Fixing drafty windows is easier than you may think. We all know that old windows can be drafty, but those drafts can largely be stopped with proper hardware. You have to have the right hardware, it has to be installed properly, and it has to be free of paint.
There are a lot of other ways to make windows more energy efficient and I’ve talked about those extensively in the past (see the links at the end of this post), but tuning the hardware is one of the most DIY-friendly options and it doesn’t require taking the window out to fix the drafts.
Hardware isn’t just for security and good looks. In this post, I’ll show you a few simple steps to make your hardware earn it’s keep and save you some money in the process. These are great simple steps for a beginner or advanced DIYer alike and apply to both double-hung and casement windows.
Step 1 Remove Excess Paint
If your hardware is gummed up with lots of old paint then it’s doesn’t even stand a chance of working properly. You’ve got to get things cleaned up so they function properly. The best way to remove built up paint and caulk from old hardware it to cook it off in a crock pot. That’s right!
Get a cheap crock pot that you don’t plan to use again for cooking food. Add some water and a little dish soap and set things on high for around 4 hours. When you come back the paint should literally be falling off your hardware and you can take a firm nylon brush to remove what remains very easily. If it’s still stubbornly attached then give it a little more time to cook.
After the paint is off you can use some 0000 steel wool or a bench grinder to polish it up a bit before putting it back on your window. Check out the video below to see the process.
Step 2 Position Properly
Hardware needs to be positioned properly on your window in order to do its job. Depending on its function, hardware is not only there to secure your window, but also to hold it closed in an effective way so as to block out the weather. If locks are positioned wrong then they may be doing little or nothing to seal your window. I’ll talk about the different parts of casement and double-hung windows and where those pieces of hardware should be positioned so as to get the best bang for you buck.
Double-Hung Window Hardware
The meeting rail is the spot that can make or break your window’s efficiency, and the primary piece of hardware that you’re dealing with here is the sash lock. There are a lot of different style sash locks, but they all function in a relatively similar way. below are some pictures of a sash lock positioned correctly and incorrectly so you can see what you’re looking to accomplish.
Notice how the lock is lined up so that it engaged fully? The meeting rails should line up flush with each other and the two pieces of the sash lock (the sweep and the catch) should be positioned that they pull the meeting rail tightly together when they are fully engaged. If your meeting rails don’t line up then it may require some scraping or sanding to make sure both sash can close completely or even sanding the sash down a bit to resolve any misalignment.
Casements are a bit more varied than double-hungs in their hardware, but many have cranks sometimes called an operator at the bottom that pull the casement closed. Some of these are better or worse at closing the sash but the biggest issue is usually that while the cranks pulls the bottom of the sash closed they don’t pull the top closed.
To resolve that you’ll likely need a surface bolt on the top of your casement sash if you don’t have one already. These surface bolts install on the interior face of the sash and allow the top of the sash to be pulled fully closed and locked into place. The most important part of installing a surface bolt properly is the position of the strike plate. The strike plate should be installed in a position that caused the sash to be held as tight as possible against the jamb when closed.
I often see strike plates installed so that they keep the window secure but they allow it to rattle in the wind or keep a small gap around the window. Install them tight and you’ll be save money and cut down on noise.
Other Ways to Fix Drafty Windows
You’ve got your hardware tuned and tight now and maybe you’re looking for a way to go further with reducing drafts. Great! There are a lot of options for you and I’ve written about them in the past so here are some great posts and products to look at if you wanna go further.
Weather stripping and tuning up old windows is much more economical than replacing them. You rarely if ever get the payback on a replacement window that you’ll get on simple upgrades like tuned hardware and weatherstripping.
- How To: Cure Drafty Windows
- How To: Weatherstrip Wood Windows
- 4 Easy Ways To Weatherstrip Windows and Doors
- Spring Bronze
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.