Weatherproofing an Old House on a Shoestring

Updated on November 11, 2019
Sherry Hewins profile image

DIY home improvement is a very satisfying activity. Once a project is done, it makes your life better every day.


I recently moved from a house I owned in northern California to a rented house in North Carolina. I am used to cold winters and snow. However, last year North Carolina had an extremely cold winter, and this year, it is getting nippy already, and it is not even Halloween yet.

My Grand Old House Has Leaky Windows

My rental house was built in 1910. It is a grand old house, but it is still an old house. All of the windows in the house are old-style, single paned windows, and they are very, very tall. There are storm windows on most of them, but they are very old too, and some of them are loose or broken.

So, I am getting this big, old house ready for a cold winter. I have already repaired and tightened the storm windows to the best of my ability. I have caulked around them and replaced broken glass. I have also replaced cracked or broken glass in a few of the windows. The landlord did take the cost of the glass off my rent.

At this point, let me say that I used glass in some of the windows, but in a few that I considered “high-risk” I used acrylic. Acrylic is a little more expensive than glass, and it becomes scratched more easily, but is it more resistant to breaking. In addition, I have noticed that, on cold evenings, when I touch the windows with acrylic panes, they do not feel as cold. I think this difference is enough that in the future I will always use acrylic when replacing single pane glass windows. I think it is worth the small extra expense.

Now that we have had some nights near freezing, I have decided it is time to close the storm windows, and I am thinking that most of the windows in the house will remain closed for the winter. There are some noticeable drafts near some of the windows, even with the storm windows shut. I have noticed gaps around some of the windows, and since I am a short-term renter, I do not want to spend a ton of money.

Cheap and Easy Way to Fill Gaps Around Windows

This is a trick I have used before, and it is free if you have some plastic grocery bags around. If you live in a place where they don't allow single-use bags anymore, any kind of light plastic will do, such as bread bags.

All you have to do is use a screwdriver or a butter knife to shove the plastic bags down into the gap around your window. It is best if you do not cram it in too tight. You get better insulation if there is a little air trapped between the layers of plastic. If you need to, you can trim off the excess plastic with scissors.

This quick and easy fix is almost invisible when it is completed.

When the weather warms up again, it is a simple matter to pull the plastic bags out and open the window. You can use the same method around doors if you have some that you will not be opening during the winter.

It is amazing to feel the difference after you have insulated your windows this way. I think I am going to be a lot warmer now.

Tucking plastic bags into leaky old windows
Tucking plastic bags into leaky old windows | Source

Make Drapes for Your Windows

I am lucky that I happened to buy some bolts of heavy upholstery fabric at a yard sale back in California. I really had no idea what I was going to do with the fabric, but now I am making good use of it by making drapes for my windows. I open them in the morning to let the sun shine in to warm my house, and when the sun sets, I close the drapes to keep in the heat.

Home made drapes
Home made drapes | Source

Cheap Fix for Gaps Under Doors

Many of the doors in my house have gaps at the bottom, allowing air to come through. The previous tenants in my house used old carpet passed underneath the door and stapled on both sides. It is not the most attractive thing, but it seems to work pretty well. On some of the doors I will just leave them as they are, adding a few staples where the carpet is starting to come loose.

Carpet under door to prevent drafts
Carpet under door to prevent drafts

Draft Stopper

Evelots Draft Stopper Door/Window-Double-No Repositioning-No Cold/Dust-36 Inch
Evelots Draft Stopper Door/Window-Double-No Repositioning-No Cold/Dust-36 Inch
My daughter gave me one of these draft stoppers, and it is pretty easy to install, and worked well. The only problem I had with it was that my dog would scratch at it to ask to get in and out of the door. The fabric is thin and didn't hold up to that treatment very well. I taped over it with duct tape to get through the winter. It wouldn't be a problem for people without pets.

Weather-Stripping for an Exterior Door

M-D Building Products 78394 1/2-Inch by 17-Feet Vinyl Gasket Weatherstrip, White
M-D Building Products 78394 1/2-Inch by 17-Feet Vinyl Gasket Weatherstrip, White
I am going to go ahead and buy some weather-stripping for the sides of my exterior doors. The old stuff that is on there does not look, or feel, as if it is doing much good. I am seeing a lot of light around that front door. From my personal experience, I think I will get this kind of weather-stripping. It is not very expensive, and unlike many of the other varieties that are available, this kind attaches with nails (included) instead of adhesive. I have not had good luck with getting the weather-stripping with adhesive to stick. Besides, this weather-stripping is a hollow vinyl tube instead of foam rubber. It is a lot more flexible and makes a nice tight seal.

Stay Warm This Winter

If you are preparing an old house for the winter like I am, I hope I have given you some ideas. Stay warm and enjoy the holidays.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Sherry Hewins


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      • bhattuc profile image

        Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

        4 months ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

        Well explained. Useful hub. Thanks.

      • hubber8893 profile image

        Sourav Rana 

        12 months ago

        Really useful article!

        The most interesting thing when you bought some stuff even did not know where you will use it and later got it utilized thats a sign of innovative thinking.

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        19 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Those are some excellent inexpensive ideas to use on a short term rental home for weather proofing it. Thanks for passing on your clever ideas.

      • Sherry Hewins profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Hewins 

        19 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        Thanks Shauna. I do love the house.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        19 months ago from Central Florida

        These are great ideas, Sherry. And what a nice house! It has a lot of character.

        Stay warm!


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