Fall Home Maintenance Series - Part 3: Doors and Windows

Fall Home Maintenance Series – Part 3: Doors and Windows

That chilly little nip in the air and the early morning frost warns us winter is coming. It also means it’s time to get your home ready for that cold weather. Preparing your home in the fall may sound like a lot to do, but in reality, it only takes a little time to get things ready. With our Fall  Home Maintenance Series, we’ll show you why it’s a good idea to spend a few hours over the next few weekends inspecting and preparing your home for the arrival of winter. With these practical tips, you can protect your home’s value, keep your family comfortable, and reduce your energy usage (and hopefully, energy bills!) all winter long.

Drafts blowing in through doors or windows that are not closing well are really irritating.  After all, they’re supposed to keep the outside outside. But doors and windows see a lot of action — opening, closing, constant exposure to the elements. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that they need periodic maintenance. To keep yours ready for action, here’s our fall door and window maintenance tips that will help make them trouble-free for years to come.

Seal Those Drafts

Fall Home Maintenance Series - Part 3: Doors and Windows
While you probably don’t have to wear a hardhat when working in your own home, it might help you feel like more of a DIY home maintenance pro.

Doors and windows should close firmly and snugly. If a door or window rattles when it’s closed, it’s not closing properly. Dirt and debris are typically the main culprits behind drafts (doors especially) due to seals and gaskets wearing out.

One of the first things to do when weatherizing for winter is to clean dirt and debris from tracks and jambs, as a blockage can prevent the window or door from closing completely. On doors, clean mud or dirt caked weather stripping and replace any that is too worn. Doors should have weather stripping applied on both sides (jambs) and across the top (lintel) so that when the door closes, it has a good seal.

Self-adhesive foam weather stripping is inexpensive and easy to apply – but it’s not always the right kind. You’ll want the right weatherstripping for the right job. Newer EnergyStar rated entry doors use weather stripping that magnetically sticks to the metal door.

If you can slide a piece of paper under your door, then the bottom of the door will need a new sweep – an inexpensive vinyl kit is relatively easy to install. Also, many entry doors made within the past 25 years have thresholds that can be adjusted with a screwdriver. This detail is easily forgotten by many homeowners, so if your door has one, take a little time to make sure it’s working properly.

You can also make your or buy a “door / draft snake” to help shut out drafts.

For windows, clean out dirt and debris from sliding tracks and sills. For sash windows, check that the sash closes firmly where the bottom meets the sill and the two rails of the upper and lower sash meet. Clean the jambs of casement and sliding windows to make sure they seal firmly. Add weatherstripping to areas where you find drafts leaking through.

Address Any Glazing Concerns

Fall Home Maintenance Series - Part 3: Doors and Windows
Even the most inexperienced among us can caulk a window with some silicon.

Older windows have their glass held in place with glazing putty. Over time, this glazing can crack and break — allowing the glass to wiggle loosely in the frame and let in cool moist air. The glass will also be more prone to break from vibration, making this a dangerous hazard to pets and children.

Glazing needs to be done right. Keeping the angles and corners neat and clean preserves the window’s look and it takes some practice to master the techniques. Silicon caulk makes a safe and reliable temporary fix for the winter, but the window should be properly repaired and sealed to ensure a long, useful life. Begin by scraping out old, loose glazing. After thoroughly cleaning out any debris, be sure the glass and frame are thoroughly dry. Insert glazing points to secure the glass in place (as needed) before laying down one or two beads of silicon to seal the glass.

Fall Home Maintenance Series - Part 3: Doors and Windows
You see this window? It needs help. Desperately.

Single-paned windows are more prone to condensation than double-paned and -glazed insulated windows. Condensation becomes an even more difficult problem if the window frame is metal (which is a poor insulator). Too much condensation will lead to water damage to the window frame, sills, sheetrock, wall paper, and drapes. It can even damage the wall’s interior framing and insulation. Freezing condensation worsens water damage due to ice expansion.

Examine the window for signs of air leaks or metal parts that conduct cold inside the home (example — older casement style windows using un-insulated metal cranks). If you can’t find a cause, consider ways to reduce humidity in your home such as running ventilation fans while showering or cooking and ensuring that your clothes dryer fully vents outside.

Most newer double-glazed insulated windows don’t use glazing putty like old single-paned windows. Double-glazed insulated window-glass units are built into a single metal frame, bound around the edge with an air-tight seal and then an inert gas is injected into the space between the panes. You’ll know the air-tight seal has failed when condensation forms between the panes. Though not critical, the only way to fix this is usually to replace the entire window.

Fix Those Frame Leaks

Fall Home Maintenance Series - Part 3: Doors and Windows
Lucky for you, sealing up your window from drafts doesn’t have to look pretty. It just needs to be effective.

Drafts leak into a building through joints and cracks around door, window, and skylight units (frames, sash, and glazings). This leakage can waste energy in your home. Newer energy-efficient doors and windows are specially designed to seal, insulate, and reduce energy loss.

Regrettably, some less-than-conscientious installers will skip properly sealing and insulating around windows and doors. This lets cold air and moisture to infiltrate into the house, causing drafts, mold, and potential wall-rot problems for the homeowner.

If you notice drafts or mold growing around the edge of the window or door frame, then it’s a good guess that there’s a problem. Remove the inside trim moulding and inject non-expanding insulating foam all the way around the frame. If feasible and safe, you also might want to do some sealing with foam or caulk from the outside.

Up Next in our Fall Home Maintenance Series: Gutters, Pools, & the Exterior of Your Home.

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Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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