What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sealing Those Air Leaks

For many of us this time of year just simply means high heating costs so I fight back each year. From mid September to late December a caulking gun is always within handy reach in our home. In order to seal our house and because of age and design that is an ongoing project but the more you seal the more comfortable you and your family will be, the more you will save and then you can direct your energies where they really should be, your family. The more I save on energy costs the better for both my family and the environment plus there are those pocket book savings too.

There are other reasons for sealing up those air leaks. Overall sealed air leaks will save on both heating and cooling costs. Sealing helps prevent rodents and insects from getting in your home. Water is sealed out that could cause damage as well.

Great Stuff Expandable Foam

Two very low cost tools for eliminating drafts are paintable latex caulk and spray expandable foam. I'll discuss the caulk first then the spray foam.

Caulk: I prefer using a 10 yr paintable latex caulk for most draft sealing for a few reasons. First application is smooth with easy clean-up and almost no odour. Latex caulk is rather inexpensive with a very short payback time. Paintable caulk is a must have when painting rooms for a nice, professional finish. My preferred brand is Weather Shield available in a four pack ($6.97/4 pack) at Home Hardware however any good quality latex caulk will give similar results. Some applications require silicone caulk is necessary for certain applications like resealing around window panes. Home Hardware has a three pack for $9.97 and while more expensive it can be used for other purposes besides caulking. Think of silicone caulk as a heavy duty glue. The main problems using silicone caulk is clean-up and odour.

The first thing when sealing air leaks is detection. There are a few ways besides the wind blowing on your feet approach. While that is a very effect method, it's likely best to seal cracks before they are that bad. Sometimes with a new to you residence you will have to start with the larger air leak problems but that's to be expected especially in older buildings. The best bet is to wait for a windy day then focus on that side of the house. I think everyone has heard of using a candle as the flame will indicate any drafts. A safer method is using an incense stick. Both will detect smaller air leaks. Of course if you feel air coming in, seal!

Obvious spots to check is where any two different materials meet such as window pane to trim, wood trim to drywall or plaster. Seal around all window frames and unless your windows are high efficiency and already well sealed, seal between the window and trim. Open your cabinets and seal around where any pipes enter. Seal around any pipes entering through walls or floors.

Useful items to have on hand when using caulk: caulking gun, plastic knife or spoon, masking tape, paper towels or old rags. For a nice straight bead, run a piece of masking tape along both sides of the crack you want to seal. I prefer using the pull method where the tip of the caulk canister is placed at the starting point then is pulled along. You can use the push method by placing the tip at the start point the pushing along the crack. Whichever method works for you is fine. Run your bead of caulk, smooth with plastic knife of handle of plastic spoon. Remove masking tape while the caulk is still wet.

Expandable spray foam: There are times where caulk is not enough because the crack or gap is too big. This is where expandable spray foam comes in. The brand I prefer is Great Stuff mainly because Sam's Club has it two cans for $4.99. This essentially works like caulk for big spaces. It doesn't have a lot of odour but it sure can make a mess! I recommend using plastic or latex gloves and wearing old clothes when using this product. Shake the container well then put the nozzle on. Hold the can upside down and at an angle to fill cracks. As the name implies the foam does expand to fill the entire gap. Let the foam cure for 24 hours then use a serrated knife to cut away any excess foam. The foam can then be sanded and painting. I recommend painting if the foam will be exposed to sunlight as it will turn an ugly brown.

Use this foam for any larger gaps. I've used it around the the heating boots, behind the electrical panel, behind one 6-switch panel, and around where the house sits on the foundation. However, I have also used it around pipes, wire entries and any other gap that warrants it. My husband used it to seal up the crawlspace vents for winter as well. It can easily be cut away when we need the vents open during the summer. The only downside to the expandable foam aside of the potential mess that does decrease as you become familiar with the product is I find it is best to use the entire can instead of trying to save some. What I do is use mini post-it notes and tag where I want to seal using the foam. Then I go through and seal whatever I can using one can of the foam. Other tagged spots are left until I know I have enough to use up another full can.

Garden Gnome
© 2007