Archive for October, 2010

Prepare your Trees for Winter

Trees can be badly damaged during severe winter storms. Trees are biologically engineered to adjust to most of the things that “Mother Nature” dishes up. Sometimes, however, trees are not able to compensate for catastrophic events, and a failure occurs. By identifying problems and dealing with them before winter storms occur, some emergencies can be avoided.

Trees in the street area: If your tree is located within a street right of way, it is regulated by the City. Trees that have been planted by the City (typically those along arterial streets) are maintained by the City. Trees that have been planted by abutting property owners are the maintenance responsibility of the current abutting property owner.

Trees on private property: Large trees are an extremely valuable asset to both the individual property owner and the community. An investment in pruning or inspection can help prevent damage from wind, snow or ice, and help preserve those irreplaceable older trees that add so much to the character and heritage of your property.

Preventative Maintenance:  strategic pruning to prevent branch failure is a good idea for both the trees and the people who live around them. We know first hand that the time invested in preventative maintenance is well spent. Trees that are pruned regularly should be more resistant to storm damage as a result of the removal of structurally weak branches, decreased surface area of lateral branches and decreased wind resistance.

Trees that have their canopies covered with ivy or clematis may not be able to withstand the additional wind or snow load caused by the extra leaf area of the vines. Removal of invasive vines is important to the health of your trees.

Trees that have structural defects may incur storm damage from snow, ice or wind. Some defects to look for are:

Dead Wood – dead trees and large dead branches are unpredictable. Dead wood is brittle, and cannot bend in the wind like a living tree or branch. Branches that are already broken off and hanging in the tree should receive prompt attention.

Cracks – A crack is a deep split in the tree, which extends through the bark and into the wood of the tree. Cracks are indicators of potential branch or tree failure.

Decay – a “hollow” tree can be prone to failure, but presence of decay does not necessarily indicate that the tree is hazardous. Trees usually decay from the inside, forming a cavity. At the same time, new wood is added to the outside of the tree as it grows. If the outer shell is sound, the tree may be relatively safe. Evaluating the safety of a decaying tree is best left to a trained arborist.

Root Problems – Trees with damaged roots may blow over in wind storms. Have your tree checked if over half of the roots have been crushed or cut; if the tree is starting to lean and soil is “pushing up” around the base of the tree on the side opposite the lean; or, if decay is present in the buttress roots or base of the tree.

Poor Tree Composition – An example of this would be a tree with a weak branch attachment, a large branch that is out of proportion with the rest of the tree, or a tree that leans excessively. Not all leaning trees are hazardous, but if you’re concerned about the tree, it should be examined by a professional arborist. Weak branch attachments (typically, these are narrow “forks” in the tree) are also best evaluated by a professional arborist.

Prune your trees to remove dead or weakened limbs, starting when they are young. DON’T TOP TREES! Larger trees can benefit from having excess branches thinned from their crowns, which lets wind pass through. You should be able to see into your tree, but not through it!

Keep your trees healthy by caring for them all year long. Proper watering, mulching, fertilizing and pruning will help them be an asset to your property and the community for years to come.

Plant the right tree: When you are planting new trees, select the right tree for your location. To avoid damage from early snow and ice storms, don’t choose trees that retain their leaves late into the fall. Don’t plant too close to your house, and avoid species that are susceptible to breaking, such as Willows, Box Elders, Poplars, Bradford Pear and Silver Maples.

Winterizing Your Home

The fall Equinox is a good time of year to start thinking about preparing your home for winter, because as temperatures begin to dip, your home will require maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape through the winter.

Autumn is invariably a prelude to falling winter temperatures, regardless of where you live. It might rain or snow or, as David Letterman says, “Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees.” Did you know there is only one state in the United States where the temperatures have never dipped below zero? Give up? It’s Hawaii.

Here are ten tips to help you prepare your home for winter:

1) Furnace Inspection

  • Call an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts.
  • Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
  • Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.
  • If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.
  • Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

2) Get the Fireplace Ready

  • Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
  • If the chimney hasn’t been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
  • Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
  • Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
  • Check the mortar between bricks and tuckpoint, if necessary.

3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows

  • Inspect exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes; seal them.
  • Use weatherstripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home and caulk windows.
  • Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you end up replacing the entire window, prime and paint exposed wood.
  • If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields.
  • Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.

4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts

  • If your weather temperature will fall below 32 degrees in the winter, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
  • Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
  • Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
  • Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
  • Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.

5) Service Weather-Specific Equipment

  • Drain gas from lawnmowers.
  • Service or tune-up snow blowers.
  • Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
  • Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
  • Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand.

6) Check Foundations

  • Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation.
  • Seal up entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
  • Tuckpoint or seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through space as thin as a dime.
  • Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.
  • Secure crawlspace entrances.

7) Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

  • Some cities require a smoke detector in every room.
  • Buy extra smoke detector batteries and change them when daylight savings ends.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and / or water heater.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher or replace an extinguisher older than 10 years.

8) Prevent Plumbing Freezes

  • Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
  • Drain all garden hoses.
  • Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
  • Drain air conditioner pipes and, if your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
  • If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.

9) Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces

  • Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires.
  • Ask a gardener when your trees should be pruned to prevent winter injury.
  • Plant spring flower bulbs and lift bulbs that cannot winter over such as dahlias in areas where the ground freezes.
  • Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.
  • Don’t automatically remove dead vegetation from gardens as some provide attractive scenery in an otherwise dreary, snow-drenched yard.
  • Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area.

