Draught proofing windows? 9 simple and cheap ways to stop draughts

boy looking out of sash window at snow
(Image credit: Getty)

Draught proofing windows is most certainly not a job to skip if you want your house to feel warm and toasty now that colder weather is here. But it is not just your comfort levels that will improve by carrying out this task — your bank balance will thank you too. 

Draught proofing around windows and doors could save you around £60 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust, a figure they base on a typical gas-fuelled semi-detached property in England, Scotland or Wales.

Although you really need to take a whole house approach to draught proofing your home, your windows are most certainly a very good place to start. 

Here, we give you the 10 best ways to keep cold winds out and the heat you are paying for, in.

The best ways of draught proofing windows

There are several approaches you can take to draught proof your windows, from those that are simple to carry out, inexpensively, on a DIY basis to methods that are more of a long term investment and may well involve calling in the professionals, for example having new double-glazed windows fitted.

Here, we focus on the best, inexpensive ways of maximising the performance of your windows. By employing even just one of these draught proofing techniques you should notice a marked difference in how warm your home feels. Combining a couple of the methods will make even more of a difference.

Finally, when insulating windows, it makes sense to look at other areas of your home that could do with the same kind of treatment — top of your hit list should be draught proofing a front door, your letterbox, chimney and loft. 

1. Apply self-adhesive draught strips

One of the best-known and most commonly used methods for draught proofing windows is to attach weather seals or weather stripping between the windows and their frames and this is most certainly a technique worth considering when looking at how to insulate your house.

This is a speedy and effective technique, but the best part is how inexpensive it is too — self-adhesive rolls of draught seal can be picked up for as little as around £3 per roll. Check out products such as this Door and Window Draught Excluder Strip from Amazon, which is sold in rolls ready to be cut to length to suit your windows. You can also choose it in white, if that's your window frame colour.

When choosing and applying weather strips like this, it is important to make sure the strip is the correct size for your window — too big and it will get squashed and prevent your windows from shutting, too small and there will still be gaps for draughts to find their way through.

roll of draught proofing strip

This Door and Window Draught Excluder Strip from Amazon costs just £3.89 for a 5m roll.  (Image credit: Amazon UK)

2. Use brush seals or wiper strips

Brush seals, spring metal and v-strips are all great alternatives to self-adhesive foam weather seals — usually costing just a few pounds more. 

Brush seals differ from foam weather seals in that they are usually sold in two parts. They often consist of a a self-adhesive 'pile carrier', which is a rebated plastic or metal strip that is designed to be fixed to the window frame. The second part is a fluffy brush or 'pile' strip that is fixed to the window and this slots into the carrier when the window is closed to prevent draughts. 

Like draught seals, this type of product may well need replacing after a few years, depending on wear and tear. Take a look at products such as Fowong Draught Excluder Tape from Amazon, which comes in a range of different colours.

Wiper strips, as the name suggests, work in a similar way but feature a rubber 'wiper' in place of the brush.

brush seal strip

Brush seals are a good, sturdy alternative to foam draught excluder strips. This Fowong Self-Adhesive Brush Seal Weatherstrip from Amazon costs £11.89 for a 4.9m roll.  (Image credit: Amazon UK)

3. Use caulk or silicone to seal gaps

Caulk is useful for many DIY jobs around the home — draught proofing included.

When caulking windows, use a silicone gun to apply it to any gaps you might find between the window frame and wall, along with the joins in and around the frame. 

If you don't mind your windows being fixed shut (obviously this won't be an option if the window in question is required as a fire escape), then you might also like to consider sealing them up with silicone sealant. 

In either case, be sure to remove any old sealant and flaky paint first, then clean the windows off with sugar soap or similar to remove any residue before thoroughly drying the windows off.  

applying silicone sealant to windows

Caulking windows can be a very effective way of sealing windows in order to prevent draughts.  (Image credit: Getty)

4. Fix window film to the glass

Although window film is often thought of as a way of adding a level of privacy to windows, or as a decorative touch, did you know that it can also help when it comes to keeping your home warmer?

You do need to ensure you buy window insulation film, rather than just the decorative stuff, but providing you get that part right, this is a cheap method that is simple to carry out on a DIY basis — plus the film can be removed should it no longer be needed. 

Made from plastic, thermal window insulation film is usually sold in kit form,  like this £10.30 kit from Stormguard, complete with the tape that is used to fix it into place, although some products are entirely self-adhesive. 

There are a couple of points to note if you want to ensure this method of insulating windows is successful. Most importantly, make sure your windows are scrupulously clean before applying it and ensure you closely follow the manufacturer's instructions. When is comes to measuring the film to the correct size, the instructions will often state that a little allowance in size is left around the edges. 

You will also need to be very careful about ensuring there are no creases or wrinkles in the film and you will often find that you need to apply heat to shrink it for a tight fit — a hairdryer comes in handy here.

It's worth pointing out to read on about using bubble wrap instead to save money further down this guide. 

window film shrinking with hairdryer

A hairdryer is the perfect tool for shrinking window insulation film to fit.  (Image credit: Getty)

5. Use a temporary window sealing product

There are some really useful products now available that are designed to completely seal up any gaps in windows, but that can be easily removed once the warmer weather makes an appearance again.

