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Does caulking windows save energy?

Is it smart to caulk windows? Ensuring windows are properly sealed against drafts and leaks is important. Every window frame should have caulking on the inside and outside of the window frame where it touches the wall of the home.

(It’s actually sealant, not caulking – more on that below.)

Caulking doesn’t last forever, though. Windows naturally shrink and contract with the weather, and it’s common for homes to shift around a bit here and there as they age. Plus, Arizona’s dry heat is hard on caulking. Put these things together, and it’s not uncommon for cracks, splits and loose caulking to appear.

Keep an eye on it

Annual window inspections—both interior and exterior—are essential to spot problem areas early, before they escalate into water leaks or the kind of drafts that impact energy efficiency.

If you see damage to the caulking, feel a draft, or notice signs of cracking, splitting or loosening, then it should be stripped and replaced.

It’s an affordable, cheap maintenance task.

What does Sal recommend? “Make sure you select a sealant, not caulking – they’re not the same. Caulking is a cheap, rigid hole filler, but sealants are weatherproof, elastic enough to cope with expansion and contraction, and long lasting indoors or out.

A paintable polyurethane sealant is your more durable option, however it’s hard to work with. If you are not good with caulking, or a beginner, Dynaflex 230 sealant from Home Depot or Lowe’s might be a better choice. It’s water-soluble and a bucket and sponge can make your work look great.

Be sure to look at rating details on the tube to choose one that can cope with Arizona weather, has UV protection, and is paintable.”  

Tip: If you’re a DIY-er, don’t get creative and add caulking where it didn’t already exist from the original installation. It doesn’t belong anywhere on the window frame, such as the corner joints or ledges above/below the glass. Adding it anywhere other than the interior and exterior of the frame edge can do more harm than good, and interfere with operation of the window or other energy efficient features. We see many windows that have caulking in the weep holes. When drainage is blocked, damage to drywall, mold and rot can occur from water backing up and overflowing.

Don’t skimp on maintenance

It’s important to keep up with maintenance. If you have windows that are under warranty, failing to replace caulking when necessary can void the warranty, since it leaves the window vulnerable to air, moisture and insect damage.

Want to learn more about maintenance? Don’t miss our article on how to prepare windows for summer!

Does caulking actually save money?

If a window is drafty due to caulking that is damaged, worn or missing in areas, fresh caulking can save energy and reduce your utility bill. It’s a normal maintenance task.

However, simply adding more caulking will not improve a window that is lacking energy efficiency overall. It’s not a substitute for replacement when there’s an issue with the entire window, since caulking only addresses gaps between the window frame and the wall.

If you have single-pane windows or aluminum frames that aren’t thermally broken, for example, the windows still transfer heat through the glass and frame whether you add caulking or not. The entire window is not energy efficient.

And if a window seal is broken, and you’re seeing condensation between panes of glass on a double-or triple-pane window? Caulking won’t help in this situation, either. Adding caulking where glass meets the frame can trap moisture in the window, and it doesn’t restore the gas between the panes of glass that prevent heat transfer, so it’s a temporary fix that can’t bring the energy efficiency back. The unit of glass – seal and all – needs to be replaced. (A glass repair company can help with that!)

When caulking damage is due to a vinyl window that’s sagged or warped, caulking the exposed space is a temporary fix. The damage could be caused by a failed product, such as a vinyl window that used too much recycled vinyl, making it soft and less heat-resistant, or external factors related to movement of the home. You’ll want a professional to inspect the window to determine if a full replacement is necessary.

Who should you call?

If it’s just one window having issues, or you’re not the DIY type and want someone to handle the caulking maintenance for you, a handyman is typically the most cost-effective option.

If you’ve decided a window seal is the issue and we’ve persuaded you caulking isn’t the best option, call a glass repair company to replace the glass unit.

However, if you want all of your home windows replaced, call DunRite! We’ll give you the low-down on today’s most energy efficient windows that fit your home AND budget. We’ll make sure it’s sealed tight to prevent drafts, and give you a free installation warranty for as long as you own the home.

Published Nov. 4, 2021

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