h, weatherproofing. A word that makes so much sense, and yet no sense at all. Lemme break it down for yinz who are new to this. Weatherproofing means two main things- keeping cold air out of your house, and protecting your wood from damage. You want to protect your hard wood from damage, don’t ya? It's a basic instinct.
I know what you’re thinking to yourself- “...I have wood at my house that needs protecting?” And the answer might actually be no, depending on who you are, and how much carpentry you get up to. Some wood things that you’d wanna weatherproof include benches, wooden swings, fences, a wooden deck- stuff like that. Probably your whole house isn’t made of wood, and hopefully if it is, someone already thought to weatherproof it.
So- if you’ve got some wood to protect, here’s how to go about that. And uh, if not, go ‘head and skip down to Weatherproofing Your Home. It’s gonna be a fun section- we get to say “caulk” a lot, you won’t wanna miss it. Spoiler alert, it’ll save you so much money on heating bills and stuff like that.
Why do we wanna weatherproof wood? If you leave wood bare to the elements (rain, sleet, snow, whatever), it’s gonna take a lot of damage. Yeah, it can warp, but it can also just start to look and feel really gross. Best to avoid that, and just make it weatherproofed in the first place.
Here’s what you’ll wanna buy if you’re weatherproofing something wooden.
A deck cleaner. Do not be deceived by the name. It can be used on stuff other than decks.
A sealer/sealant. The kinds of labels may vary at the store. Do not get overwhelmed. What you want is something with the prefix “seal” - could be a 2-in-1 exterior stain and sealant, could just say “waterproofing sealer.” The good thing about the 2-in-1 is that you don’t need to buy a separate stain (assuming you want to change or highlight the color of the wood, that is). If you don’t want a stain, don’t buy the 2-in-1.
A stain. There are two types- “transparent” and “solid.” Transparent means that you’ll get a little hint of color, but it’ll mostly just show off the beauty of the wood that’s already there. Transparent’s great if your wood’s still in good condition, and it also is usually recommended for younger woods. “Solid” stains, on the other hand, are your con-artist friends. Solid stains are recommended for older, grosser wood. They highlight natural textures, but hide the wood grain. Keep in mind that solid stains offer more protection than transparent stains do.
A pump sprayer. Good for coating large areas with the deck cleaner quickly.
A drop cloth. Something for your wood to sit on while you’re weatherproofing it- it’s gonna have to dry, and it’s probably not the best gardening idea to get sealant all over your lawn anyway.
Exterior paint brushes. Very google-able if you don’t know what those look like.
Mineral spirits/paint thinner. You’re probably gonna want it so that cleaning your brushes isn’t a nightmare at the end of all this.
Gloves, long sleeves, and goggles. Best to take safety seriously when working with a powerful deck-cleaner.
Alright, now that you’ve bought all that, here’s what we’re gonna do.
Lay out your drop cloth.
Put your wooden thing on top of the cloth. This step assumes that your wooden thing is pick-up-able. Like a swing, maybe, or a bench. Please do not try to uproot your fence to obey this step, if that’s what you have decided to weatherproof.
Clean your surface. Put on your safety equipment. If it’s old wood, it’s a good idea to really hit the wood with the deck cleaner using that pump sprayer. If it’s brand new wood, you could probably get away with just putting some on a cloth and then wiping it down. Let the cleaner dry on one side, then flip it to the side you missed.
(Rinse your surface). You only have to do this if you used the pump sprayer. If so, wait a few minutes for the deck cleaner to sit, and then wash it all off. Garden hose is great for this step.
Apply your stain/sealant using the brushes. Don’t go crazy with it, you just need a thin coat. Coat all the exposed surfaces and then let it set for like 24 hours.
Wash your brushes. Mineral spirits make it easier, trust us.
Weatherproofing Your Home
Listen, your home is drafty. It’s nothing personal- there are lots of cracks between all your windows/doors and your walls. A lot of people don’t notice their home is drafty, but trust us. Once you patch things up, you’ll see the proof in the pudding through how much money you’re saving on heating and air conditioning. You can thank us later.
Here’s what you can buy to weatherproof your house.
Weatherproof strips. Usually they go in the doorjamb, but they can go other places on the door, too. Lots of different types to choose from- it really comes down to you. What do you want it to look like? Do you care if anyone sees a weatherproof strip? Types of strips include V Seal, Felt, Tubular Rubber, and Door Sweeps.
Caulk. There are also a bunch of different types of caulk to choose from. You could also try Flex Seal, if you were looking for an excuse to buy Flex Seal. Man those commercials are cool.
A Caulking gun. After all, the caulk’s no use to you while it’s still in the original package. Simply stick your caulk in the gun if that’s what it calls for. Bear in mind that not all caulks need a gun- some come in tubes that you can just squeeze out, no gun required.
Alright now let’s get down to it. Caulk is usually for windows, and weatherstripping is usually for doors. We’ll cover doors first.
Follow the instructions on the package. We’re not kidding- there are so many types of weatherproof stripping. A lot of them are tapes, but some aren’t. Here’s a helpful video if you want more details.
Ok now that that’s done, it’s time for windows. Let’s get into it!
Check for leaks by burning incense. Have someone stand outside while you do this, and make sure the A/C or anything is turned off. Make a note of where the smoke comes out- that’s where your heating gets off to in the winter.
Remove any old caulk with a utility knife or scraper. The name of the game for this project is getting a good seal. You can’t really get a good seal if you’ve got a shitty old seal in the way.
Load and prep your caulking gun. Probably follow the instructions on the package here. Some guns will have a thing to pierce the gun with to create your opening. You get to adjust how much caulk is gonna come out according to how big a space you’re trying to fill. Be careful not to go too big too fast.
Seal the area between the window and the wall with your caulk. It’s best to hold it at a 45 degree angle while you’re doing this, that way you know the gap is fully blocked. If you want someone to show you what that all looks like, try this guy.
Smooth the caulk. The type of caulk will determine what the best way for you to smooth it out is gonna be.
Let it dry. Again, follow the instructions on the caulk you buy- it’ll tell you when it’s gonna be ready.
And that’s it! Congrats on your newly weatherproofed home.
Katie Sabel is a writer from Saratoga, CA, currently studying creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University. Her writing spans across multiple genres, including professional writing, playwriting, poetry, fiction, and game writing.