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How to Seal Doors for Winter

Tuesday November 16th, 2021
While winter brings the peaceful beauty of snow and the coziness of gathering indoors around a warm, blazing fire, it also brings with it the need to protect your home from the harsh winter elements. Regardless of whether your home is a century old or newly built, chances are it could use a little TLC when it comes to insulating it safely and securely against winter weather. And one of the easiest and most effective ways to do so is by making sure your exterior doors are thoroughly sealed against wind, rain, snow, and other outdoor elements.

How to Seal Doors for Winter

  1. Tighten Hinges
  2. Add a Door Sweep
  3. Seal Gaps
  4. Install Weatherstripping
  5. Use a Door Snake
  6. Re-caulk Your Doors (And Maybe Your Windows Too)
No matter where you live or how old your home is, you’ll need to make it a point each year to ensure it’s ready for winter weather. Every gap and crack present around exterior doors and windows represents a chance for extreme weather to sneak its way into your home, increasing your energy costs, and in some cases, your family’s discomfort. In fact, air leaks may account for as much as 30 to 40 percent of heating and cooling loss in your home. And every type of door—the garage door, French doors, the sliding door, attic doors, etc.—all represent opportunities for cold air to enter.

The good news is that it doesn’t take much effort to make sure your exterior doors are sealed tightly for the winter. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to make sure your home is protected against the worst the winter can throw at you.

How to Seal Doors for Winter

1. Tighten Hinges

It’s not uncommon for air leaks to come in if the door’s hinges have moved from their original placement. Before you do anything else, check for this: simply lift the door by the doorknob. If the door moves upward, tighten the top hinge screws within the door jamb and see if this solves the problem.

2. Add a Door Sweep

Installing a door sweep along the bottom of all exterior doors is a quick and easy way to keep out unwanted air leaks during the winter by creating an air-tight seal at the bottom of your door. In general, door sweeps consist of a rubber strip attached to the front of the door or a brush-like strip that runs along the bottom. If your door sweep is bent, broken, or otherwise damaged, chances are it’s allowing drafts in. A well-installed door sweep can keep cold air from leaking under the door, and you can easily attach one without needing to trim your door. You also can find sweeps on rollers that will compensate for an uneven floor.

To make sure its’ a good fit, close the door, measure its length, and then cut the size sweep you need. You’ll find several different kinds of sweeps, including heavy duty, drip-cap, and brush, so asking one of the experts at your local hardware store for a recommendation is the best option to ensure you get the best sweep for your buck. Door sweeps come in all kinds of materials, ranging from aluminum to vinyl, and some are easier to install than others.

If you have an old door sweep that you need to remove first, you can typically do so by prying it off with a utility knife—which you can also use to scrape away any old caulking. In some cases, you may even want to use a razor blade to get rid of any stubborn caulk.

You can usually screw a door sweep into place with the screws provided with the sweep itself. Make sure to place the cut end of the sweep on the hinge side of the door so that people are protected from sharp edges as they open and close the door.

3. Seal Gaps

Allowing gaps in exterior doors, including the garage door, to remain unfilled not only allows cold air and moisture into your home, but in some cases, it allows unwanted outdoor pests to make their way inside. The first thing you should do is take inventory. Find out where you have gaps around your exterior doors and assess how large they are. If you have double front entry doors, be sure to also pay attention to the gap between the doors.

To start addressing these gaps, you can reset and shim a door’s hinges to even out any gaps around the door. This has the added bonus of also making the door easier to weatherstrip. As an added step, you can adjust strike plates and latches to make sure your exterior doors fit snugly within in their doorframes. For doors that are slightly irregular or warped, you also can use foam tape to seal gaps. Highly sticky foam tape is a great weather-proofing alternative—all you have to do is cut it to the size you need, then secure the tape in the areas where air leaks are coming through.

4. Install Weatherstripping

Weather strip is one of your most important and effective weapons against cold air and moisture throughout the winter. It’s easy to install, and doesn’t require any specialized tools, so even a beginner can tackle it in just a few easy steps. In most cases, you can apply weather stripping without removing your door from the door frame. It’s likely that you can find several different kinds of weather stripping material at any well-stocked home improvement store. You might choose wrapped foam, metal flange, vinyl, or silicone bulb.

