Window Winter Prep: Your Comprehensive Checklist

Compare quotes from up to four local home service companies, no sign-up required.

By now you’ve probably noticed the days growing shorter. Sweatshirts are becoming more and more comfortable outside. Gasp! You may even need to break out the winter coat soon! It’s around this time of year when you first start to see your breath at night that you need to begin cold weather window prep. The windows and doors of your home let in more cool air than any other part of your home (if it’s functioning properly), which is why it’s crucial to seal them properly. Following the right preparation steps will help you identify draft problems and add layers of insulation to keep you warm all winter long.

General Prep

By taking a few general preparation steps, you can identify key draft issues, and also seal off your home as well as possible without adding anything extra just yet.

Check the Panes

Take a look at the window panes on all your storm windows for cracks, and replace any that are significantly damaged. Any cracks will allow in cool air once winter hits, and that excess draft will cost you more throughout the season.

Install Your Storm Windows

Once temperatures plunge to the point that you don’t want to open your windows very often, install those storm windows to help insulate your home. They’re designed to withstand more extreme weather conditions, and they keep cold out more effectively. To complete the installation, remove the screens from their tracks and slide the glass panes into place instead.

You don’t want to install them too soon though, because you won’t be able to open your windows any longer once you do. If you don’t own storm windows, now is a good time to consider having some installed for an extra insulation barrier.

Lock ‘Em up!

While it seems pretty basic, make sure that every window in your home is completely shut and locked. Even a window that’s slightly opened will allow drafts to get in. Walk around your home and lock each and every one of the windows before you bother trying to seal any drafts.

Feel for Drafts

Wait until a particularly cold night and walk around your home to feel for drafts. Run the back of your hand along all the edges of the windows in your home. Mark any drafts you feel with a pencil or dry-erase marker as you go. If you’re having a tough time locating drafts in your home with accuracy, light a long candle and walk around your home with it. When you notice the flame flickering, you’ve found your draft problem! This works particularly well when it’s windy out.

Fill Them In

While it’s important to replace windows or their trim when they’re overly drafty, often you can fix mild draft issues with insulation tape, foam, or caulk. Caulk around any windows that are letting in a noticeable draft, and fill in larger holes with foam or tape.

Add Some Insulation

Storm windows, or brand-new double paned windows or triple pane windows installed properly are the best sources of insulation for your home, but there are more affordable solutions that you can rely on in the short-term to cut your energy bills this winter.


Wrap Those Windows!

Consider wrapping the inside of your windows with plastic for additional insulation. There are window wrap kits that contain heat-shrink plastic you simply lay over top of your windows and heat into position. While these work well, you don’t necessarily have to spend the money to purchase these kits for your home, if you don’t mind obscuring your window view a bit. For windows that aren’t as important to you, wrapping them up with good old-fashioned bubble wrap is just as efficient and might even do a better job than those kits! Wet the windows down with a spray bottle of water and press the plastic in place. Then cut it to size and tape around it to lock into position all winter long. Insulation tape is best, but basic masking tape will probably succeed in keeping it from moving as well.

Try Foam Draft Sealers Above and Below

Even locked windows may allow a bit of air to flow in above and below the upper and lower sashes. Adhesive-backed compression foam is available for just this issue. Simply stick the foam to the top of the upper sash and the bottom of the lower sash and firmly shut the windows on top of the foam. It’s squeezed in between the frame and the sashes and creates a tight seal, stopping drafts in their tracks.

Hang the Right Curtains

The final step to insulating your home is to hang heavy insulating curtains around your home. They should be a dark color to help absorb heat from sunlight, and they are thickly lined, designed to keep cold drafts from entering your home. Hang them from each window, and you’ll notice the cozy difference after just a little while.

It’s likely that you won’t have to follow every one of these steps while prepping your home for those upcoming chilly months. But by following many of these steps, you’ll help cut down on drafts during winter and you’ll likely save some money off your utility bills as well.

Ready to get free quotes from local contractors?