10) Prepare an Emergency Kit

  • Buy indoor candles and matches / lighter for use during a power shortage.
  • Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and tape them near your phone or inside the phone book.
  • Buy a battery back-up to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment.
  • Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.
  • Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.

How to Close Down a House for Winter

Preparing a home for the winter ensures you won't have any surprises when you get back
Preparing a home for the winter ensures you won’t have any surprises when you get back

Closing down a house for the winter is an important step for those who move on to a second house for the season. Without this step, you can return to a house in the spring that is damaged and could need thousands of dollars worth of repair. Because of this, closing your house down for the winter is something you should always do before leaving, even if you feel your winter is going to be mild.


Things You’ll Need:

  • Garden hose
  • Sponge
  1. Clean your home thoroughly. Pay special attention to your oven and stove.
  2. Turn off the main water supply to your home. Then open all the faucets in the house to clear water from the pipes. For added security during this measure, you can call a plumber to blow compressed air through the pipes and ensure that all the water is out. Don’t forget to flush your toilet to clear the water from the bowl. Leaving RV antifreeze in toilet bowl helps.
  3. Drain the water heater. Turn off its heating supplyat the breaker, whether electrical or gas. Attach a hose to the valve at the bottom of the tank, leading outside. Open the valve on the hot water heater and allow all the water to drain into your yard.
  4. Unplug and defrost your refrigerator. Use a sponge or towel to remove any water left inside. Leaving a bowl of fresh coffee grounds in the fridge prevents smells, while old paper(like newspapers balled up) absorb any moisture.
  5.   Unplug all appliances and telephones.
  6. Throw away any uneaten food that may attract animals.
  7. Inspect your home for any possible animal entrances. Make sure your flue is closed, as bats or squirrels can use this as a way to get into your home. Check for spaces around pipes where mice can enter the house.
  8. Leave the heat on low, if possible. While this is expensive, it is one of the best ways to make sure you don’t come home to any surprises, since it ensures that the interior of your home never goes below freezing (unless there’s a power outage). Even if you forgot one of the steps to close your house for the winter, or did so improperly, you won’t return to a burst water pipe.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you’re not going to leave the heat on all winter, turn it off a few days before you leave. This gives the indoor humidity time to adjust.
  • Leaving paper grocery bags inside your oven will remove excess moisture.

Winter Weather

Winter Weather Preparation

Take steps to make sure your home is properly insulated and sealed.

  • Insulate walls and attics to conserve heat and energy.
  • Weather strip doors and windows to protect against drafting air.
  • Install storm windows or use plastic sheeting to cover windows.
  • Use all-weather caulk to seal around window frames, doorframes and other openings on the exterior of your home.
  • Stock up on firewood.
  • Insulate pipes, especially those near exterior walls of your home.
  • Winterize your vehicle, which includes snow tires or chains, if necessary.
  • Keep plenty of extra blankets in your home.
  • Ensure that every member of your family has a hat, scarf, gloves or mittens, warm coat and water-resistant boots.
  • Create a supply of water (at least one gallon a day per person for three days) in the event pipes freeze.
  • Assemble a disaster kit that includes but is not limited to a First Aid kit, battery powered radio and lamps, supply of fresh batteries, drinking water, canned food and non-electric can opener, extra blankets, etc.

Disaster Kit Items (for severe storms)

  •       Recommended preparation supply list:

    First aid kit
    Bottled drinking water
    Non-perishable foods
    Emergency contact list
    Spare eye-glasses or contact lenses
    Back-up generator and oil
    Batteries (AA, C, D and 9V)
    Battery-powered radio
    Cash, credit cards
    Charged cell phone, charger and extra cell phone battery
    Extension cords
    Insect repellant
    Manual can opener
    Masking/duct tape
    Necessary medication
    Signal flares
    Utility knife
    Driver’s license, keys, insurance papers and other important documents keep them in a water-tight, fire-safe compartment
    Soap, shampoo and toiletries
    Pet supplies (food, water, leash, kennel, records)
    Room air conditioner
    Ceiling fan
    Electric fan

    Recommended clean-up product list

    Brooms and mops
    Axes, hand saws and pruners
    Cleaning disinfectants and rags
    Masking/duct tape
    Trash bags
    Shovels and rakes
    Camera (to document damage)
    Chain saw
    Cordless drill and other cordless power tools
    Nails and screws
    Rope and/or bungee cords
    Screw driver
    Tarps and drop cloths
    Work boots or heavy shoes

  • If you live in an area that experiences frequent power outages due to severe winter weather, consider purchasing a generator.
During the winter storm:

  • Stay indoors, leaving your home only for emergencies.
  • If you must go outside, walk carefully on snowy and icy ground, and wear layers of warm clothing and cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
  • Stay tuned to weather broadcasts> to keep abreast of storm details.
  • Keep your cellular phone charged.
  • If pipes freeze, remove insulation and wrap rags around the pipes to absorb moisture during thawing.
  • Do not use a blow torch to thaw frozen pipes; slow thawing works best to prevent pipes from bursting.
Winter Weather Safety and Recovery

  • Take frequent breaks when shoveling to prevent injury or heart attack.
  • Equip your car with blankets, a shovel, battery-operated radio and lamp. Inform others of your planned route and take a fully-charged cell phone with you.
  • Stay clear of downed power lines.
  • Continue to monitor weather forecasts and conditions – do not be lulled by the serenity of the “winter wonderland” outside your home.
Winter Weather Terminology

Wind Chill Index – The calculation of temperature that takes into consideration the effects of wind and temperature on the human body. Describes the average loss of body heat and how the temperature feels. This is not the actual air temperature.

