Asked on Oct 12, 2013

What to do with Old drafty windows but no money to replace them??????

Amanda Sprague
by Amanda Sprague
Winter is coming up and we live in a very old home. We just moved in a few months ago and it's roughly about 3,000 sqft home. The windows in this house are from somewhere in the 1930's VERY VERY OLD!!!!! But we do NOT have the money to replace them at the moment and the house is all electric and there isn't even a heater in either bathroom's. So does anyone have any ideas of how we can somehow fix the windows to where they won't be so drafty and also how to helps us to be as energy efficient as possible. My family and Iive in Michigan and it get's extremely cold so i'm trying to get a jump start on the heating bills and trying to do what I can about the window situation. Please help with ideas if you can. Thank you
  25 answers
  • Pat Pat on Oct 12, 2013
    Grew up in NE Pennsylvania where the winters are brutal. We lived in very old houses during my childhood. I remember my parents buying a plastic product that they would tack over the window and were able to shrink wrap it to be very tight with a hair dryer. Another thing you could do, like Rhonda suggested is heavily lined drapes. If you can't afford or can't find some, consider putting old blankets, quilts or anything you can think of for an additional barrier between the window and the room. Additional, you could keep all the door shut in the rooms not in use and hand blankets over the doors. Good luck, keep warm.
    • See 1 previous
    • Pattitrich Pattitrich on May 25, 2015
      I recently read that you can buy bubble wrap, by the roll the kind you use when wrapping dishes etc when moving. They tear off in sq s. wet your window & stick on window. Supposed to be effective to keep cold & heat out. Anyone tried this? Seems it would work. Also caulking around windows, doors, and pipes under sinks.
  • Dee W Dee W on Oct 12, 2013
    Caulking around the windows and even the doors would be a big help. Follow this up with the window plastic and if you can insulated drapes. For many years, I used blankets over the windows until we were able to install new ones. I also found that by putting a heavy or insulated curtain between the storm door and interior door, this helped tremendously with drafts, especially through the night--until we were able to purchase new doors. Good luck!
  • Dee Dee on Oct 13, 2013
    buy some insulating fabric at Joann's (there is usually a 50% coupon) and just cut to fit you only have to sew one. Hem on the top because the fabric is blackout as well as weatherized. Usually cot about $5 a yard and easy peaty to do
  • Here are a few standard things you could do; Close all windows properly. Keep your windows air-tight. You may want to purchase removable window-caulk or plastic to better seal them.Minimize or instead try seal leaks You could cover your windows a clear plastic sheet.Add heavy set of curtains. Seal your doors you can use towels here. Let the sun hit the roof.Clear all obstructions. Shut any unused rooms . Try and seal attic if any. Use rugs and carpets .
  • Amanda Sprague Amanda Sprague on Oct 13, 2013
    Thank you Kala
  • GrandmaCarol Speight GrandmaCarol Speight on Oct 13, 2013
    @Amanda Sprague ....window "putty" will work too.[Making a suggestion for someone living somewhere other than Canada is rough for me to do because terminologies are quite often not the same, sorry]....Check out 3-m for window covering kits...a bit time consumming to do, but the result is that you can then see out the windows all winter while they are covered with "shrink-wrap"! I am guessing here that it is not only the windows that are drafty BUT there may be little or no insulation in the walls, thus allowing the air to creep in un-obstructed and exit from its' captivity out through your old, need to be replaced "maybe" windows.IF there is sufficiant insulation in the walls that would veto my thoughts of how the wind/air is making access AND IF you choose to do the caulking thing, do it not only inside around the window frame BUT on the outside wall around the window frame as well. Amanda.....I have one more suggestion BUT it is a tedius job...remove 1 piece of the inside window trim...there may be insulation in the "window casing" and there may not should/might see a "space"...maybe 1/2-1-inch wide, all around the window; that is the window casing. Poke some insulation in that opening...don't poke it in "solid-like", just gently fill the hole....cover what you have just insulated with plactic(believe it or not heavy-duty saran will work for a short period to get ya through the winter)..use wide packing scotch tape OR good 'ol duct tape to hold the saran (or whatever you use) in place... Re-attach your trim and that may help you too.Hope what I have offered doesn't send ya screaming into the forest!....lolol. Isn't owning a home wonderful?....lolol
  • Amanda Sprague Amanda Sprague on Oct 13, 2013
    Thank you. Those tips will be extremely helpful. I really appreciate it.
    • GrandmaCarol Speight GrandmaCarol Speight on Oct 13, 2013
      @Amanda Sprague My suggestions were made not only to stop the draft and help ya limp through the upcoming Winter/cold season until maybe more permanent repairs can be undertaken in the Spring BUT to hopefully cut down on the added expences of heating costs due to a cold home for this season. I honestly don't think hanging blankets or heavy curtains over windows is an acceptable solution,....the draft will still be coming in. Of course if that is your only alternative....then it will help...a little BUT to be effective, these coverings will have to be closed 24/7, therefore forcing you to use lighting because the natural light is blocked and the electric bill will sky-rocket. Vicious circle!....lolol. Good Luck!...with whatever choice you make.