Whatever material you choose, you’ll cut it so that it fits flush along the entire length of the door—you want it to compress tightly along the full length of the door. Then, after cleaning the door frame thoroughly with a mild detergent and warm water, dry it completely. Then, tack the weather stripping into place. Some weather stripping also may come with an adhesive backing that can help hold it in place. As you install, you’ll want to open and close your door a few times along the way to make sure it has a snug fit within the door frame, but not so snug that the door sticks or is difficult to open and close.

5. Use a Door Snake

Door snakes are highly effective ways of blocking out air leaks from doors and windows. These weighted fabric tubes offer extra insulation that can block out any unwanted chill or moisture. You can buy door snakes already made, or you can make your own.

If you aren’t super crafty, and don’t care about how fashionable your door snake is, you can always simply roll up a towel and place it next to any gap in a doors or window—you’d be surprised at how effective it is.

6. Re-caulk Your Doors (And Maybe Your Windows Too)

Over time, the caulking around your doors and windows can degrade and lose its effectiveness. It’s a good idea, every fall before the temperature really drops, to invest in a couple of tubes of caulk so you can refresh the seal around your exterior doors. Even if you only refresh areas where air leaks are getting through, it’s likely to make a big difference.

Re-caulking is a fairly easy DIY project that even beginners can tackle. And while you’re at it, you might as well re-caulk around your windows, which are also notorious for letting drafts get through.

4 Benefits of Sealing Doors for Winter

Sealing your exterior doors for winter takes a little bit of work, but it also brings a wide variety of benefits, including:

1. Temperature control

Cold air leaks make interior rooms uncomfortable during the winter, and make it difficult for heating system to keep the temperature at a consistent and comfortable level. The same is true in the summer—when gaps around doors and windows let precious, air-conditioned air escape and hot, humid outdoor air take its place.

One point to note: if you already have a wooden front door, you have a head start. Wooden front doors are known for being highly insulative, keeping unwanted heat and cold from entering your home.

2. Energy savings

The harder your heating system has to work to keep the temperature modulated, the more money you’re spending on energy. Not only is cold air getting in through gaps around doors and windows, but the inverse is that your nice, cozy warm air also is escaping through those same gaps. Making sure every door and window is securely sealed can make a huge difference on utility bills over the winter. By some estimates, energy costs related to heat loss can be reduced by as much as 15 to 18 percent by properly sealing and insulating around your external doors.

Lower energy bills not only have the short-term benefit of costing less, they may also help the resale value of your home. Making the investment to secure your exterior doors could reap financial benefits when it comes time to sell your home.

3. Keeping Out Unwanted Pests

It’s an ugly truth that if gaps are large enough for cold air to pass through, they are also large enough for unwanted pests to make their way inside your home. After all, they’re want to stay warm, too!

4. Improved Air Quality

it may seem intuitive that allowing a few gaps here and there allows for natural ventilation, but this approach generally isn’t recommended by energy experts. One key reason for this is that gaps not only allow cold air, but also dust, dirt, and outdoor allergens, which degrades your internal air quality. Sealing your home against unwanted outdoor debris can ensure that you, your family, and guests enjoy the highest quality indoor air possible.

Sealing Doors for Winter is an Easy, Cost-Effective DIY Project

Keeping your exterior doors tightly sealed against the external elements is one of the most effective and affordable ways to maintain a cozy interior, manage your energy costs, and deter unwanted winter pests. With a little time and effort, you can ensure that every exterior door of your home does its duty to protect against cold air, wind, and moisture.

No matter your DIY skill level, you can choose any of the options here (or even combine a few) to keep your home warm and cozy throughout the winter. And if, after your efforts, you determine that the best solution is a replacement exterior door, our team at is here to help! We’re happy to recommend an appropriate and stylish exterior door that will keep your home safe from the elements for years to come.
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