You wouldn't open your windows in the winter, but if they're not caulked well, it'll feel like they're open anyway!

Your heating system takes a beating every winter and the best way to ease the strain on it and save money at the same time is by learning how to caulk your windows properly. Cold air can make its way through poorly insulated windows, making it much harder for your furnace to do its job.

Caulking your windows is one of the easiest ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home and get it ready for the chill of winter. Though window caulking is one of the fastest DIY projects, some homeowners may lack experience and need a few pointers. We’ve developed a step-by-step guide for caulking windows, and before you know it, you’ll be insulating your windows like a pro.

When you should caulk

Caulk can be applied to any window type or style. While we’d all like to wait until winter, caulking windows is ideally done in the fall. Caulk adheres in warm temperatures (above 40° F) and you’ll most likely be opening your windows as you complete the project. If you’re working on saving energy, you don’t want to be opening your windows in the winter.

Types of caulk

A wide variety of different kinds of caulk are available, but many homeowners opt for latex or silicone caulk. Latex caulk is easier to apply and can be painted, while silicone is more durable and can withstand extreme temperatures. As we will touch on later, caulk frequently needs to be removed and latex caulk is much easier to detach.

Removing old caulk

Just as you would clean and prepare a wall before adding a new coat of paint, the surface area to be caulked must be cleaned before application. The windows will usually have old lines of caulk, and the old caulk must be removed before applying a fresh, new layer. Use a utility knife or scraper to remove all old caulk and debris, followed by a good brushing or vacuuming. Then, clean the area as you would any wall.

Buying a caulk gun

Despite its similar appearance, caulk is not like toothpaste. It can’t be easily dispensed by squeezing. You’ll need a caulk gun to seal your window like a professional. We recommend buying a quick-release caulk gun that releases pressure when you stop pulling the trigger. This will save you from a mess, as compared to cheaper guns where the caulk just keeps on coming out even after you’ve stopped.

How to caulk properly

You first have to load the tube of caulk into the caulk gun. Cut the tip of the tube off at a 45° angle for optimal caulk release. Many caulk guns have a pin to puncture the caulk tube inside and allow the caulk to flow into the tip (use a long nail or wire coat hanger if not). Pull the trigger and place the caulk in the chamber, placing the back end first. Pull the trigger until the caulk tube is firmly in place. You’re now ready to caulk!

Begin to apply a thin layer of caulk around your window, holding the gun at a 45° angle and steadily move the gun down the edge away from the tip – remember, pull the caulk, don’t push it. You should cover every area where air might seep through. The resulting line of caulk is called a bead. When you’re caulking your windows, be sure to always finish by smoothing the bead with a wet finger or smoothing tool. This keeps everything even and professional-looking. Once you’re finished, make sure to cap the tip, as you’ll most likely not use the entire tube. Capping helps keep the caulk from drying inside the tube.

Caulking windows is a cost-effective way to enhance the energy efficiency of your home. It’s an easy DIY project and it will lower your energy bills.


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