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Earth Day DIY Project: Seal Air Leaks in Your Home

How better to celebrate Earth Day than saving energy in your home? Join us as we count down to Earth Day—each week we will bring you a new Do-It-Yourself (DIY) home project that you can complete in time for Earth Day. In each post, our EPA experts will walk you through step-by-step instructions for making your home more energy efficient. Whether you’re new to being green, or you’re an energy-saving savant, we’ve got the projects for you. Now, let’s get started!

Seal Air Leaks in Your Home

A list of materials for the project.

A leaky home won’t be able to maintain a consistent temperature and will force your HVAC system to work harder to keep you comfortable. Follow the steps below to seal air leaks around windows and doors.

Step 1: Remove the existing interior trim.

  • In order to prevent chipping or tearing, cut the paint where the trim, wall, and jamb meet (several passes may be necessary for heavy paint buildup).
  • Slide a putty knife under the trim and lift it so that you’re able to insert a flat pry bar. Using the pry bar, pry away the trim. Move the pry bar along the length of the piece lifting the trim off gradually.
  • At mitered corners, simultaneously pry off both mitered pieces together to prevent nails from splitting the ends. Once removed, you can pull them apart. Be careful not to damage the face of the trim when removing nails.
  • Once you have removed one piece, examine the space between the wall framing and the jamb. If the drywall is covering the space, trim it with a utility knife.
  • The lack of insulation or the presence of only a small amount of sealant sealing the gap between the wall framing and the jamb indicates poor sealing. This is likely an indication that all your windows/doors are poorly sealed and are good candidates for this project.
  • Think you might need some help? You can always call in a professional contractor.

Step 2: Pull out any existing insulation from between the jamb and the wall framing.

Step 3: Install either of the following sealing options: 1) Non-expanding foam sealant spray should be used to seal larger gaps. Spray and let the foam harden. Trim off any excess foam with a knife. 2) Caulking is used to seal gaps that are a quarter inch or less. Clean out the cracks where you’d like to add caulk. Then follow the instructions on the package to open the caulk tube. You may need to puncture an inner gasket with a long nail or stiff wire to open the tube. Once applied, smooth the caulk with a finger or tool to ensure a good seal.

Step 4: Reinstall each piece of trim in its original position and tack each one up with only two nails.

Step 5: Once all the pieces are in place, check to ensure a tight fit. With only a couple of nails in each piece, you can make small adjustments by holding a block against the trim and tapping it with a hammer. Then add more nails. Sink each nail until the nail-head is 1/8” from the wood. At this point, use your nail punch to countersink the nail 1/8” below the surface of the trim.

Step 6: If your trim has a clear finish, fill the nail holes with matching-colored putty. If your trim is painted, fill the holes with spackle and repaint.

Removing the trim and nails and adding sealant.

Take it a Step Further

Save Even More: For the experienced home energy savers, here are a few other places you can seal in your home:

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