With winter in full swing the choice doesn’t have to do with cleaning, but with insulation.

Now that we are getting close to Christmas, the children are long back at school, and winter clothes have been bought, the household budget may yet again be getting a bit tight. But, not one to let you forget that the home needs taking care of too, the morning frost is a daily reminder of the need to tackle that home insulation job.

If you do have the money, know that it pays the most to invest in insulation first. Your walls, roof and where possible or relevant, floors should be assessed and upgraded before you go anywhere near your windows. In the overall makeup of a house, heat is mostly lost through the roof (warm air rises). Of utmost importance with an insulation upgrade, it’s vital to know that it must coincide with a thought-out ventilation strategy to ensure you continue to get fresh air into the home.

If you can’t afford a professional insulation and ventilation upgrade right now, draught excluders may be your best bet. A cost-effective solution, they’ll do what they say on the tin to make your house more comfortable. The measures may not necessarily save you a whole lot of money – unless you reduce your central heating requirement as a result – but you will see an increase in comfort. There are four main types:

Foam and rubber strips. Foam strips are self-adhesive and come in rolls which you fix all around the door or window. Rubber strips are similar but usually sturdier than foam (foam tends to perish quickly, depending on quality) and may provide a tighter seal.

Brushes. A nylon brush attached to a plastic holder. These are most common for doors but can also be used on casement or sliding sash windows. Screwed onto the frame, not on the door or window itself.

Threshold excluder. Much more expensive but also more effective, the threshold excluder prevents draughts at the base of an external door. It has a rubber and a metal component which can be fixed to the floor, mounted on the door, or a combination floor/door system.

Door furniture seals. If you have a letterbox in your front door consider a draught excluder there too (plastic frame with brushes) and if you have a mortise lock, a keyhole cover. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about a cat flap.

Here are our top five tips to make the most of this DIY job:

  1. Measure the how much of a gap you need to fill, and the length. Strips need to be wide enough to provide a good seal but not so big as to get crushed and prevent the window from closing. For brushes, make sure what you buy is long enough to cover the entire length of the door.
  2. Don’t block up existing vents. If you have natural ventilation openings in your windows or in your wall, don’t be tempted to tape them up. It’s true that vents may cause some amount of discomfort, especially when located in the direction of prevailing winds, but they are necessary to keep fresh air circulating. Mould and other unhealthy stuff will start building up if you prevent fresh air from getting in.
  3. Make your own draught excluder for your door. It’s easy to put together with discarded material; even though you need to sow it together it can be stuffed with just about anything. Used plastic bags are recommended for a bit of an insulative value but these are light so you could complement with a heavier stuffing to make sure they stay in place.
  4. For windows that don’t open, you could use a silicone sealant.
  5. Think of other sources of draughts. If you enjoy an open fire make sure you have a cap over the chimney pot and if you don’t use the fireplace, install a chimney draught excluder. Don’t forget the loft hatch; it can be sealed with strips to prevent warm air getting into the attic. Old extractor fan outlets may need to be resealed. If necessary you can fill the gaps between floorboards, and between wall and skirting boards too.

More information from seai.ie and energysavingstrust.org.uk


Article written by Astrid Madsen of SelfBuild Ireland Ltd.

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