8 budget fixes for drafty windows — including a $2.99 beauty product I use every single day

Affordable methods to stop drafty windows fast (without replacing them)

Interior of empty apartment. Plants and furniture at home. Television set in living room
(Image credit: Getty Images / Portra (Creative #1257213521))

No one likes drafty windows — no matter what season. If yours are old (or new) and bring cold air into your home, rest assured that there are a few quick fixes to stop that breeze in its tracks and to stop your energy bills from going through the roof.

It can depend on the types of windows you have, but usually, the problem stems from old fittings that crack and lose their quality over time. It's normal wear and tear, but that's not to say that you should ignore it or replace your windows immediately. 

If you're moving into your first apartment (especially if it's a rental), you might only realize how shoddy the insulation is after you've scraped together your security deposit and settled in. And, your landlord is unlikely to reinstall windows as it can be an expensive route to go down. So to keep the peace, and to save you from turning on your heating every time to cold comes in, I've come up with lots of ways to cheaply remedy this issue. Some are more foolproof than others, a few involve getting stuck into some light DIY and the quickest way involves a cheap product I've got in my mani kit, so li'l hint: You can "nail" the job.

Fix drafty windows with these seven methods

"Drafty windows allow warmed-up or cooled air to escape your home while giving way to outside temperatures," says Dominique Kemps, CEO and founder of The Glassperts. "This defect appears around the outside edge of the window frame, where panes of glass overlap, move, or open. For example, you heat your house with your heating system, but when you walk past some windows, you feel a certain chill. This cold air is probably a draft coming from a separate window."

Thankfully there are lots of quick drafty window fixes you can try that are all pretty budget-friendly, too.

1. Add in weatherstripping

Adding weatherstripping to the sides of window sashes can help fix drafty windows if your home insulation isn't working as well as you'd like. "This is a cheap way to seal doors and windows in your home," says Kemps. "There are three main types of weather strips: compression, foam, and V-type. Compression weather strips are more reliable for sealing window sashes. V-type weather strips fit against the side of a  window jam and prevent cold air from entering. Foam weatherstrip is the easiest to install, but it doesn't last so long."

Flax notes that it's best to choose high-quality weatherstripping, too. This will ensure you have a window seal that won't give out in a matter of months or years.

2. Layer up on window dressings

A modern living room with cream sofa, mushroom lamp, round mirror, dressed with beige drapes and sheer voile curtains

(Image credit: Getty Images / Vlajs)

Combining your favorite window treatment ideas will not only look great but it's also a pretty good way to stop drafts if you're not ready to replace your windows. "Adding several layers, like a combination of sheer curtains, blinds (hung on the inside of the frame), and huge drapes can provide enough protection for all weather," says Kemps. "When it’s too cold outside, keep the windows closed. If it’s cold (but not too cold) and the room has access to direct sunlight, raise the blinds or drapes, and allow the sunshine in to help warm the space."

And, insulating curtains over your windows can also help with the problem too. This can be a solution you use after caulking and/or weatherstripping and combined with window film or bubble wrap. These differ from your standard curtains because they are made with a thermal lining. In other words, the insulating part isn’t what you see, so they’re as stylish in appearance as other window treatments. 

Owner and chief operating officer of Colony Roofers Zach Reece recommends using curtains to insulate windows. "The simplest and most design-friendly way to insulate your windows is to buy thermal curtains," he says. "Not only do they add a touch of class to your room, but they are incredibly effective at blocking outside light and very effective at preventing cold air from entering your home."

Pay attention to the size of the curtains. They should be floor-length and wide enough, too. "Make sure that the curtain rods are positioned so the curtains cover window frames fully," says Karen Condor, home energy expert at US Insurance Agents

3. Caulk the gap

Modern Living Room Interior With Sofa, Coffee Table, Parquet Floor And Garden View From The Window

(Image credit: Getty Images / OnurDongel)

Caulking is a quick and fuss-free way of filling any gaps between window sashes and the frame itself. It's one of the best options if you're wondering how to insulate windows. Mold rope caulk inside and out the window for maximum effect. Properly caulking can also help to stop condensation from appearing on glass panes. 

"Caulk is a flexible, waterproof sealer that comes in a disposable cartridge," says David Flax, VP of Operations at Window Genie. "Various types of caulk are available, so make sure you read the packaging carefully. Apply the material in a straight, continuous line to fill any gaps around your windows and doors."

