Homefix: Dwight Barnett answers home-improvement questions. This week's topic is on keeping cold air out.
Q: Our house faces north and I can feel cold air coming in around the front door and windows. I don’t notice it that much on the south side. Do you know what I can do to stop the drafts?
A: A wood door or window that faces away from the sun is more likely to expand or warp in cooler or damp weather. The warping can leave small gaps where the door panel or window sash meets the framing. I have read that a 16-inch crack around a typical exterior door can be equated to a 4-1/3-inch hole in a wall. There also is the possibility that a wood door could be slightly warped and does not have a snug fit when closed.
Stand on the outside of the door with the door locked and see if the door fits the frame at the top and two sides. A warped door will not fit snugly on the locking side of the door. If the door is warped or has another major problem, it should be replaced.
The drafts can be stopped by installing foam weatherstrips, which can be found at home or hardware stores.
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The foam is purchased in long lengths that can be custom cut to fit any size of door. The foam comes with a self-adhesive backing to make installation a snap. Before starting, remove the old weather strip that came with the door. Using a pair of snips, cut and install the strip for the top of the door and then install the two side pieces. Next, check to make sure the door will open, close and lock properly without binding the foam strips or making it difficult to lock the door. Now you’re done.
Because windows have to slide up and down or swing out, a nail-on strip that utilizes a metal seal works best. The rigid metal strips are again cut to fit using a pair of snips and then secured with small brads against the window frames.
The springlike metal pushes against the window sash to block drafts, yet it allows for full up-and-down movement of the window sash.
To prevent further air infiltration, use a caulking sealant at the exterior frames of the doors and windows where they meet the brick or siding on the home.
Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at d.Barnett@insightbb.com.