winter storm – Any one of several storm systems that develop during the late fall to early spring and deposit wintry precipitation, such as snow, freezing rain, or ice.

winter storm watch – This is a forecast for severe weather issued well in advance of the actual occurrence. Usually issued 12 to 36 hours prior to a storm’s arrival, you can use this time to prepare your home and family for the approaching storm

winter storm warning – A forecast issued when severe weather has developed, is already occurring and reported, or is detected on radar. Warnings state a particular hazard or imminent danger. Your severe weather plan should be in place when the warning is issued.

blizzard – A severe weather condition characterized by low temperatures, winds 35 mph or greater, and sufficient falling and/or blowing snow in the air to frequently reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less for a duration of at least three hours. A severe blizzard is characterized by temperatures near or below 10°F, winds exceeding 45 mph, and visibility reduced by snow to near zero.

whiteout – When visibility is near zero due to blizzard conditions or occurs on sunless days when clouds and surface snow seem to blend, erasing the horizon and creating a completely white vista.

Nor’easter – A cyclonic storm occurring off the east coast of North America. These winter weather events are notorious for producing heavy snow, rain, and tremendous waves that crash onto Atlantic beaches, often causing beach erosion and structural damage. Wind gusts associated with these storms can exceed hurricane force in intensity. A nor’easter gets its name from the continuously strong northeasterly winds blowing in from the ocean ahead of the storm and over the coastal areas.

Heat-Saving Items

It has been estimated that 90 percent of the heat generated by a conventional masonry fireplace goes up the chimney. To help make fireplaces more energy efficient, accessory items recover lost heat and return it to the room.


One type of heat-recovery system looks like a glass fireplace enclosure but actually generates heat through convection. A mini radiator in the hood of the enclosure and a heat exchanger behind and above the fire can generate 10,000 BTUs of heat every hour. Further, heat transferred through the unit’s double paned glass doors and frame develops an additional 5,000 BTUs each hour. It requires no electricity or gas for operation and is an easy do-it-yourself installation.

Another type of recovery system combines a grate and heat exchanger to re-circulate fireplace heat back into the room. It can be adjusted to fit standard size fireplace openings. These units can also be used with glass enclosures.

Heating Requirements
Estimated Wattage Required To Raise Room Temperature One Degree*
Floor Area Sq. Ft. Room Conditions
50 7 10 36
100 14 20 69
150 22 30 103
200 29 40 138
250 36 50 172
300 43 60 204
350 50 70 241
400 57 80 275
450 65 90 310
500 72 100 344
ROOM CONDITIONS (based on 8 ft. ceiling)
(A) Interior Room-little or no outside exposure.
(B) Room with average door and window area-well insulated.
(C) Isolated Rooms-cabins, watch houses-no insulation.
*Because of varying climate, building and insulation conditions, this chart is intended only as a guide to heating requirements.


Tube grates are made of a series of U-shaped tubes fastened together; they replace conventional grates and andirons. The fire is built on the lower curve of the tube grate, just as it would be built in a standard grate or on andirons.

The purpose of the tube grate is to pull room air into the bottom tube opening, move it around and over the fire-warming the air as it goes-and shoot it back into the room. This is accomplished through gravity or with an electric motor to force the warm air back into the room. It should keep the room air from being drawn up the chimney and, when combined with glass doors, the tube grate can be quite effective.


Heat extractors are made for both fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, and both kinds operate on much the same principle. Their purpose is to extract additional heat from flue gases beyond what would normally come from the stovepipe or chimney.

Some operate naturally using radiation or convection; others have an electric blower to force out more heat.

Since it must be mounted on the stovepipe or chimney, installing a heat extractor on an existing fireplace may be a major undertaking, unless the fireplace has an exposed chimney.

A heat extractor can pull a tremendous amount of heat from a fireplace chimney, but as it does so it cools the flue gases and reduces the effectiveness of the draft. Since this could cause smoking in a fireplace, it would be wise to put a good heat extractor on a chimney with more capacity than is necessary for the size of the fireplace.

The fact that heat extractors cool the flue gases may cause them to work against the efficiency of a good wood-burning stove. As the flue gases cool, combustion is reduced and the stove itself gives off less heat.

Ease of cleaning a heat extractor is another factor. It collects deposits from wood smoke which affect the unit’s efficiency. Some extractors have a removable plate that allows easy access for cleaning the tubes; others require partial disassembly, which can be inconvenient and messy.


Fireplace inserts are airtight fireboxes that can be inserted into existing fireplaces to provide some of the advantages of a wood-burning stove. Most draw air from the room, circulate it around the insert and return warmed air to the room. Some units have blowers to help distribute the heat.

Some fireplace inserts have a UL listing for use in factory built fireplaces. These zero clearance inserts can extend to the fireplace facing.

These units are specified for use with individual manufacturer models. Manufacturer literature should be checked for correct use.

Gas fireplace inserts are similar to un-vented gas heaters. They can be used in masonry fireplaces as infrared burners to radiate heat. Quality features include oxygen depletion sensor and flame-failure gas shutoff.


Glass enclosures also help improve fireplace performance. They control air intake, which makes the wood burn more slowly and retains more heat in the firebox; at the same time, the fireplace pulls less warm air from the house.

Glass enclosures can also mean the fire can be left unattended. With doors shut, the fire safely extinguishes itself. The glass doors also permit a full, clear view of the fire while they keep smoke and sparks out of the room.

Most enclosures have a built-in draft at the base that directs air to the bottom of the fireplace opening so homeowners can easily start and control the fire.

