Draught Proofing – How to Draught Proof Your Home and Reduce Heat Loss

Summary: Find out how to draught proof your home using simple and cost effective methods. In this project you will learn about draught proofing and all the common areas that a draught can materialise such as around your doors, windows and loft hatch and how to insulate these areas. You will also learn about other areas that may feature gaps that can cause draughts such as the gaps around pipework, the gaps between flooring and skirting boards and around light and electrical fittings, chimneys and fireplaces and how you can plug these gaps to prevent heat loss and increases to your heating bills.

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Draught proofing is one of the best ways to improve the thermal efficiency of your home. In simple terms this means that draught proofing is probably the most cost effective and efficient way to make your home warmer. This is a bold claim, but for around £120 it is possible to deliver annual fuel bill saving of approximately £50 per year (according to Which?)

The Energy Saving Trust suggest draught proofing doors and window will save in the region of £10-£50 per year, with up to a further 10% savings from your heating bills. This is because a draught-proofed home will feel warmer and this allows you to turn the thermostat down.

The best thing about draught proofing is that it is something that can be done yourself very easily and you will see an instant benefit as your home will feel much warmer.

What is a Draught?

A draught is defined as a "current of cold air in a room or other confirmed space" and they are generally a result of unwanted air gaps which allow cold air in from either outside or another unheated part of your home. Stop these and your will stop the cooling effect of the draught.

Where to Start and How to Look for Draughts

You will see the greatest effect, both in terms of comfort and also in terms of savings, when you tackle the largest drafts. The good news is that these are typically the easiest to find and you will be able to locate them fairly simply.

Probably the best way to look for a draught is to use the back of your hand as this is more sensitive to temperature and the movement of the air. Some people suggest using a candle to track down draughts as the flame will flicker in the draught, although great care must be taken as this is a fire risk.

You should look around any where there could be an unwanted gap that could let air in. The most common place that draughts occur are:

  1. Around doors and windows
  2. Loft hatches
  3. Pipe work
  4. Floors and skirting
  5. Chimneys and fireplaces
  6. Electrical fittings in ceilings or walls

As energy bills and concern for our CO2 emissions rise it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that your home is as energy efficient as possible. Draught proofing is the first step.

Where Not to Draught Proof

In some rooms good ventilation is vital; if there is an open fire or open flue it is critical that there is a good supply of fresh air. Also in rooms where there is likely to be a build up of excess moisture good ventilation is needed to take this moist air away. Typically these would be bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms.

Air bricks are required to provide ventilation and they should not be covered or filled in. You can find out more about air bricks including when they should be used and how to fit them in our air bricks project.

It should go without saying that an extractor fan should not be covered, but they should also be maintained as if they are not working the room will be susceptible to moisture buildup, condensation and the inevitable black mould that will result.

Draught Proofing Doors and Windows

Poor fitting windows and doors is a major headache for any home owner.

Draught Proofing Sash Windows

With the old housing stock that we have Britain, there are plenty of old sash windows that have unwanted gaps that let in draughts. If you have sash windows we have a project specifically written to help you stop the draughts that they tend to get.

Draught Proofing Windows

There are several simple measures that you can take to help with this such as fitting draught strips around windows and doors. Many products are available today that are very easy to fit to help you with this such as self-adhesive draught proofing strips. These new products tend to last a lot longer and are substantially more efficient than older types. These tend to be more suited to draught proofing windows.

The basic principle of these types of draught sealers is that they are stuck around the inside of the opening section of a window or the section of the fixed window that the opening section closes into and seal any potential gaps that may be present around the window when it is closed.

Quikgrip draught excluder E strip

Quikgrip draught excluder E strip - Available in our online store

For draught proofing doors and sash windows the best products to use are tack-on sprung metal or plastic strips. These can either feature a rubber strip or a compressible rubber seal. These are ideally suited to be positioned to the sides and tops of doors.

Draught Proofing Doors

For the threshold of the door (the piece at the bottom) special draught proofing products are available that fit to the exact width of your door.

Brush style excluders are fine in most applications, but if you have wooden or tiled floors, an under door excluder may work better. These are normally made of a soft rubber or foam and they are fixed to the base of the door and plug any gaps in this area.

Depending on manufacturer and door type, normally they are fixed to the bottom of the door and protrude underneath to block the gap. Some will require you to remove the entire door as they need fixing to the actual base.

A very quick way to solve draughts at the foot of doors is to use a draught excluder. This can augment an existing brush draught excluder or as a temporary solution until you can fit a more permanent one.

