Shrink the drafts

Winter is coming – someday? We just had the warmest October on record and are about 5 weeks past our usual winterizing date. Which worked out great, because this fall K has decided to build custom storm window inserts instead of shrink-wrapping plastic directly to our freshly painted window casings.

We used a method we developed at our previous house, but improved a few parts of the process. They end up costing about $12 per window, and are re-useable (we used the ones at the last house for about 7 years or so). They dramatically cut the drafts, and don’t look bad either. This set, since they are painted to match the sashes. are almost invisible in some rooms.

First, he builds the frames from 1×2 pine, this time using our handy doweling jog (last time we did lap joints). He puts a center bar made from 1×1 across about halfway down – we originally skipped this at the other house but had lots of warping and some breakage. Then he painted each frame with the same paint as the sashes.

Then, we put the tape that comes with the window shrink film all the way around one face, pressing well. Stick on the plastic and flip over, repeat.

This size worked for most windows; we got some different sizes for the larger ones. There’s thicker plastic you can buy in a roll, but it doesn’t shrink – so it’s not as clear. We do a double-layer of film with an airspace between, so it’s not necessary to use the thick stuff.
Then (and this is something we didn’t do at the other house but we did have a few inserts where the thin plastic tape peeled off), we used this more expensive tape (about $2/insert) and went around the outside edge of each window, folding down to capture the edges of the shrink film.
Next, we stapled on two tabs (we use folded-over ribbon or cotton strapping – whatever we have saved up in the fabric-ends bin). These allow you to pull the insert out and adjust it too. Then the fun part – shrinking!
Finally, cut 1/2″ inner diameter pipe insulation to bevel the corners, wrap around each edge by slipping it over the slit side, and press-fit the completed storm insert. Most of ours fit great with the screens still operable on top. Closing the screens hides nearly all of the insert, and they are quite clear when shrunk.

We have already noticed a huge difference in draftiness, and condensation on our 90-year-old windows is much reduced. Hopefully we’ll use a few less bags of pellets this winter.

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