Glass enclosures, which fit most standard size fireplaces, mount securely against the face of the fire place, overlapping the opening. In many cases, the enclosure comes fully assembled so the homeowner can install it in minutes.

Other features available on some models include:

  • Safety locks to ensure that the doors will not open accidentally from the impact of a falling log or gusty downdraft.
  • Removable doors for easy cleaning.
  • Permanently attached curtain screen.
  • Outside side-pull handles to eliminate reaching into the heat of the fire to close the doors.
  • Special insert to adapt the enclosure to an arched fireplace.
  • Base risers to elevate the enclosure to fit nonstandard fireplaces.

Gas, Smoke, and Fire Protection


Gas, smoke and fire detectors are common residential safety products. Many municipal building codes require smoke or fire detectors in multifamily dwellings, in new construction, and, in some cases, in existing single-family homes.

There are three common types of detectors: thermal, ionization and photoelectric. Thermal detectors are activated by heat; ionization responds to smoke and gas particles from a flaming fire; and photoelectric responds to smoke from a smoldering fire.

Here’s how each of the three kinds of detectors works:

Thermal: These detectors, used primarily by large commercial or industrial firms, sound only when the temperature rises to a certain level. They are not nearly as safe as the ionization and photoelectric types in that the fire must be more intense before the thermal unit will sound.

However, they might be the best choice for an area where smoke or heat is normally present and might trigger a false alarm, such as near a cooking stove.

Ionization: Measures the changes in electric current caused by invisible particles ionized in the heat of combustion. They use a non-harmful radioactive source (Americium 241) to transform the air inside them into a conductor of electric current. A small current passes through this “ionized” air. When smoke particles enter the detector, they impede the flow of current. An alarm is programmed to sound when the current gets too low. Ionization detectors respond particularly well to the “smoke” caused by a flaming fire. Since they require very little power, they are effectively powered by household batteries and can be placed almost anywhere in a house (and will work even during a power failure).

These detectors are typically insensitive to smoke from a smoldering fire. And battery-powered models must have their batteries replaced at periodic intervals.

Photoelectric: Involves a small lamp adjusted to direct a narrow light beam across the detection chamber. Next to this light source, but hidden from direct exposure to the beam, is a light-sensitive photocell. Smoke entering the detection chamber scatters the light beam reflecting it in all directions. Some of this reflected light is picked up by the photocell which, at a preset level, triggers the alarm.

A typical photoelectric detector is relatively sensitive to smoke from a smoldering fire (the greatest cause of death in home fires), but reacts slowly to flaming fires-almost opposite of the ionization model.

Most photoelectric models require connection to an electrical outlet. Light bulbs must be replaced every few years.


The Fire Protection Association recommends detectors in every room in the house. The simplest rule for locating a basic smoke detector is mount it between the bedrooms and the rest of the house, but closer to the bedrooms. It is better, however, to install multiple detectors and put one near each sleeping area. In multilevel homes, install one on each level. The basement ceiling, near the steps, is a good location for extra protection. But for the best protection, locate a detector in each bedroom. Detectors have additional features to help in warning the family of fire danger and to help them escape from the house. Some are equipped with lights and are suggested for halls and stairways and any location leading to doors or windows. The idea is to light the escape route. Others have loud sirens to awaken sleeping persons or extra loud horns for use in homes where there are persons with hearing impairment.

Install each detector on the ceiling or on walls between 6″ and 12″ below the ceiling. Do not put it within 6″ of where the wall and ceiling meet on either surface. This is dead air space with little circulation. Do not mount a detector in front of an air supply or return duct.


Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that is formed wherever there is uranium-an element present throughout the earth’s crust. Since it is a gas, radon is mobile and poses little health risk if it makes its way to open air. It dissipates quickly in open areas, but if radon seeps into a house, it can collect in hazardous concentrations.

Inhaling radon or its decay products introduces radioactivity into the body-posing serious health hazards. There is no way to predict radon’s presence or concentration through geological studies. One house can have low radon levels, while another located next to it may have high concentrations.

In many homes, radon measurements are made in the basement, since radon enters from the earth beneath the foundation.

There are several types of detectors capable of conducting radon tests.

Alpha-track devices consist of a small sheet of polycarbonate plastic. Alpha particles that strike the plastic cause microscopic pockmarks. After an exposure period, users mail the detector to a lab. The lab’s count of the pockmarks gives a direct measure of the mean radon concentration.

Other types include electret ion chamber, continuous monitor and charcoal liquid scintillation. A short-term test will take from two to 90 days depending on the detection device chosen. Longer tests-usually with electret or alpha-track detectors-will give a more accurate reading of average radon exposure.

Be sure your radon kits meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements or are state certified. The kit packaging will tell you if it’s EPA certified.

Remember that radon levels can change greatly, and a number of factors, such as frequency of opening and closing windows, can affect radon measurements. In addition, determining if radon is a health threat depends upon factors such as measurable radon levels and the number of hours a day a home is occupied.

You can be reassured that simple measures-such as improving basement ventilation-can eliminate a radon problem. Other solutions used in combination with the above methods include sealing cracks and holes in the foundation and concrete floors; using a fan to keep the house pressurized; and installing a heat-recovery ventilator while using the heated or cooled air being exhausted to warm or cool the incoming air.


Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, deadly gas that poses a potentially deadly health risk to people. Carbon monoxide can be emitted by gas or oil furnaces, dryers, refrigerators, water and space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves and gas ranges.

CO poisoning is difficult to diagnose since the symptoms-headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizzy spells-are similar to ailments such as the flu.