  • Tamera J. Beth Tamera J. Beth on Oct 13, 2013
    Tamera Beth Missouri Use decorative quilts, try thrift shops or several of the discount box stores. I have had real good luck at Sears when they run 19.99 for all quilts, sizes, sale. I have even used the pillow shams for a valance. You can do a no sew window treatment by hook/clip on a rod or use witch stitchery (iron on tape) for a pocket style and use PVC for rods
  • Amanda Sprague Amanda Sprague on Oct 13, 2013
    Thank you Tamera. Our Sears just closed this past summer but I do believe we have one about 30 minutes away from us so I will look into that. Thanks again.
  • GranArt GranArt on Oct 13, 2013
    or move to Texas... :)
  • Waysouth Waysouth on Oct 13, 2013
    when I was a child, and times were hard, my mother would hang old blankets over the windows, doorways had a draught curtain and draught excluder along the bottom. I'm sure quilts would look much prettier though than the old army blankets! Back then, we had a coal fire and a portable "Alladin" paraffin heater. We all wore vests, the colder it got, the more clothes we wore! However, we survived to shiver at the memory
  • Cynthia Freeney Cynthia Freeney on Oct 14, 2013
    Hi Amanda, A lot of times, what makes windows drafty are not the windows themselves, but gaps and holes around them window frame. If you can afford to spend some money (yet not as much as you would spend with full window replacement) I'd suggest you contact an energy conservation company, for a complete home energy evaluation and have your existing windows professionally sealed and insulated. There is some cost involved but the resulting energy savings and comfort might worth the investment. You may also want to consider adding storm windows. They are less expensive than a full replacement window, help save energy and eliminate drafts. If you are on a tight budget, for the time being, I suggest you contact your utility company, as many utility companies offer help with basic caulking and "winterizing". Energy saving window treatments will help prevent some heat loss as well. Here's some window treatment suggestions from the US Department of Energy
  • Melinda Melinda on Oct 14, 2013
    I know someone said Caulk....but I want to add...Caulk around the inside and outside of window. Caulking around the outside of window trim, may also help. We just replaced some trim around the outside of a sun room and now I know, one reason it was drafty. Gaps and no caulk!
  • Z Z on Oct 14, 2013
    I highly recommend the removable caulk the @Kala Professional Restoration services mentioned. I also recommend that if you can, use a power caulk gun that runs on a compressor for applying as this is a tough job. Oh and wear a respirator or mask made for fumes as it's quite awful smelling, but does the job. The caulk like putty that @GrandmaCarol Speight mentioned. It's still time consuming, but does the trick and can be easily removed when the weather warms up.
  • Judy Judy on Oct 14, 2013
    I have old dual pane windows that insulate efficiently but when they were put in they were sealed around the outside of the frame with caulking that has since deteriorated due to age. I'm having my son come over & re-caulk around all of the windows, I did this in my bedroom last year to stop a leak when it rained & noticed a difference in the temperature of the room. The 3M shrink wrap one other person mentioned also works very well. You just use a blow dryer to shrink it into place.
  • Carla Carla on Aug 13, 2015
    Thermal curtains help a ton! Also you could put mini blinds up then Thermal curtains, besides the caulk...
  • Tone Tone on Aug 14, 2015
    I asked these same questions last winter! We allso live in a very old house with big, old windows. We changed the packing around the window. That helped alot since the old ones were letting in the cold draft. An other thing you can do is stuff long stokcings with rice and put alongside the windowsill. The same thing works great for doors where draft comes in from under. I read an other thing, though I havent tried it. Cover the windows with bubble wrap! Ut doesnt look very nice, but it is supposed to help, Allso you can find, or make, thick curtains to pull together over the windows. Allso effective :)
  • Cindy Corean Cindy Corean on Sep 04, 2015
    Cut a piece of fairly thick foam board to fit as tightly as you can in the window (you can cover this stuff with a pretty piece of fabric or a piece of pretty bed sheet to make it look better), then set it in the window at night to keep out the cold. During the day, take the foam out so the window is usable and set the foam behind the bed, couch, door, in a closet, or whatever. A variation on this idea would be to make a frame out of lath that fits inside the window and staple bubble wrap to it, then take it down when you need the window. Hey, it's an improvement over the old staple plastic over the window idea, although that worked in it's day. I've used heavy fabrics like denim or twill to make thermal curtains and lined them with (preshrunk) heavy weight muslin. Prewash all fabric, place it together and sew it as though you were just making one layer. You can also use lighter weight fabric and place a layer of flannel or fleece between the curtain and lining. Be sure to prewash everything, though, because you don't want your curtain material shrinking at different rates when you wash it.... you can guess how I know!!! If you don't want to fool with that many layers, just line your heavy curtains with fleece. If your windows really leak bad and are able to blow the curtains away from the wall, sew several washers or other metal weights into the hem when you make the curtains. You can also stick a strip of Velcro to the wall and sew the opposite piece to the sides of your curtains to keep the sides airtight. Otherwise, caulk, caulk, caulk every seam whether you think it needs it or not. There is often a gap big enough to stick your finger in behind that window or door trim! I agree with the lady who suggested mini-blinds with the thermal curtains. The more layers you can put between your room and the great outdoors, the better. Another thing you might want to check is the exterior walls. Usually old houses have insulation that has settled. Other than the bottom 18" or so, you probably don't have any insulation in those walls anymore. Place as much heavy furniture, hang pictures, put up bookshelves, even stack boxes against those walls to make it through the winter. Wallpapering the exterior walls of a room helps a lot, too. Blow in insulation has worked wonders for us, and is relatively cheap, although it's a lot of work. At least you don't have to take the walls apart to insulate them! You drill holes in the wall, fill with insulation, then patch the holes. If you're putting new siding up, put a layer of silver sided foam board up before the siding, add some housewrap, and then put the siding up. Caulk everywhere you can from the outside, as well as the inside, and your house will be toasty warm! (This message has been brought to you from cold and windy NE Wyoming, so my heart goes out to you because I know what it's like!) God bless you and your new home! It will all be worth it (some day!)
