7 quick fixes for drafty windows – budget-friendly ways to stop cold air getting in

Stop drafty windows fast without replacing them. From rope caulk to nail polish, these are the best quick fixes.

Awning white PVC window with sash curtains and plank wooden wall
(Image credit: Photo by Petter Rudwall on Unsplash)

No one likes drafty windows – no matter what season. If yours are old (or new) and bringing 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 going through the roof.

It can depend on the types of windows you have, but usually the problem stems from old fittings which 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. 

Dominique Kemps, CEO and founder of The Glassperts says, 'Drafty windows allow warmed-up or cooled air to escape your home while giving way outside temperatures. 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. '

How to fix a drafty window?

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

1. Caulk the gap

Caulking is a quick and fuss-free way of filling any gaps between window sashes and the frame itself. Mold rope caulk both inside and out for maximum effect.

'Caulk is a flexible, waterproof sealer that comes in a disposable cartridge. 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.' Says David Flax, VP of Operations at Window Genie.

Caulking the gap on drafty windows

(Image credit: Window Genie)

2.  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 job to DIY. All you need is a heat gun, putty knife, utility knife, caulk and  glazing putty. You'll want to wear gloves and carefully heat the old putty, scraping it off. Then add the new glaze according to the manufacturer's instructions as this may change depending on whether yours is oil or latex based. Glazing points can help to hold the glass in place as the putty dries.

3. Add in weatherstripping

Adding in weather stripping to the sides of window sashes can help fix drafty windows if your home insulation isn't working as well as you'd like. Kemps adds, 'This is a cheap way to seal doors and windows in your home. 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 'High-quality weatherstripping should last for many years.'

4. Seal drafty windows with nail polish

Nail polish is pretty handy around the home and as well as being able to remove scratches from glass with it, you can seal gaps around window frames and sashes too. Ensure it's clear and it should be virtually unnoticeable once completely dry.

5. Layer up on window dressings

Combining your favorite window dressing ideas will not only look great but, according to Kemps, it is 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. 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.' Recommends Kemps. 

6. Apply shrink film

You can apply shrink film to the edges of your window using double side tape and a hair dryer to help it wrap to the gaps and block up drafts. 'Window films protect your windows during the colder months. They are applied to the edges of the windows..  Heat with a blow-dryer to shrink it and conceal drafts.' Says Kemps.

Flax adds, 'One of the best and most long-lasting ways to fix a drafty window is to have professional window film installed. Window film mimics the low-e coating available on new windows at a fraction of the cost of replacing your windows. 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.'

Applying window film to patio window to stop drafts

(Image credit: Window Genie)

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.

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

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

Brrr be gone!

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Camille Dubuis-Welch

Camille is Digital Editor at Realhomes.com and joined the team in January 2020. As an interior design aficionado, when she’s not developing evergreen content and furiously researching keywords, she is most definitely finding new ways to spruce up her rented space, usually involving a houseplant or two. She loves the challenge that comes with making a room look stylish and feel homely, and her ultimate goal is to renovate the house of dreams, somewhere marvellously sunny with a wild and lavish garden, of course.