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How to Temporarily Seal a Window

Updated February 21, 2017

Whether you need to keep a dusty or otherwise diffuse project contained or you've finally located the source of living room drafts and a rising heat bill, it can be useful to have some simple methods for sealing windows temporarily. Sealing windows can also expand usable indoor space in winter or prevent potential damage from harsh weather. Learn some ways to seal off the drafts, damp and dust that windows can allow to enter your home without losing their welcome light.

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  1. Purchase caulk at the hardware store. This flexible easy-to-use caulking feels a little like modelling clay and can be used like clay to seal out drafts and dust. Peel a strip of the width you need from the roll. Using just your fingers or a little more pressure from a putty knife, push the caulk into leaking areas.

  2. Press caulk into the junctures between a window-frame and an uneven wall surface, where panes meet the window-frame and across the area where double-hung panes meet in the middle of the window (an often-unnoticed source of drafts).

  3. Paint highly visible caulk if you wish. In some older homes, you will find rope caulk that became permanent after painting and worked effectively for several years. Wrap remaining caulk in plastic so that it retains moisture and flexibility for other jobs.

  4. Make window seals from heavy sheet plastic, rather than the light weight materials sold in kits to shrink with a hair dryer. Measure each window frame and cut plastic 6 inches longer and wider. Cut lathe or other thin wood strips to the length and width of the window frame.

  5. Roll plastic sheeting once around the piece of lathe that will go at the top of the window and fasten it in several places with the staple gun. Making the top piece stable by rolling lets you pull a bit on the sides and bottom to get a secure, flat fit.

  6. Tack the top piece of lathe to the window frame with tacks or staples. Anchor the bottom of the plastic by placing a wood strip over it and tacking or stapling. Repeat on the sides. When you pull out your temporary work, you can cover the small holes left behind with spackling compound or wood filler. In severe weather situations, this system tends to remain more secure than plastic tacked without wood framing.

  7. Augment your sealing of a draughty window with a draft-snake, a fabric tube filled with beans or plastic grains that fits across the bottom sill of your window (or the bottom of an equally draughty door). Consider cutting homemade storm windows from Plexiglas panels; hold them in window frames with tacks. Use old-fashioned felt weatherstripping where rope-caulk seems inadequate.

  8. Cut homemade "storm windows" from Plexiglas panels and anchor them with tacks. These work well for hard-to-reach or deeply recessed windows and can be quickly removed for cleaning or ventilation. Edging panels with duct-style or heavy clear tape reduces chances of chipping.

  9. Use old-fashioned felt weatherstripping where rope-caulk seems inadequate. It is particularly effective placed on the top of the bottom sash of a double-hung window, reducing drafts and the entry of damp air.

  10. Tip

    For very leaky window or door frames, use sealing techniques on both the inside and outside; two seals are often significantly better than one. When you make the temporary seal, put a note on your calendar to schedule a more permanent solution when weather permits.


    Self-adhesive caulking and sealing products may be tempting because of convenience. Remember, though, that adhesive is usually strong enough to remove paint or varnish from window frames after a few months of installation.

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Things You'll Need

  • Work gloves
  • Rope-style flexible caulking
  • Putty knife
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Scissors
  • Lathe or other lightweight wood strips
  • Small handsaw
  • Staple gun
  • Tack hammer and small tacks
  • Spackling compound or wood filler

About the Author

Janet Beal has written for various websites, covering a variety of topics, including gardening, home, child development and cultural issues. Her work has appeared on early childhood education and consumer education websites. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University and a Master of Science in early childhood education from the College of New Rochelle.

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