Expert tip: "Use a knife to scrape any old caulk or peeling paint off exterior or interior window edges," advises home improvement expert Arnold Long, general operations manager at Mr. Blue Plumbing. "Then, fill a caulking gun (like this one from Amazon) with silicone caulking."

4. Refresh glazing putty

Windows can work efficiently for years, but if the glazing putty seal is cracked, they won't be doing their job properly. Redoing the glazing putty is an easy DIY. All you need is a heat gun, putty knife, caulk, glazing putty, and a utility knife (this twin pack of REXBETI retractable knives is under $10 on Amazon). You'll want to wear gloves and carefully heat the old putty, scraping it off. Then add the new glaze following the manufacturer's instructions as this may change depending on whether yours is oil or latex-based. Glazing points (like these under-$3 steel push points on Amazon) can help to hold the glass in place as the putty dries.

5. Seal drafty windows with nail polish

Nail polish is pretty handy around the home. On top of removing scratches from glass with the lacquer, you can seal gaps around window frames and sashes, too. Ensure it's clear in color, and it should be virtually unnoticeable once completely dry. FYI, you don't have to use your best OPI or Essie — a cheaper paint will do just fine.

6. Apply shrink film

Kemps notes that window films are actually a protective measure for windows during wintertime. You can apply shrink film to the edges of your window using double-sided tape and a hair dryer to help it wrap to the gaps and block updrafts.

Professional installation is another route to go and is a worthy investment, even if it's slightly more expensive in the short term. "Window film mimics the low-E coating available on new windows at a fraction of the cost of replacing your windows," says Flax. "It works by reflecting heat and light in the direction it came from. In the winter, this means more of the heat from your furnace stays inside where it belongs. The film remains on your windows permanently, reducing summertime glare and lowering your cooling costs as well. It’s a long-lasting solution that improves the comfort and efficiency of your home for many years to come."

How to install window film

  • 1. Before you start, clean the window itself, as well as the frame. You can use cleaning supplies like Windex (on Amazon) and White Spirit (also on Amazon) to remove grease and all debris so that the double-sided sticky tape can adhere to the frame properly.
  • 2. You’ll need to measure each of the windows you want to apply it to (using a measuring tape), then cut the film to size with an allowance on either side following the manufacturer’s instructions. You might be able to get two windows out of one pack!
  • 3. Then, all you’ll need to do is apply the tape around the window frame and stick the film to it, positioning it so there aren’t any wrinkles.
  • 4. Finally, use a blow dryer to heat-shrink it for a smooth finish.
  • You can remove the film from your windows when the season changes, but do bear in mind the tape can lift paint from the frame when you take it off if it isn’t in the best condition beforehand.

7. Apply foam tape

If you can't find weatherstripping, you can still weatherproof your windows with foam tape, which is particularly useful for curved window types. Simply cut it to size and cover up the gaps. This 3M multipurpose mounting tape is an Amazon Choice with over 6,000 4.4-star reviews.

8. Use bubble wrap

Bubble wrap is a good way to insulate a window if a warmer home is an urgent requirement. We have to admit that it’s not going to do any favors for your view, though (hence why it's last on our list).

To apply, you need to mist the clean panes of glass with water and then place the bubble side of the wrap against the damp window. You can use tape to hold the bubble wrap in place but, like the adhesive tape in a window film kit, it can lift the paint when you go to remove it in spring.

Again, this isn't the most practical solution, but it is speedy and effective if you're wondering how to insulate windows fast. This Scotch cushion wrap option from Amazon means you won't be hoarding more than you need.

FAQs

How do you stop a drafty window once and for all?

The simple answer (if you're a homeowner) is to invest in or install new windows yourself. It might cost you quite a bit at first (less if you DIY it), but in the long run, it could contribute to lower energy bills and usage, so it's worth doing. It goes without saying that installing secondary window glazing is also a must to keep out noise and cooler temps.


Now that you've found solutions for drafty windows, you'll want to show them off. Thankfully, we've got a whole guide on how to clean windows, inside and out, with streak-free results guaranteed.

Christina Chrysostomou
Acting head ecommerce editor

Hi, I'm the acting head ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a first class degree from Keele University, and a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket. I'm the in-house appliances expert and have gone through the internal customer advisor accreditation process.

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