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Friday, September 14, 2012

Cheap and easy DIY: weather sealing my doors

this is the product I use
the foam weatherseal comes in rolls,
with self-stick tape on the back side

One of my September jobs is to check and repair the weather stripping around the exterior doors. I find this to be a good month for the job, as it's still warm outside. So if I need to leave the door open for 15 minutes, I won't be letting cold air in. Yesterday was perfect for this -- a beautiful, late summer day.

An inexpensive and easy way to prevent air leaks and heat loss around doors is to install or repair the insulating foam gasket. Replacing worn weatherseal is one of just a few insulation applications appropriate for most everyone, from renters to homeowners, and from experienced to inexperienced DIY-ers. The investment is quite small (just a few dollars) and the installation is so simple my teens could do it well. And this isn't just for the menfolk. I've been taking care of this for the last 17 years. I'm not even sure my husband realizes that I do this each year.
I inspect this crack all around the door,
where it meets the frame

Once a year, I do a visual inspection of my exterior doors. On a sunny day, with the door closed and locked, I inspect the crack where door and frame meet, looking for glimpses of light from outdoors. I get up on a step stool to check the upper edge and down on my hands and knees to check the lower edge, at the threshold. If I find a spot where the light appears to be leaking through, I replace the insulating gasket there with a new piece of weatherseal.

There are a couple of types of weather stripping for doors and windows. By far the easiest to apply for the DIY-er is foam weather stripping tape, often called rubber foam weatherseal or insulation. Basically it's a spongey foam material, that molds to fit the space available when the door closes, thus preventing drafts.

This type of weatherseal comes in a roll, in both black, for dark paint or stain on the door frame, and in white, for white painted door frames. I measure the spot where I'll be placing new weatherseal. I measure and cut from the roll. Unrolling the product reveals a removable paper backing on the underside of this tape. Under this paper backing is an extremely sticky surface. I place this foam in a long strip, on the door frame, where the frame and door would come in contact when the door is closed. I recheck for light leaks, and I'm done. It's just that easy.

Adding or replacing this insulation costs about $4 per standard-sized door, and takes about 15 minutes. If I'm just repairing breaks in the seal, one roll could easily do several doors, or be saved for next year. Weatherseal comes in a variety of widths and thicknesses. It's available at any hardware store. A contractor of ours recommended we use 3/8"wide by 5/16" thick for our doors. It seems to be a good fit.

These foam strips will last through regular use of the door, for several years. I have a spot on one door that catches and I do wind up replacing just that one little bit every other year. The rest of the foam strips have lasted for about 4 years so far.  A note -- if the foam has been painted over, it won't have the same ability to compress and form to the space in the door frame, and should be replaced.
fold-over rubber gasket
the door didn't have a perfect seal
I've added some foam strip under the fold,
so the door would have a better seal

Doors sometimes warp or never were hung exactly right to begin with. And even with the more expensive, rubber gasket installation, there can be a small gap in the seal. There's a type of rubber gasket that folds over in the frame. We have one such door and gasket combo. The door is just slightly warped and so when checking for draft possibilities, I can see light leaking through in a couple of spots. Here, I've placed this foam weatherseal under the fold of the rubber gasket, to improve the seal.

This type of foam weatherseal can be used on windows and around air conditioner units, as well. Next week, I'll be doing older aluminum-frame windows in two rooms of our house (the rest of the windows have been replaced) with this same product. I hope to make all the rooms in our house cozier and less prone to drafts for this winter.

I don't know just how much this could potentially save us in energy costs. Perhaps someone here, reading, has an idea of how much can be saved just by weather stripping doors and windows. It would be interesting to know. Are you doing anything in particular to make your home snug and cozy for the coming winter?


  1. I am now in a rental home, and we are I suspect NOT a spec of insulation in that L. I have installed a door sweep onto the main, front door, which appears to have been recently cut, significantly too short (new wood floors last year-probably when it happened). You could see outdoors by at least an inch! I also plan on making draft dodgers. This main door has a vestibule area as you enter the home, with an exterior, screen door. Landlord won't get a storm glass panel so I've tried Freecycle, the dump to get one. So, I have bought 6 ml. plastic and white duck tape to cover over the screen, making the vestibule more enclosed from the elements, and warmer, before the door is opened to the interior of the home. Both the office area and the dining area of the home also have doors with screen doors on the exterior-those doors will also get the 6 ml plastic treatment. 3 sets of sliders in this L area appear to be double glass, as to the 2 large, non opening windows and 2 triple windows whose centers do slide open. I have saved old matress pads to make insulating covers, as needed. Draft dodgers in these areas. I will be contacting my electric company for an energy audit, they normally do caulking as well. 2 windows in the library wall area of the LR will be covered in plastic and foam strips as you describe will be applied. These are OLD and single paned. If needed, the tighten with a blow dryer, plastic window kits will be used in the bedrooms. Agree-NOW is the time to handle these chores.

    1. Hi Carol,
      It sounds like you have quite a bit of work ahead of you getting your new place winter-ready. You are doing a terrific job getting the place sealed up.

      Did your place come with good curtains/drapes? You're in New England, right? Very cold and windy at times, I imagine.

      I'm debating with myself whether or not to cover the 4 older windows in our house with plastic. I will definitely be sealing the edges and openings with foam self-stick tape. I'm also trying to make one of the rooms especially cozy. It'll be the place I hang out on cold days. All doors in and out of this room can be closed, and there's a fireplace. I still need to get curtains in there, though.

      Good luck with all the work you have ahead of you. Will your landlord pay for the plastic shrink kits for your windows, if you do the work? We had a landlord that paid for the supplies, if we would do the work. That was a help.

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. This is my preferred method of insulating doors, especially as a renter. It's inexpensive, costs very little, and isn't permanent if you have a landlord who doesn't want you making improvements to the apartment.

    1. Hi Lois,
      Many weatherizing projects just aren't feasible for renters, are they? But I like this foam weatherseal tape for the reasons you mentioned, inexpensive and don't have to be permanent, and it's quick and easy to install. I didn't think about landlords objecting to improvements, but yes, now that I think of it, we've had that experience, too.

      Thanks for your input!

  3. This is a great alternative, honestly! Rubber weather stripping is one of the two most effective solutions in this area, the other being the vinyl weather stripping. And yes, such a home update is always better done when it’s dry and warm. Old windows probably have leaks, and it’s not cool to only discover those when the rain has arrived. Thanks!


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