Battery-powered CO detectors are available that can detect levels as low as .01 percent, and will operate even in the event of a power failure. They should be placed near the sleeping area, and perhaps also near the home’s heating source. Make sure the CO detectors you purchase have the UL seal, which guarantees the product has passed safety and accuracy tests.


When selling fire extinguishers, you should find out where the extinguisher is likely to be used and what kind of fire may be involved . . . Class A, B, C or D fire.

Class A fires – the most common types . . . ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber and many plastics.

Class B fires – flammable liquids, gases and greases.

Class C fires – energized electrical equipment or wiring where the electric non-conductivity of the extinguishing agent is important. However, when the equipment or wiring is de-energized, remaining combustion is Class A or B and extinguishers for those fires may be safely used.

Class D fires – combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium and potassium. You will not often be called upon to supply extinguishers for Class D fires.


The most reliable guide to the fire-killing ability of an extinguisher is the rating assigned it by Underwriters’ Laboratories, Inc., which appears on the equipment nameplate. Size alone is not a satisfactory measure of extinguisher effectiveness.

Each rating consists of one or more numbers and letters. The letter tells the class of fire the extinguishing agent is designed for. The number indicates approximate relative extinguishing potential. For example, an extinguisher rated 4A is capable of putting out twice as much burning material as one rated 2A. (The “A” means Class A.)

The number used for Class B extinguishers also shows the square-foot area of a deep-layer flammable liquid fire which a trained operator can put out. Class C extinguishers have no “C” commercial rating.


Water-type extinguisher – Class A fires. Includes water, antifreeze, soda-acid, wetting agent and loaded-stream extinguishers.

Carbon dioxide extinguisher – Class B and C fires. Has limited range and is affected by draft and wind.

Dry-chemical extinguisher – Class B and C fires. Includes sodium and potassium bicarbonate base agents. Dry-chemical extinguishers marked general-purpose or multipurpose can be used on Class A, B and C fires.

Foam extinguisher – Class A and B fires. Not effective on flammable liquids and gases escaping under pressure.

Halon extinguisher – Recommended for Class B and C fires but not for Class A fires in paper, wood and cloth. Halon extinguishers are lighter, more compact and more effective than carbon dioxide and will not stop an engine from running. Halon is colorless, odorless and will not damage engine parts, electrical systems or other sensitive equipment and leaves no residue.

Halon 1211 is a gas found in small hand extinguishers and pressurized with nitrogen. Halon 1301 is a vapor form, somewhat less toxic and found in fixed commercial and marine applications. Halon extinguishers are the most expensive of the types listed here.

A number of extinguishers are labeled “all purpose” or “multipurpose.” They use a fine powder of ammonium phosphate that is effective against all types of fire. They are a logical choice, but not as efficient at extinguishing as the rated units can be for specific types of fires.


One fire extinguisher is not enough protection for a home. Four would provide good protection in a three-bedroom home with a basement and garage-one near the bedrooms, one for the basement, one for the garage and one for the kitchen.

It is recommended that multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher units be used throughout a house as protection against all types of fires.

Do not mount a fire extinguisher too close to a place fire might occur. For example: In the kitchen, do not mount it close to the stove. In the basement, the best place is at the top of the stairs unless circumstances demand that it be near a workshop area. You should not risk reaching into a fire or going into a burning area to get a fire extinguisher.

Also use caution to fight only minor fires. In case of a serious blaze, all persons should immediately leave the house. Notify the fire department from a neighbor’s home or an alarm box.


People buy safes to protect documents and valuables from fire and theft. When you sell a home safe, find out what the customer wants to protect. Although some fire safes offer sufficient security for valuables, not all maximum security safes have maximum fire protection.

Fire safes designed for home use should at least provide protection for the contents for up to one-half hour at 1550 degrees F; light commercial safes should provide the same protection for up to two hours.

According to Underwriters Laboratories’ standards, a fire safe should retain an inside temperature below 350 degrees F (the temperature at which paper chars) for an hour or more. This rating also includes requirements that the safe be resistant to rupture or explosion at these temperatures. The fire rating must appear on the safe. The National Fire Prevention Association has found that a fire-rated safe performs four times better than a non-rated safe in a fire.

Security of a safe, beyond its fire protection, comes from a combination of retractable and stationary bolts that prevents the safe door from being removed by knocking off or removing the hinges.

Besides fire-rated safes, there are also fire-rated security chests and files in a variety of sizes with key locks and interior organizational features.

There are several locking mechanisms for safes, the most common being a dial combination of three or four digits with a handle or latch for retracting the bolts.

Additional security can be provided if the safe also has a built-in key lock that functions independently of the dial combination. This kind of safe also permits “key only” access when necessary and provides double-lock security at other times.

Another form of locking mechanism is an electronic digital lock in which the dial combination is replaced by a four-digit, changeable, pushbutton combination. The advantage is faster and easier access to the contents without sacrificing overall security.

In addition to freestanding safes, there are safes that can be mounted in walls or sunk into concrete floors. There are also vault doors that can be installed inside existing closet doors to turn a standard closet into a vault. However, it should be noted that these safes are not fire rated.

Snow Removal


Shovels – Basic stock includes steel, aluminum and plastic snow shovels.

Promotionally priced steel shovels have 14″ x 18″ enamel-finished blades with 33″ “D” handles riveted to blades.

Promotionally priced aluminum shovels have medium sockets and steel wear straps (metal strips at the leading edge of the blade) to reinforce 14″ x 18″ blade.

