Tips to eliminate drafts in a home

If you’re sitting in any room in your house during the cooler months of the year and feel a breeze (no matter how slight), you may want to check it out.

While having the ceiling fan or some other type of air circulation device running may be soothing, that’s not what we’re talking about.

What is important to find are drafty spots in your home, which could be:

  • Window sills
  • Door frames
  • Walls
  • Ceiling
  • Heating registers/vents
  • Basement/Foundation

So, how do you find those problem areas?

First thing is to follow your senses. If you feel a breeze, put your hands out and follow the air moving towards the source (or the direction it’s blowing FROM).

You’ll likely end up walking a short distance in your home, over to the beautiful windows you have. [You could just start at the windows if you don’t feel any air, just to be sure you don’t have a small draft].

When checking for problem areas, you’ll want to be extra sensitive with your hands, moving slowly to feel the slight breeze being pulled into your home through even the smallest gaps.

Once you’ve located splits, or cracks around your window frames or door frames, you can move on to fixing the problem.

Tackling Drafty Gaps

Splits, cracks and gaps can vary in size from a pin-hole to quite large. So depending on the severity of your leak, you’ll want to take different steps. These could include:

  • Removing the old window/door frame and re-framing [get a contractor if you’re not too handy]
  • Filling gaps with wood filler/putty/paste
  • Spreading paint-able silicone over the problem areas
  • Very small gaps can be painted over or glazed with clear silicone

While entirely re-doing the framing structure and/or trimming around the problem area may seem like a lot of work, your local professional can take the challenge on and have it fixed in a few hours.

Sometimes when the trim is removed from the area, your professional will see that it requires some fill around the framing (particularly if this fix is being done in a cold climate, they may want to patch the draft to help until the weather warms up).

If the area isn’t too bad, patching up the gap with a filler past/putty wouldn’t be a bad idea. If the gap exceeds a half-inch, you’re better off not trying to cram some soft filler material in there because it won’t help. You’ll have to back with with some support like wood, mesh or something rigid before applying a filler.

A very simple fix for common cracks around sealed window trim/frames is by spreading some basic paint-able silicone all around the seams. There are some types that are ready to be painted in 20 minutes. I’ve used this type in a rental apartment and it works great with a tube of silicone and some cheap plastic spreaders that can be cut to shape for a uniform seal.

Lastly, you could just slap some touch-up paint over small cracks if they’re barely noticeable and you just want peace of mind.

Walls, Ceiling, Floors and Vents?

So, if your walls, ceiling, floors or vents are giving off a very cold temperature; you’ll want to look deeper into your home.

Likely if your walls are cold, you’ve got an insulation problem. You’ll want to check from the foundation to the structure of the home for insulation that has fallen down, been torn out or was never there in the first place…

According to the Department of Energy in the USA, older homes were built with less insulation than homes are today.

By checking your eaves, foundation, and roof, you’ll be able to rule out any insulation issues. If you find that your home is under-insulated, you can find a great contractor to price out your entire home, or try to tackle the job yourself.

Typically insulating the floors is going to provide the best results for your energy efficiency when it comes to heating. (Since hot air rises, it’s reasonable to believe that cold air comes from below, stopping cold air from coming up into your home from the ground is a great tactic).

Drafts coming from heating registers/vents or outlet boxes in your floors and walls is usually caused by poor insulation or duct construction in forced air heated homes.

The Very Foundation of the problem!

Everything in a home depends on the proper foundation. If there is a problem at the bottom, you’ll surely feel the effects all the way up.

Chances are, over the years the ground around your home has moved, causing your foundation to move. Sometimes (most of the time) concrete is unforgiving and does not float around.

When it’s pushed around, cement (found in poured foundations and even block foundations) will tend to crack. Over time those cracks grow larger until the integrity of the home is compromised, or the problem is fixed [whichever comes first].

So, if you have a foundation (this doesn’t apply to “slab” houses), you’ll want to check on it at least once per year. If you find any areas crumbling or cracking, it’s best to keep track or have a professional take a look as early on as you catch it.

These shifts can cause cracks, gaps and misalignment with the rest of the framework of your home, causing the perfect place for a draft.

Now, basements are going to be a bit cold to begin with, because concrete retains that kind of temperature. But, that doesn’t mean your home above has to be cold.

Finishing your basement will provide more warmth to the rest of your home (since you’ll be sealing off the floor of the main home from the cold concrete of the basement). Utilizing a drop-ceiling will allow you to retain access to your pipes and things tucked into the ceiling of your basement.

Drafts Be Gone!

If you’re looking to get your seemingly insane heating bill under control, you should definitely consider finding any drafts in your home!

You could be saving hundreds of dollars per year just by limiting the amount of heat you’re losing to the outdoors.

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