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Easy Ways to Check for Leaky Windows and Doors

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By Gates Dearen

If you have ever owned a boat, then you know how even a tiny leak in the hull can quickly sink it.  While leaks in boats are generally easy to detect, since stepping into 6-inches of water is sure to get your attention, this isn’t the only kind of leak that can cause problems that cost money to fix. 

Given enough time and weather, air can begin to leak into your home.  Over time, these leaks can become more prevalent until they cost you serious money.  Unlike a leaky boat, where water sloshing around in the bilge is easy to spot, the signs that your house has sprung a leak only become apparent when the utility bill arrives.  Before your wallet springs a leak, allow me to show you the easy ways to check for leaky windows and doors.

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The Wonder of Windows

Glass windows have been around since Rome ruled.  While their glazing wasn’t as efficient as that of modern times, one thing the Romans knew was that maintaining a weather tight seal made a world of difference when it came to keeping a home comfortable.  Then, as now, the quickest way to determine the state of windows and doors is to perform a quick inspection

Head outside and visually inspect your windows and doors, noting any wear and tear, including such things as cracks, nicks or gaps in panes, caulking, and weather stripping.  Next, give each pane a light rap with your knuckles.  If the pane moves even slightly or rattles, this means it is not able to keep air and water from seeping inside when the weather is frightful outside.

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Once you have identified any chinks in your armor outside, it’s time to head inside to continue the inspection.  Doors are especially easy to inspect from inside since any daylight detected when the doors are closed means wind and water can penetrate.  Open and close the door to see if it works smoothly, or if it takes effort to open or close.  With the door open, inspect door frame and weather stripping.  Look for any irregularities or bulges in the frame or the door itself.  These are indications that water intrusion is at work.  Wood rot can be a source of major air intrusion that can rob your home of energy efficiency.

Just as with your doors, when it comes time to inspect windows, the first step is to open and close them.  This should be easy with windows that are operating correctly. There should be no sticking. If the windows rattle when you open and close them, the panes have probably loosened with age. Loose windows allow air to pass through like vents to the great outdoors. Also, the locks should open and close easily. If they don’t open easily, you probably won’t use the windows for ventilation very often. If they don’t lock easily, you may not be getting a complete seal, and you may have security issues as well..

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With the windows closed, look at each pane. If you see moisture on the inside of any window, it’s an indication that the seals have failed and need to be replaced. Also, old windows don’t provide protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This can result in fading of carpets, rugs, and furniture. If items in the room have obvious signs of color fading, upgrading to more energy efficient windows can not only reduce this type of wear and tear, but Low-E glass insulation can keep the sun’s heat from causing your air conditioner to run wild during the summer.

Next, you need to check for drafts.  During the winter months, it’s very easy to feel cold air coming in through old windows. When it gets hot out, and the AC is running, it’s a little harder to see if cold air is seeping out of the house.  The best way to detect small leaks is to turn off your AC unit, close all the windows and doors and light an incense stick. By holding it close to your windows, even almost imperceptible leaks will cause the smoke rising from the incense stick to change direction.  If the leak is severe enough, the smoke will be drawn toward the leak to waft through the window.  If on the other hand, the smoke continues to rise straight up, your windows are weathertight.

High Tech Detection Methods

Two high-tech methods for detecting air intrusion require using either an infrared thermometer or by conducting a blower-door test.

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The infrared thermometer is sensitive enough to measure even the slightest variations in ambient air temperature in both windows and doors.  With this instrument, you can detect even the smallest anomalies.

A blower-door test works like the smoke test, only on a larger scale.  To perform this test, a fan is attached to your home’s front door frame.  Once activated, the fan sucks air out of your home, which lowers the interior air pressure.  Once the fan is switched off, the outside air will soon find its way back into your home.  A smoke stick is then passed in front of a leaky window or door making even small air intrusions apparent.

Whether you choose to employ high or low tech leak methods, you should see if leaks exist, and decide the best course of action to eliminate them.  Depending on the age and condition of your windows, remediation could be as simple as applying fresh caulk, or it could be time to consider attractive, new, energy-efficient windows.

Regardless of your decision, keep in mind that just like a sailor with a leaky boat, the only thing you can expect to do if you ignore the leak is to wind up sunk.  Haven’t you sunk enough of your hard-earned money into your utility bills?


Awarded 4 years in a row.
HomeRite is a window and door dealer that specializes in energy efficient, quality windows with warranties and service to match. The company has been in business since 2005. HomeRite has partnered with a manufacturer that has been producing high-quality products and providing excellent customer service for over 60 years. Windows and doors from HomeRite are some of the highest quality, most thermally efficient windows and doors on the market.

HomeRite products add substantial value to their clients’ properties. HomeRite is a member of the United States Green Building Council, a non-profit organization comprised of leaders across the industry working to advance environmentally responsible buildings.


Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. He and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They strive to match homeowners with the right windows and doors for their homes and budgets. They make the home improvement process pleasant with first-rate, energy-efficient products, affordable pricing, and award-winning installers who employ the best practices and who always treat customers and their property with the utmost respect.

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2 comments:

  1. The best investment I ever made on my 1950's home was to invest in new windows about 10 years ago. It's better than paying the utility company forever.

    ReplyDelete