Winter's Coming: Window Cracks and Leaks


There are cracks up to a quarter inch wide between the the window frame and the inside window trim. It had been letting in cold air and leaking out warm air out for years. I had not done anything because I tolerate cold better and always set my thermostat to 72 deg F. The average gas bill hasn't changed for years and the furnace wasn't exactly knocking itself out unless it gets to minus twenty deg F or C. Its an unreliable measure of energy loss for sure.
The window frames were tight and secure to the stucco finish so there were no repairs or caulking possible there without making the problem something major. Same thing inside the house. The window trim was also tight and secure against the wall. No adjustments were possible. I didn't like the idea of those aerosol cans of squeeze foam insulation as they are sticky and would be impossible to remove if they didn't work and I come around to redoing the window repairs. This is indeed fortunate because I chatted with my neighbor and he said never to use that stuff. He did and the foam accelerated the cracks in his windows over the years and he has a real problem now. My other porposed solution was to stuff the cracks with fiberglass insulation and glue or nail a thin slat of woodover the whole inside window trim to cover the repairs. I have a well equipped garage workshop and can do that except I procrastinate (long story).
On saturday my sister stayed over (I live alone) and refused to sleep in the leaky cold bedroom preferring the sofa. By the morning she insisted on fixing the cracks and asked for those 1/4 inch rolls of sticky backed foam tape weatherstrip to at least temporarily close the cracks. Then she found I had leftover laminate flooring underlay foam sheet scraps. She used these instead and they are an excellent material as they are formulated for years of servive as flooring underlay. They are also strong and flexible and therefore will conform and fill the cracks to the edges. I love the solution. I wasn't too impressed with the foam weatherstrip material as they lose their elasticity and therefore seal effectiveness after a season or two. They are also hard to trim to size to fit the cracks.
My next step is to find a roll of self adhesive vinyl shelf liner contact "paper" with a suitable design and use that to finish the window trim and cover the cracks. Sis had asked for duct tape or transparent box tape, a pretty ugly, temporary idea (they dry up and deterioate) that leaves a messy residue when its time to remove them.
I am a pretty happy man. If this fix doesn't work I can easily undo everything without risking a messy cleanup. But I am confident that the fix will be good for years and I can always do the same fix at some future time should that become necessary.
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If you're serious about this (and pretty much everything else in your message), you're hopelessly, painfully stupid. How about doing the job right, which would involve ignoring any thoughts you might have on the subject, and getting a book from the library?
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On Sun, 14 Oct 2007 09:00:34 +0000, PaPaPeng wrote:

Forget about all the silly stuff you posted and stuff some rope caulk in the cracks then finish it off with tube caulk.
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wrote:

Not until I see someone with a successful "permanent" fix that I like. I have come across too many botched "just caulk it" jobs that are impossible to undo. So these eyesores and ineffective fixes stay around for years to irritate the homwowner. I'll monitor my fix over a few seasons. If it serves well all I need to do at some distant future date when it needs maintenance is to pull out the old stuff and do the same again. No digging, no scraping or sanding to get the old stuff out before putting on new stuff. Try doing that with old dried or dirty caulking.
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I'm not sure what your definition of a "successful permanent fix" is. Non-expanding foam, backer-rod and caulk are the industry standards for filling gaps around windows and doors. If you've come across "too many botched just caulk it jobs" it's probably because whoever did the caulking didn't know what they were doing. It doesn't make the process incorrect, it simply means that it was done wrong. Do some research about window installation and I doubt you will find any that don't use words like "caulk" or "sealant".
The idea behind sealing up a window is to create a dead air space between the interior and exterior. If you think that self adhesive vinyl shelf liner contact paper is going to accomplish this goal, you're sadly mistaken. Once the cold air and moisture gets to the paper it's going to peel off and you'll be right back where you started from.
Do yourself a favor. Get some scrap wood, build a few jigs and practice caulking the gap. Once you've stopped "botching" the caulking, move onto the windows and do it right.
Key points here: Use non-exanding foam: http://greatstuff.dow.com/greatstuff/diy/products/wd.htm Use backer-rod behind the caulk - here's one example: http://www.demandproducts.com/backrod.html Learn how to caulk correctly - lot's of help available on the web: http://www.ehow.com/how_8790_caulking-gun.html
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wrote:

Nice running by some of my thoughts with you guys. My idea of a neat and easy fix now will be to toss out the old standard width wood strips that made up the existing inside trim. I can cut my own wood strips to replace the existing trim, cover the separation gaps and butt flush against the window frame. The result will look like an original installation without any visible evidence of mending or caulking. I was right to resist doing anything that requires sticky stuff that is hard to remove and clean up. Next year's project.
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On Mon, 15 Oct 2007 01:11:54 +0000, PaPaPeng wrote:

Making new trim is a great idea, but be sure to seal underneath it.
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-- Nice running by some of my thoughts with you guys.
Man, does this smell of troll poop.
-- My idea of a neat and easy fix now will be to toss out the old standard width wood strips that made up the existing inside trim. I can cut my own wood strips to replace the existing trim, cover the separation gaps and butt flush against the window frame.
You mean your idea of a cover up. Your method is not a *fix* for leaky, drafty windows. Only a good quality sealant, applied before the wood trim is put on would be considered a fix. Try this - cut your trim and attach it as you have planned. Wait for a windy day or put a powerful fan outside your window. Light a stick of incense and hold it near your "fix". Let us know which way the smoke blows.
-- The result will look like an original installation without any visible evidence of mending or caulking.
So would a halfway decent application of backer rod and caulk to seal the gap before - let me repeat that last word: *before* - the trim is applied.
-- I was right to resist doing anything that requires sticky stuff that is hard to remove and clean up.
Right by whose measurement? Certainly not by anyone who has replied in this thread or by anyone who has any knowledge of how to install a window.
-- Next year's project.
What's next year's project? Doing it right?
I think you may missed a major point in our suggestion to use caulk. No one is suggesting that you simply caulk the existing gap and leave the caulk showing. If you need to make new trim to cover a gap between the rough opening and the sash, please do so. However, that is only cosmetic. You still need to seal the gap before you attach the trim if you want to stop the drafts and heat loss.
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wrote:

All the other things you mentioned about caulking and sealing the problem before installing the new trim are a given. My not doing the caulk fixes before was how to make them "invisible". I won't do it now 'cuz the the days when I can do a decent amount of work in a single stretch is unpredictable. There's nothing worse than half done work lying around for months in winter weather and winter lasts from end October into end May. I fatigue easily. If you know what CFS is it explains everything. If not it doesn't matter.
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On Mon, 15 Oct 2007 05:57:34 +0000, PaPaPeng wrote:

Should have mentioned the CFS, sorry to hear that. But still you have had (depending on where you live) 3 or 4 months of weather that permitted you to have done this the way it's done by the pros and by no means am I trying to be uncaring about your physical limitations as I am currently severely handicapped with an ankle that needs surgery.
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On Sun, 14 Oct 2007 18:39:46 +0000, PaPaPeng wrote:

Caulking is the industry standard. I've watched good carpenters use it by the case on home improvement/restoration jobs. I think your problem with it stems from seeing some shoddy caulk jobs. I've seen my fair share of them too but it never discouraged me from using it.
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