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posted: 6/23/2013 1:00 AM

How to repair a drafty window

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By Dwight Barnett

Q. Every winter the windows in my home are so cold that I have to place blankets over them to keep the room warm. The windows are in a 1950s home and there are storm windows, but there is such a draft around the windows that I have to keep the rooms closed off. What I can do myself?

A. A drafty window repair will require a little knowledge and labor.

The older windows are set in an opening that is somewhat larger than the window itself. This is called the rough opening and is generally 1 to 2 inches wider and taller than the actual window. This allows the installer to set the window in the rough opening and then align and square the window before securing it in place. The trim around the window hides all these voids next to the window's frame.

Generally, I find that these voids were not insulated after the windows were installed and the draft is actually cold air entering the home around the window frames.

Here's what you can do:

Remove the trim from all four sides of the window and, in some cases, the window sill. To save the trim, use a nail set, also known as a punch, to drive the trim's nails all the way through the trim so that the trim can be removed. If you can't locate the nails, use a pry bar to gently remove all the trim and, if necessary, the window sill. If you find insulation stuffed into the gap around the window frame, remove it, because any time insulation is "stuffed" in an opening, it no longer provides much of a thermal resistance to the weather.

Next, fill the gaps on all sides of the frame with low-expanding spray foam. I use a canned product called Great Stuff, which is available at most home and hardware stores. Make sure to use low-expanding foam in the Great Stuff blue can. The expanding foam in the Great Stuff red container could damage the window as it expands.

Once the foam has dried, use a knife to remove any foam that extends beyond the face of the frame. Replace the window's sill and trim and you will find you have a warmer room and should notice a decrease in your energy use next winter.

• Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at

Scripps Howard News Service

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