the tape. It should not touch the glass, but form a second layer about one centimetre (1/2 inch) from the pane.
  • Heat-shrinking plastic film (for a tighter seal) and more robust secondary glazing kits use tougher glazing film. These kits and glazing films are available at most home improvement stores.

Creating an air pocket between the glass and glazing film provides an extra layer of insulation. When the cold weather hits, this additional insulation provides another barrier between you and the cold air outside, besides the glass itself.

Whatever the condition of your windows, occasionally there's one that's drafty enough to be a problem – which you don't always know until only after it gets cold. These easy fixes can help you make it through the winter, so you can remedy the problem with a more permanent solution when the weather warms up in spring.

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