Bulletin #7215, Maine Home Energy: Weather-Stripping Windows and Doors

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Prepared by Extension Professor Donna Coffin, University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Reviewed by Extension Professor Kathy Hopkins, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

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This bulletin can help you determine whether any windows and doors in your home need weather stripping, as well as how to choose appropriate weather-stripping products.

Air leakage, or infiltration, is outside air that enters your home, or warm air that leaves your home, through cracks and openings in the walls, ceilings, and floor. Because air infiltration can account for as much as 30 percent of a home’s heating costs, you can stop losing money by sealing these air leaks.

While most air leakage occurs through holes and cracks in ceilings and floors, a significant amount of air leaks through cracks around windows and doors. This is especially true in homes with older windows and doors.

VIDEO: How to Save on Home Energy and Heating Costs During Maine Winter (YouTube)

VIDEO: How to Seal Windows for Winter and Summer (YouTube)

Weather stripping is needed in the following situations:

  • An operable window moves and rattles when it is in a closed position.
  • A length of thread or bathroom tissue held near a window or door indicates air movement through a crack.
  • Indoor light can be seen through a crack from outside the house.
  • A piece of paper slides easily through a closed opening.

Weather stripping is used between movable parts in operable openings, such as windows and doors, to stop air leaks. For example, it can be placed along the edges of window sashes and doorjambs. Weather stripping consists of narrow strips of metal, plastic, or foam, held in place with nails, staples, or adhesives. Which type you choose depends on where it will be installed as well as on your preferences in terms of cost, ease of installation, durability, service life, and other factors.

Characteristics of the types of weather stripping commonly available at home centers and department stores are listed in the following chart. Most packages include installation instructions.

Type of Weather Stripping Service Life Characteristics
Self-adhesive foam Self-adhesive foam 1–2 years Easy to install
Limited durability
Self-adhesive foam Felt 2 years Inexpensive
Easy to apply
Limited durability
Rolled vinyl or tubular gasket Rolled vinyl or tubular gasket 5 years + Visible when applied
Must make contact for proper seal
Tension-spring plastic or metal V-shaped strips Tension-spring plastic or metal V-shaped strips Plastic: 5 yearsMetal: 5–8 years Both metal and plastic types are easy to apply.
Good for uniform openings.
Flexible along its length for larger openings
Door sweep (metal spine, vinyl edge) Door sweep (metal spine, vinyl edge) 5 years+ Easy to apply
Vinyl is flexible over adjacent flooring materials
Metal door threshold with vinyl bulb Metal door threshold with vinyl bulb 5 years+ Flexible vinyl adjusts to fit door opening
Nylon brush fin seal Nylon brush fin seal 5 years + Used to replace worn weather stripping on aluminum windows and doors, and triple-track storm windows

Adapted with permission from Trudy Wythe and Joe Laquatra, “Weather Stripping Windows and Doors,” Housing Fact Sheets, revised by Mark Pierce (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1986, 2000).

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2008, 2012

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