One of the best known of these temporary sealants is Gapseal which is a flexible sealer that comes with all the kit needed to fit it. It can be used on windows with gaps between 2mm-7mm and, once fitted, expands to fill the space. It is easy to remove and, usefully, can be used more than once.  

6. Check locks and hinges

Poorly fitted windows are always going to to be one of the main culprits of a draughty home, but there are some simple ways to solve the problem. 

Hinges and locks are particularly bothersome, but addressing any issues with those that have become loose or damaged will really help matters.

In the case of hinges, it is often all down to maintenance. Cleaning and lubricating them a couple of times a year should avoid a build up of rust and you will also be able to check that they have not come unaligned to reveal gaps. If there are large gaps between the frames and the window you may need new hinges. 

Check you window's locks too — in many cases, faulty locks can prevent windows from shutting properly. Not only will this cause draughts, but it could also invalidate your home insurance policy. 

In some cases, locks may just need tightening, while in others you might need entirely new ones. 

upvc window lock

Be sure to regularly check window hardware — poorly fitting or faulty locks and hinges can be common causes of draughts.   (Image credit: Getty)

7. Invest in thermal curtains

It is surprising just how effective thermal curtains and blinds can be in improving comfort levels and the energy efficiency of a house. What's more, they can also be used by those looking at how to prevent overheating in homes in the summer.  

Be sure to buy a high quality product for the best results — you should look for curtains made from at least three layers. In the case of thermal blinds, be on the look out for those with small honeycomb pockets that are designed to trap and hold on to warm air.

If you are concerned about the cost of new curtains, you might like to consider buying just the thermal linings. Although these vary in how they attach to existing curtains, those that are designed to clip on, such as Dunelm's Pencil Pleat Blackout Curtain Linings, make the whole process super simple. Check out our guide on 'do thermal curtains' work for more information.

grey thermal blinds in living room

Thick, heavy thermal curtains make a huge difference to the comfort levels of a room. These Stitchwork Mercury Made-to-Measure Curtains from Make My Blinds can be specified with linings to suit any room including, 'dimout', blackout and thermal. £45.99. (Image credit: Make My Blinds)

8. Get yourself a draught snake

Draught snakes (also known as draught excluders) don't involve any fiddly installation and are usually pretty affordable too. They are basically long, cylindrical cushions that are designed to be placed on window cills to cover any gaps at the base of the window.

It is important to get one that is the right length for your windows — some people choose to make them themselves. 

grey window draught excluder

Draught snakes placed on window cills are a great way of preventing cold winds from whistling through.  (Image credit: Getty)

9. Don’t throw away the bubble wrap

This is not a method that will appeal to everyone, but bubble wrapping windows is worth considering if you are after a cheap, effective and simply way of insulating your windows. 

Those in the know suggest misting the windows with water before taping bubble wrap (bubble side to glass) to the window.

Homebuilding & Renovating's Amy Willis, who is currently renovating a period property in rural Suffolk, tried the method out.

"This did work to impressive effect," says Amy. "Prior to doing it, I could feel the draught and afterwards, nothing — and the space next to the window was noticeably warmer. Time will tell if it means I can keep the heating off for longer but my home is currently reading a comfortable 17 degrees when a couple of days ago this had dipped to 15.5 degrees.

"One thing I would add, however is that the bubble wrap looks terrible."  

If all else fails....consider fitting secondary glazing

Compared to the other methods in this guide, secondary glazing might not be as cheap to get installed but it is a great alternative to fitting new double glazing. It can also be achievable on a DIY basis and usually acceptable in the eyes of conservation officers when it comes to listed properties or those in conservation areas. 

There are several different types of secondary glazing — some are designed to act as a temporary way of preventing draughts and can be easily taken in and out as required, while others are fixed into place permanently. It is also possible to fit secondary glazing that slides or opens just like regular windows. In all cases, installing secondary glazing commonly involves adding a slimline, second window to the inside of existing window frames. 

In terms of materials, secondary glazing comes with frames in all kinds of materials to suit most homes, including uPVC, aluminium and timber. In the past, homeowners were often concerned that fitting secondary glazing could ruin the elegant good looks of original windows and so was a method shunned by those looking at how to draught proof sash windows. However, there are now several specialist companies offering bespoke secondary glazing units designed to tie in nicely with existing windows.

Although some people do choose to fit secondary glazing on a DIY basis, it is often a job that is handed over to the professionals. 

Finally, it is worth noting that, should you live on a busy road, secondary glazing can also add a soundproofing layer. 

And, finally, don't forget to include ventilation

One final note — while it is undoubtedly important to prevent draughts from getting into your home, you do need to ensure that your home is still properly ventilated so that you don't end up having to look at how to prevent window condensation or deal with a mould or damp problem.

Be sure never to block window trickle vents in your insulation efforts and, if you have a wood burning stove in the room, get to know the log burner ventilation requirements. 

Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.