High-quality shovels, both steel and aluminum, have blades no smaller than 15″ x 18″, tempered steel wear straps and ash or heavy gauge metal handles.

Either can have a coating such as silicone to help keep the snow from sticking to the blade.

Plastic shovels are lightweight, with ribbed blocks for extra strength. They shed snow easily and can be lower priced than metal shovels.

Pushers, Scrapers, Rakes – Snow pushers with sharply-curved blades push snow from sidewalks and driveways; they are not designed for lifting and throwing snow.

Roof rakes, with 15′ or 16′ handles, reach up to roofs to pull down heavy snow. Ice scrapers have an 8″ or 9″ sharp blade to break ice from steps and sidewalks.

Snow Throwers

Lightweight snow throwers or “powered snow shovels” are very popular, especially in regions that experience frequent, but moderate snowfall.

The basic components of a snow thrower are the engine, blades to break up snow, auger or paddles to pull snow in, impellers to eject snow and chutes to direct thrown snow. The combination of these components depends on whether the model is a single or two-stage thrower.

Single-stage units are lighter, easier to maneuver and less expensive than two-stage units.

Single-stage units use one action to break up snow, draw it in and discharge it. Two-stage throwers use separate augers or fans and impellers with the former breaking up and pulling in snow and the latter propelling it forward or out to one side. Directional controls adjust the discharge chute so snow is thrown in the desired direction.

Two-stage units can maneuver as much as one ton of snow per Lighter weight, less expensive models are usually sufficient for ordinary home snow clearing. These may have combination plastic (high-density polyethylene) and aluminum construction, 2-1/2-hp engine and as small as 14″ clearing width. These have the ability to clear a 50′ driveway of 3″ snow in about 10 minutes.

Gasoline-powered units offer 3 to 11 hp, two or four-cycle engines, cutting widths from 14″ to 32″, automatic rewind or recoil (optional electric) starters, two to five forward and one reverse speed (up to 2-1/2 mph).

Electric units have clearing widths of 16″ to 18″. Power units must be totally enclosed to prevent snow and water from getting into the motor.

Quality features to look for in snow throwers are chain and gear drive, fully-enclosed transmission and gear drive to eliminate problems of snow and ice on drive train, clutch control operating from handle, adjustable rollers for paved surfaces and skids for unpaved ones, heavy steel or good plastic/metal construction, semi-pneumatic tires (tractor treads recommended) and chains available for use on inclines.

When shopping for a snow thrower, think of how large of an area you intend to clear to help determine which model best suits their needs.

For instance, in a region that experiences frequent snowfalls of 6″ or more, if you have a large driveway to clear you may need an auger-type model. These spiral blades spin like a screw, compact the snow and throw it out the discharge chute. These can come in both single-stage and two-stage models.

Instead of the auger types, a paddle model with two to three paddles made of hard rubber or plastic mounted on a rotating drum may be more appropriate for areas with lighter snowfall. The paddles usually will not dig as deeply as augers, which could force the operator to make repeated passes over the same area to remove a heavier snowfall.

Lightweight snowthrower models, or “compacts,” retail for about $250 to $500 and heavier duty, self-propelled units such as the auger variety may run as high as $1,500.

Consumer Reports says that the “typical self-propelled thrower has two deadman controls-one for the auger and one for the driving wheels. When the operator releases those controls, auger and wheels automatically come to a stop.”

When purchasing a unit, be mindful of safety. Most injuries involve hands used to unclog units. An operator should never use a hand or a stick to remove clogged snow or ice when the machine is running.

An operator should avoid touching hot mufflers, cylinders or fins; pull starter cord rapidly to prevent kickback, and allow engine to cool before adding fuel.

The Safe Way to Remove Snow
1. If using a snow thrower, be sure the area is clean and avoid excessive force. Let the machine do the work.
2. If shoveling, use a shovel that is proportionate to your lifting ability. Use arms and legs to do the work.
3. Avoid twisting and jerking motions; they are the leading cause of back injuries.
4. Dress in several layers of clothing-muffler, jacket, sweater, etc., so you can take off outer layers as you warm up to the job.
5. Be careful. Snow shoveling requires six to 15 times the energy required during rest period. This is comparable to running at a speed of 9 miles an hour.
To dig out a 50′, double-car driveway after a 4′ wet snowfall, you have to remove four tons of snow!

Saving Money with Insulation

Here are tips and instructions on how to insulate your home. Take a few minutes to read them thoroughly. Following these instructions can save you time and effort.

In this document you will find information about:

  • How Insulating Your Home Saves Money
  • Types of Insulation
  • How Much Insulation You Will Need
  • Spreading Loose-fill Insulating Materials
  • Applying Insulation in Blanket Form
  • Insulating Walls


  • Heating and cooling your home accounts for about 50 percent to 70 percent of the energy used in your home. Unless your home was built as an energy-efficient home, adding insulation will probably reduce your utility bills. Even a small amount of insulation-if properly installed-can reduce energy costs dramatically.
  • You should insulate all areas of your home. Insulation priorities include your attic, including the attic access door, under floors above unheated basements or crawl spaces, and on the edges of concrete slabs. Your options for insulating existing walls are somewhat limited. However, if you are remodeling or residing your home, use the amounts of insulation recommended for new construction. This image shows you where to insulate and also contains the range of recommended R-values for each of those areas in your house. The R-value changes because of the type of heat you use and where you live. It also changes between new and existing homes. To find the recommended R-value for the area of the country you live in, contact your local electric company or gas company. You can also find the recommended R-value by zip code and heat source at the Department of Energy Web site,
  • It’s interesting to note that the greatest energy savings come from the first inch of insulation installed. You can add more insulation to increase your savings, but a small amount of insulation is almost a must for your home to be comfortable. Keep in mind that for insulation to work properly the air spaces in the insulation must be maintained. Packing too much insulation into an area will reduce the effectiveness of the insulation.
  • Savings from wall insulation are almost equal to those you’ll get from ceiling insulation.
  • You can further increase your energy savings, up to 10 percent, by plugging any air leaks prior to insulating. Obvious air leaks can be found around doors, windows, fireplaces and chimneys. Some not-so-obvious air leaks can be found around electrical switches and outlets, pull-down attic stairs, pipes, and behind bathtub and shower stall units. These leaks are often much greater than the obvious ones. However, taking care of these leaks alone cannot do the job-you must also have insulation.