  • Panhandlelil1 Panhandlelil1 on Sep 04, 2015
    I caulk real good and put reflective film on the glass. It helps keep the cold out and heat in. I wasn't sure this would work at first, but it really helps. It helps insulate the glass
  • Emily Emily on Sep 07, 2015
    Hi Amanda, Boy, I feel sorry for you with electric heat! We are sort of in the same boat. Our house is from 1905 and has the original windows. We like them and would choose not to replace them but can't afford it anyway. Do you have storm windows? In our living room we do not have to open the front window as the outside door opens into this room and there is also another door to the outside. So even though we have a storm window here we also made a plastic covering out of sheeting from the hardware store and some pieces of wood. We have shutters at this window and the plastic covering is under the shutters but over the window. It does not show at all. Also in my house I have floor length curtains that open and close. These are simple cotton and in the winter I pin linings of fleece blankets inside the curtains. They add a lovely weight and help insulate. I would also recommend closing off rooms. You need heavy window coverings. Also since our front door opens directly to the outside from the living room we have a double sided velvet "porterre" hanging there. You need abundant fabric to keep the chill from your windows. The plastic I am talking about is behind the clock window.
  • Darla Darla on Sep 07, 2015
    There is a product available in big box hardware stores that is a sheet of thin plastic film that you seal over your windows on the inside. This helps a lot in the winter.
    • Patty Donovan Patty Donovan on Aug 14, 2020

      My issue is the heat- here in the South- I have 6 months of 95+ temps- and its a very sunny room. you melt in there.I painted and caulked all four windows. I am starting to put plastic up to keep the draft /heat & cold out. Hope it helps.

  • Valerie Valerie on Dec 09, 2015
    Try plastic storm window insulation kits. Install inside your house. You attach with its own (comes in kit) doublesided adhesive tape and then shrink it tight to the window with a hair dryer. Instructions in package. I use to do this so I know it works.
  • Bette Bette on Feb 16, 2016
    Left over flat styrofoam works too. Dramatic when painted with black, leaving white areas for your "in-the-window" vase or faux "white curtains."
  • GrandmaCarol Speight GrandmaCarol Speight on Feb 17, 2016
    The suggestions given are all good but keep in mind that even IF you do cover the windows , there may NOT be any OR only minimal insulation in the walls and attic areas. I also noticed that the first reply to you inquiry came in Sept. 2015. I would suspect that you have since noticed where the "worst offenders" are and have hopefully somehow delt with that. I understand the dilemma about old houses and drafts. Our first year in our 100+ year old residence cost us over $2500 for heat and I only keep the temp at around 55'F(after the first fill and the 2nd came close on the heels of that first I decided I had to take drastic measures, so "encouraged" husband to wear sweater!) I ran the dehumidifier steady for the first 18 months we were here even tho it did not appear to be damp it apparently was hiding something from us!.lololol. IF you have a family member close by OR a friend that may have a dehumidifier.maybe borrow it and see how much water it hauls out in a 24 hour period. Check with your HVAC people and see if they have an opinion on the dehumidifier idea. This winter here (3rd),..has not been too bad....BUT our part of Ontario, Canada has been "noticeably absent".....about 45 minute north of Toronto! Good Luck AND do please keep us alerted as to how you are making out.
  • Darla Darla on Feb 18, 2016
    I grew up in an old house, and it might help you to have one room where you spend most of your time and concentrate on that. Hang blankets or bubble wrap over the walls, stuff towels under doors, put layers of rugs on the floor. Block the heat escaping from any windows with plastic film, cardboard or something else. Then have a small electric heater with fan in the room so you will have one place to stay warm. With all the assorted insulation you've put in, the heater will keep you warm without costing a whole lot.