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 :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Winterizing Project #4 - Door Snakes

Door thresholds can be chilly even if the door is well sealed and insulated. Not only does cold air fall to the threshold area, thresholds are often made of metal that is a good conductor of cold. The simple solution to this problem is a door snake aka draft stop. I prefer to not call these draft stops because ideally there will not be any drafts around the door or at the threshold.

Door snakes can be purchased to fit average sized doors. Some are plain Jane but there are some really cute ones that have faces on or are made to look like animals. However, finding door snakes for patio doors or off sized doors can be a problem. The easiest solution is to make your own. That way you will have a custom made door snake that meets your needs.


This is an ideal project whether you own your home or are renting. It is one of those things you can easily take with you when you move. The first step is to measure the spot where you are putting the door snake (1). If it is an inside application as here, add 2 inches to the end plus the seam allowances to give a bit of bend to fit both doors. If the application is for a single door, measure from the edge of the trim furthest from the door. Cut a length of fabric this length and 16 - inches wide. Fold the fabric in half along the long side.

You will need a sewing machine for this project. Mine happens to be a very loved, well maintained, older Brother (2) that my Mom gave me for my thirteenth birthday. It works as well as the day I got it. The only thing that has changed is the skill of the user! Start at one open end and working along the long side, sew a seam 5/8 - inch wide (3), reinforcing at each end. Repeat along the bottom open end and up the remaining long side. Cut across from the short end to the long end about 1/4 - inch from the reinforced corners to reduce the seam bulk when you turn the tube. Turn the tube and fill leaving about 2 inches. Turn 5/8 - inch inwards. Sew the end closed.

Filling the tube is rather easy but choose your filling based on your circumstances. Dried corn, rice or peas are cheap fillers but should not be used if you have a rodent problem or a potential rodent problem. If the door snake will be in an area where it may get wet, grains my mold too. Aquarium gravel can be used that will eliminate both problems but is more expensive. I decided to use kitty litter that will eliminate any rodent problems and is less expensive but can be a slight problem if it gets wet. Drying out well should solve any wetting problems. A layer of plastic can be sewn into the tube if moisture is a concern.

Finished Door Snake

The finished door snake for a patio door is quite heavy. It is higher than a store bought door snake so it comes up higher on the door. The extra length allows for a bend for patio doors. Using the door snake is quite easy. Lay it along the doors creating any bends as necessary. Once in place, lightly kick the snake to snug up against the doors.

On an unused patio door, the door snake will not get dirty enough to worry about. At the end of the season, gather up the snake and store as is. If the snake has become dirty, you can remove the end stitches, empty and wash the covering or you can simply make a new slip covering for the snake to fit into, much like a miniature, elongated pillow case.

DIY Skills: beginner level with beginner level sewing skills


length of firm woven fabric

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Winterizing Project #3 - Window Sill Insulator

Window sills, especially wider ones, can be cool even if the window is well sealed. The reason this happens is because the window pane itself is always colder than the frame or wall. Cold air is heavier than warm air so falls to the window sill where it pools. If the window frame happens to be metal, the sill can be even cooler. On narrow window sills this effect is counteracted by using window treatments however on some windows, heavy window treatment is not desirable during the day, usually because of a great view. These include bay windows, picture windows and larger sliding windows.

Our walls are about 18 - inches thick on the lower level so we have deep window sills. We would prefer leaving those widows with the water view uncovered. We've all seen it where the homemaker tries to compensate this cooling effect by rolling up a towel or sheet and placing it along the window sill. While this can be low cost and effective, aesthetically it isn't very appealing. I came up with a simple window sill insulator that is inexpensive, easy to make and looks nicer than a rolled up towel. With care, it can be used for several years. The fabric covering is optional but I think it will protect the insulator and it can easily be changed to suit your decor.

Before (1) & With Foam (2)

Measure the area you want to insulate (1). Transfer the measurements to the sheet of foam. Draw the lines in using the Sharpie marker. Using the utility knife carefully cut outside the line. This way you will be able to make small adjustments as necessary. Fine cut along the edges until the foam fits snugly into the spot (2).