  • Most insulating materials are available in several common forms-loose-fill or spray-applied materials, blanket rolls, batts, boards and foil-faced paper, foam, film and cardboard. Each form is ideal for specific insulating jobs.
  • The type of insulation material you select for any job depends on how you intend to use it, how much you want to spend, and how easy it is to install.
  • The chart below provides a summary of the qualities and suggested uses for the basic types of insulation.
  • Study the chart carefully. Consider the advantages, disadvantages and instructions for using each type of material as outlined in the chart. This table should help you select the correct material for any insulation job.
  • Blanket and batt insulation is usually made from fiber glass or rock wool. It is sized to fit between studs, floor joists and ceiling joists. It comes both faced and unfaced. Faced means the batt or blanket has a cover such as paper or foil on one side. Unfaced means there is no cover. Some batts and blankets now come with a protective covering that reduces the “itchy feeling” you get when you work with insulation.
  • Rigid foam insulation is widely used on basement walls and on exterior walls. If rigid foam is used inside, it must be covered with gypsum board or other building code-approved material for fire safety reasons. When it is applied on the outside, it must be covered with a weatherproof facing. When using a foil-covered rigid foam, the foil must be away from the heated side of the wall to avoid a condensation problem.
Form Method of Installation Where Applicable Advantages
Blankets: Batts or Rolls; Fiber glass Rock wool Fitted between studs, joists, and beams All unfinished walls, floors and ceilings Do-it-yourself; Suited for standard stud and joist spacing, which is relatively free from obstructions
Loose-fill (blown-in) or Spray-applied; Rock wool; Fiberglass; Cellulose; Polyurethane foam Blown into place or spray applied by special equipment Enclosed existing wall cavities or open new wall cavities; Unfinished attic floors and hard-to-reach places Commonly used insulation for retrofits (adding insulation to existing finished areas); Good for irregularly shaped areas and around obstructions
Rigid Insulation; Extruded polystyrene foam (XPS); Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS or beadboard); Polyurethane foam; Polyisocyanurate foam Interior applications: Must be covered with 1/2″gypsum board or other building-code approved material for fire safety; Exterior applications: Must be covered with weather-proof facing Basement walls; Exterior walls under finishing (Some foam boards include a foil facing which will act as a vapor retarder. Please read the discussion about where to place, or not to place, a vapor retarder); Unvented low slope roofs High insulation value for relatively little thickness; Can block thermal short circuits when installed continuously over frames or joists
Reflective Systems; Foil-faced paper; Foil-faced polyethylene bubbles; Foil-faced plastic film; Foil-faced cardboard Foils, films or papers: Fitted between wood-frame studs, joists and beams Unfinished ceilings, walls, and floors Do-it-yourself; All suitable for framing at standard spacing. Bubble-form suitable if framing is irregular or if obstructions are presentt; effectiveness depends on spacing and heat flow direction


  • On a new home, find out what the recommended R-value is for the type of heat you are planning to use for the location of your new home. Again, local electric and gas companies can provide this information to you or you can contact the Department of Energy.
  • On an existing home it is a little more complicated, but not hard. First, you need to identify what type of insulation is currently in your home. It may differ by the various locations in your home. In your attic for example, you may find batt or blanket fiber glass over the top of loose-fill cellulose. You may also find multiple layers of batt or blanket insulation. Next, you need to measure the thickness of each of these different types of insulation at the different locations. To help you with this process, take a regular sheet of notebook paper and make four columns. Label the first column “Location,” the second column “Type Of Insulation,” the third column “Inches Thick” and the fourth column “R-value per Inch.”
  • The table below shows you the approximate R-value each inch of the various types of insulating materials provides. Use this chart to fill in the last column of your worksheet. One inch of fiber glass batts or blankets, for example, provides an approximate R-value of 3.2. To find the R-value of 4″ of fiberglass, multiply 4 x 3.2 to get an R-value of 12.8. Repeat this process of multiplying the number of inches thick and the R-value per inch of insulation for each area in your home. If you have two different types of insulation together, like our earlier example, find the R-value for each and then add them together.
Insulation Type R-Value per inch thickness
Fiberglass blanket or batt 3.2
High-performance fiber glass blanket or batt 3.8
Loose-fill fiber glass 2.5
Loose-fill rock wool 2.8
Loose-fill cellulose 3.5
Perlite or vermilculite 2.7
Expanded polystyrene board 3.8
Extruded polystyrene board 4.8
Polyisocyanurate board, unfaced 5.8
Polyisocyanurate board, foil-faced 7.0
Spray polyurethane foam 5.9
  • Let’s use an example where we have 6″ of cellulose covered by 6″ of fiber glass batts in the attic. We take the R-value of cellulose, which is 3.5 and multiply it by 6 to get 21.0. We then take the R-value of fiberglass batts, which is 3.2 and multiply that by 6 to get 19.2. Since the insulation is layered one on top of the other, we add them together 21.0 + 19.2 to get 40.2.
  • If we live in a region where the recommended R-value is 38, we already have 40.2, so we do not need to add insulation. What happens though, if we live in a region that recommends 49-we need to add some insulation, but how much? That’s easy too! Take the recommended R-value, which is 49, and subtract what we have already, which is 40.2 (49 – 40.2 to get 8.8). We need to add an R-value of 8.8. The R-value of an inch of fiber glass batts is 3.2. Divide the amount we need to add, 8.8, by the R-value per inch, 3.2, to get 2.75. Batt and blanket insulation comes in several thicknesses. One of these is 3-1/2″. So one layer of 3-1/2″ fiber glass batt insulation added to what we have will give us a little more than what we need. It is always ok to add more insulation than is recommended. Just remember not to pack it too tightly because packing it can reduce its effectiveness.