Draught excluder

Draught excluder - Image courtesy of shopcade.com

Another area of a door that is particularly prone to cold draughts is the letter box. Again, special products can be purchased that will fit over the letter plate area and dramatically reduce any draughts that are produced.

In most cases, as in the image below, the kit will comprise of 2 sealed units, one to fit on the outside and one to fit on the inside. Each section seals closed preventing any draughts from penetrating.

Letter plate draught excluder

Polished chrome letter plate with draught excluder - Available in our online store

The keyhole is another area where draughts occur. It is relatively simple to fit a keyhole cover which drops over the hole when it is not in use. This blocks the hole and stops the draught. The technical term for this keyhole cover is an escutcheon plate.

It is not only external doors that need draught proofing. You should also draught proof internal doors if they lead into unheated or uninhabited rooms as this in turn will also prevent the lowering of the overall indoor temperature.

Draught Proofing Loft Hatches

When insulating a loft, and often forgotten task is to insulate the hatch. Hot air rises and this can very easily escape through the hatch. Make sure that you fix some insulation to the top side of the hatch cover and this will insulate and keep the warmth in your home.

To draught proof the hatch, you should use the same kind of insulation strips that we have mentioned that you should use above for your doors and windows. This will ensure a tight fit and stop any air being able to pour through the gap and create, not only a nasty draught but also a huge waste of energy and increase to your heating costs.

Draught Proofing Pipe Work and Cracks in Walls

While we always recommend insulating your hot water and heating pipes if they are not in a heated part of the home, there is more that you need to look out for. Where the pipes pass through walls and partitions, gaps can appear and draughts will be the result.

Into these gaps you should squirt filler to stop the air being able to get through. Use a flexible filler (a decorators caulk, or silicon based mastic) as there will be movement as the pipes heat up and expand and then cool and contract.

If the gaps are large you should use an expanding foam filler as this will have excellent insulating properties, it will quickly fill the gap and will get right into the nooks and crannies. Once is has expanded and set hard, you might need to cut it back flush with the wall and touch up with some caulk or decorators filler.

Apply the filler with care and wipe off and excess with a damp cloth before it dries. For more information about applying fillers and dealing with cracks around your home have a look at our Filling Cracks Project.

Draught Proofing Floors and Skirting

This is very similar to filling the cracks and gaps that appear around pipe work. It is worth remembering that caulks and fillers come in a range of colours so you can match the colour to the floor board to make the draught proofing less obtrusive.

For more detailed instructions about how to fill gaps between floor boards, we recommend that you read our project specifically about it here.

Draught Proofing Chimneys and Fireplaces

Fire places, chimneys and open flues are wide open gaps to the outside and they can allow the cold air to pour in when you’re not using them. You can tackle this issue from either end.

It is possible to fit a cap on top of the chimney stack that will stop the air getting down the chimney. It you don’t have a head for heights, you can always get a professional to do this. The other alternative is to fit a device that blocks the chimney from below. These block the air from coming any further down the chimney. They are inserted up the chimney from below and "opened" to fill the space, either opening like an umbrella or inflated like a balloon.

The best devices have a (very) obvious cord or other noticeable sign that they are fitted. You need something obvious to ensure that you remember to remove them before you light a fire!

Chimney balloon in place in chimney

A chimney balloon in place - Image courtesy of greensource.construction.com

Draught Proofing Electrical Fittings in Ceilings or Walls

This is another area which is prone to draughts. Any gaps should be filled and blocked to stop the air getting through.

This can be a particular problem for down lights that are fitted into the ceiling. Here we recommend using a down light cap or cover that fits over the light fitting, reducing the air flow that can get through the light and into your nice, warm home. They are fire safe and will ensure that the loft insulation does not get pressed into the light fitting causing a fire risk.

A down light cover

A down light cover - image courtesy of efficiencymatrix.com.au

Draught proofing your home also has a slight disadvantage in that you will possibly be closing off a great many unofficial ventilation sources that allow your home to breath.

If you have fuel burning appliances in your home such as heaters and boilers then these have to have an adequate source of fresh air in order for them to burn safely. In light of this, before you start to draught proof, it is a good idea to consult a fuel supplier or RGI (Registered gas installer) and ask them to check your home and see if there is still going to be an adequate source of ventilation after you have completed your draught proofing.

If after checking this they do confirm that there will not be adequate ventilation then the addition of ventilator in a window pane will solve this issue. However, fitting a carbon monoxide alarm will give you extra peace of mind.

One final point to be aware of when draught proofing is that there may be an increase in condensation especially in areas such as the bathroom and the kitchen. Again, this can be solved easily with the addition of a controlled source of ventilation such as an extractor fan.

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