With all this chatter of home weatherization and the economy (Oct. 30 was home National Weatherization Day), home improvement tax credits, professional home energy audits, and the government’s Weatherization Assistance Program, figuring out where to start with your own weatherization project this winter can be a bit daunting. What if you don’t want to replace the insulation in your entire home but do want to perform a quick, cheap DIY fix-it job on a leaky window? What if you can’t afford to hire an energy auditing firm to give your home a full assessment but can afford a trip to the hardware store to pick up few draft-stopping devices?


Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at DIY weatherization tools that are essential for quick and effective energy- and money-saving fixes around the house and don’t involve a whole lot of cash, tax credits, and government assistance — things like weatherstripping, rubber gaskets, draft stoppers, fireplace dampers and plastic shrink film for windows.


Today’s featured tool is caulk, the versatile and affordable sealant often used in silicone form around bathtubs, pipes and plumbing fixtures. However, it’s also great for combating drafts around leaky windows and doors and, like many home improvement staples like paint, it’s available in safe, nontoxic varieties. Henkel’s Green Series of sealants (pictured above) and AFM Safecoat Caulking Compound are popular, commercially available eco-friendly alternatives.


Since I’m more of a weatherstripping kind of guy, here are a few caulking tips and tricks direct from the DOE’s Energy Savers website that can be followed along with the instructions provided with your caulk of choice. The Energy Savers site is also a great resource when deciding which type of caulk compound to purchase since there are many targeted formulas of varying strengths and price points out there (rule of thumb: the cheaper the caulk is, the less long-lasting it is). Additionally, MNN/Plenty and DoItYourself.com offer a few excellent DIY caulking pointers. 


• For good adhesion, clean all areas to be caulked. Remove any old caulk and paint, using a putty knife or a large screwdriver. Make sure the area is dry so you won't seal in moisture.


• Apply caulk to all joints in a window frame and the joint between the frame and the wall.


• Hold the gun at a consistent angle. Forty-five degrees is best for getting deep into the crack. You know you've got the right angle when the caulk is immediately forced into the crack as it comes out of the tube.


• Caulk in one straight continuous stream, if possible. Avoid stops and starts.


• Send caulk to the bottom of an opening to avoid bubbles.


• Make sure the caulk sticks to both sides of a crack or seam.


• Release the trigger before pulling the gun away to avoid applying too much caulking compound. A caulking gun with an automatic release makes this so much easier.


• If caulk oozes out of a crack, use a putty knife to push it back in.


• Don't skimp. If the caulk shrinks, reapply it to form a smooth bead that will seal the crack completely.


• Before applying new caulk, remove old caulk or paint residue remaining around a window using a putty knife, stiff brush or special solvent. After old caulk is removed, new caulk can then be applied to all joints in the window frame and the joint between the frame and the wall. The best time to apply caulk is during dry weather when the outdoor temperature is above 45°F (7.2°C). Low humidity is important during application to prevent cracks from swelling with moisture. Warm temperatures are also necessary so the caulk will set properly and adhere to the surface.


What is your experience using caulk as a draft sealant? Any tips or tricks you'd like to share in addition to the above? 


Photo: energy.circle

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Weatherize this: Caulk
Ready to whip out the big (caulk) guns this winter? Caulk is an affordable and versatile must-have for DIY home weatherization projects.