Attaching Fabric

Remove the foam and lay good side up on the wrong side of the fabric you are using . Working on the wrong side of the fabric cut around the foam leaving 3-inches on each side (3). Along each edge of the foam, fold the fabric up and secure at intervals using push pins. The corners need to have a square cut out then one side of the corner folded and hot clued before gluing the other portion of the corner (4). This eliminates too much bulk on the corners. Once the corners are secured, hot glue each short end. Then glue one long end, working from one push pin to the next and removing each push pin as the fabric is secured. Repeat along the other long end but pull the fabric slightly and secure by hot gluing (5). If you wish, you can cut another piece of fabric to fit just the bottom then secure by hot gluing but this is not really necessary. Now turn the insulator over and pop into place.

Finished Insulator

The finished insulator in place looks quite nice. I like that it can be popped in and out when needed and can be customized with other fabrics. Slight wrinkles may occur at inner corners if you have them. It will take a day or two for these wrinkles to flatten or they can be carefully flattened using a medium warm iron. If using this method you may have to weigh the insulator down for a few minutes after ironing.

DIY level: beginner level skills

Total Cost: approximately $10


1 half sheet Styrospan R 5 foam board
piece of firm material of your choice
Sharpie marker
measuring tape
utility knife
straight edge
push pins
hot glue gun
multi-temperature glue sticks

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007

Winterizing Project # 2 - Easy Window Cover

Many of us have a window that has no real view and the only values are air filtration or light. Often it is for light only and quite often is in a location where conventional window covering isn't quite appropriate. So what is needed is a covering that can give added insulation for the winter yet can be removed for the summer. Ideally the window covering is inexpensive and easy to install.

The Window

We have two such windows. They are good quality windows that are well sealed so could be left as is but I want a bit more insulation factor. They are at ground level meaning if we have any amount of snow they will be covered. I could not find any air leaks on either window but if you have a window like this check the spots marked by the arrows. If needed caulk these with clear silicone if wood stained or paintable caulk. On older windows check all weather stripping on the windows to be sure you have an air tight seal. Finally, lock the window to ensure a tight seal.

I adapted this idea from winterizing my greenhouse in my previous garden. This is an effective, low cost and energy efficient solution for some windows. Bubble wrap lets the light in while adding insulation to the north wall. When done properly on house windows it give the effect of frosted glass while adding insulation value. It is easily removed and if you store properly you can re-use for a couple of years. This is a project that can be adapted for any sized window.



clear silicone caulk
latex caulk
indoor shrink window film
bubble wrap
weather tape
caulk gun
tape measure

Clean the window pane with a 1:1 vinegar solution. Dry well. Seal the window as necessary with the caulk. Cut the two sided tape in the window kit to fit the window. This should leave you enough tape to attach the optional window film if you choose. Carefully place the tape around the window. Do not remove the other protective side. Cut the bubble wrap to fit. Remove the protective side and carefully attach the bubble wrap to the tape, keeping taunt and wrinkle free. Press the bubble wrap firmly into the tape. From there you can leave as is, add a finish edging or for added energy efficiency hang a curtain if desired.


The first thing you will notice about my window covering is there is a seam. The seam is joined with weather tape. I don't mind the seam because I am likely going to be the only one seeing the window and I am using up bubble wrap left over from winterizing the greenhouse. This picture was taken after dark but during daylight hours there is the same visibility of lightly frosted glass but the insulation value is greater.

As mentioned this window is already very well sealed but if you have a leaky window and can't seal with caulk, then after the bubble wrap is installed place a layer of shrink film on the inside window trim. Shrink for clarity with the bubble wrap between the window and inside surface. This will cut any draft unless it is coming from around the trim. You now have an energy efficient, low cost window treatment that allows the light in at the same time.

DIY: a novice DIYer could easily do this project.

Garden Gnome
© 2007