Over time, window screens can develop small tears. The sealant and caulk around windows can deteriorate. These small screen tears and the air leaks that deteriorating sealant or caulk cause often aren’t immediately obvious. Unless you specifically look for them, you might not notice them. Here’s how to inspect your screens and windows for tears and leaks.
Check for Tears
Quick check: If you can mark or crease the screen by running your thumb nail across it, it needs replacing. No need to check further for holes or tears. The screening material is worn out and fragile.
Tears in window screens are visible to the naked eye, but you frequently have to look carefully to see them. To check your window screens for tears, begin in a corner of each screen. Scan side to side, checking for broken wires as you work your way along the entire length of the screen. To make sure you don’t skip over a section, use your thumb or finger as a place marker. Put on the side of the screen where you begin and move it as you go along.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to see the individual wires in a screen. If the background behind a screen is making it difficult to check for holes, take the screen out and place it on light, solid-colored surface. If you don’t have a suitable surface, get a piece of poster board and lay it under each screen you check.
Check for Leaks
Quick check: Look at the window frame from the outside. If the caulk or paint have broken away from the frame, you have leaks. Air (and water) can penetrate.
Check the window frame from the inside. You’ll be able to feel any major leaks caused by deteriorated sealant or caulk, but minor leaks will be more difficult to notice. To check for minor leaks, you’ll need either an infrared thermometer or candle.
If you have an infrared thermometer, stand indoors and aim the thermometer along each edge of the window you’re checking. If the temperature drops at any point, air is likely leaking in there.
If you don’t have or want to purchase an infrared thermometer, you can instead use a candle. Slowly move a lit candle along each edge of the window. Anywhere the flame flickers, air is moving — and it’s likely coming in through a leak in the caulk or sealant.
Repair, Replace or Reseal Your Windows
If you detect any tears or leaks that are significant enough that you want to fix them, you have several options. Which option is best depends on the extent of the damage.
Re-caulking or re-sealing (and painting) your window frames is a straight-forward task. You will need weather warm enough for the sealant or caulk to cure after you apply it. And you will then need weather warm enough for painting the repaired area. We will talk more about how to caulk in a future how-to post.
Replacing window screening is also a do-able task depending on the type of window and screen involved. You might prefer to remove the screen and take it to a hardware store that can replace the screen for you. Or you might buy new screening material of the right size and type for your window and remove the old screening and put the new screening in place yourself. We will talk more about the details of replacing screening in a future post.
Making a point of checking windows and screens in the spring lets you find and fix tears before bugs find those holes and come inside. Checking for window frame air leaks in the spring gives you the chance to seal those leaks before you spend money air-conditioning air that leaks outside to no-one’s benefit.
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