  • Loose-fill insulating materials of rock wool, fiber glass or cellulose are commonly used for insulating attics. Vermiculite is not currently used for homes, but it may be found in older homes. It is best to install these materials with a plywood rake attached to a rake handle, making spreading much easier.
  • To make this type of rake, cut a scrap piece of plywood to the length of the space between the joists plus 4″ (see image below). The extra 4″ allows for an overhang on the joists.

  • Next decide how deep you plan to install the loose-fill material. For example, suppose you are planning to lay the loose-fill material to a depth of 3″ between the attic joists (see image above). Measure the depth in the space you plan to fill then saw the plywood rake as illustrated in this image. The rake should ride on the joist on either side and level the material off evenly to a depth of 3″. Attach a handle, making a handy tool that will save you hours of backbreaking labor and enable you to rake the material easily and evenly into otherwise unreachable corners (see image).


  • Always apply blanket-type insulation with the vapor barrier facing the interior of your home. The vapor barrier should always be toward the source of heat in the winter (see image). Never place a vapor barrier between two layers of insulation. This can lead to a condensation problem and reduce the effectiveness of the insulation. Lay the blanket as close to the joists and floor as possible. Fill any gaps with loose-fill insulation or place another layer of blanket insulation across the previous layer.
  • Always place insulation on the outside of pipes or ducts (see image). This means the insulation should be between the outside wall and the pipes.

  • When using blanket insulation, always place the vapor barrier toward the heat source and insulation outside of any pipes.
  • Staple blanket insulation when laid between joists in the attic (see image). Most rolls of blanket insulation materials have flanges that can be stapled or tacked to the ceiling joists, as illustrated. Always keep the blanket as close to the joists and floor area as possible-fill any gaps with strips of insulation or loose-fill insulation.
  • Never allow blanket-type insulation to cut off the flow of air and stop proper ventilation in an attic (see image below). Blanket insulation should never block the air movement from the eave vents into the attic.

  • Proper ventilation in the attic is very important in any insulation job. Make provision for air to flow in and around the eave vents and to flow out through a ridge vent roof ventilator or through a ventilator on the end of the house (see first image below).
  • Blanket insulation without a vapor barrier can be wedged between existing ceiling joists (see second image below). Make sure the insulation comes to the top of the plate to avoid heat loss from the penetration of wind under the insulation. Failure to pay close attention to this detail can lead to a frost line forming on cold, windy days. It will form on the inside wall where the ceiling and walls come together.
  • There are special formed inserts made of foam or plastic designed to go up next to the roof between the rafters. They help with both the airflow and the frost line. Many of them are designed to be installed during new construction. But they can be installed in an existing roof with very little extra effort.
  • In some cases, it may be easier to apply the blanket between the rafters on the roof (see third image below). In this case, staple the blanket insulation directly to the rafters.
  • Repair any major tears or rips in the vapor barrier and insulation by adding additional vapor barrier and insulation to build up to the level on the normal insulation run.
  • Whether you apply the insulation to the attic roof or the floor, always double it back at the end for maximum efficiency (see fourth image below). Illustration A shows how the blanket of insulation material can be rolled at the end between the attic joists. Illustration B shows how the same material can be doubled back between the rafters of the roof.


  • If possible, lay blanket-type insulating material between the studs in the wall. If you’re using insulation blankets without a vapor barrier, they should be forced into the area between the studs. Then, place a polyethylene vapor barrier on the inside face of the wall. Staple the vapor barrier into place.
  • When building a new structure, insulate the full wall, including around the openings for doors and windows.
  • Use drywall with a foil back as a vapor barrier instead of polyethylene if it is more practical.
  • Blanket insulation material with a vapor barrier attached can be stapled into position.
  • When the blanket has a vapor barrier, take the time to staple or tack all sides, bottoms and tops. This increases the efficiency of the insulation.
  • Use scraps of insulation material to insulate all the cracks and crevices around doors and windows (see image). Then use scraps of vapor barrier to seal these areas. Staple the barrier in place.

Weatherproofing Your Home

Weatherproofing Your Home

The average house-even when well-insulated-contains cracks and gaps between building materials that add up to a hole about 14 inches square (see image below). In the winter, those gaps may make the house drafty and chilly. All year long, a leaky house not only wastes energy but can lead to water damage and provide a path for insects.

Inside this document you will find information about:

  • Weatherproofing Basics
  • Types of Caulking
  • Using Caulking
  • Types of Weatherstripping
  • Installing Weatherstripping


  • In all the discussion of insulation and R-values, don’t forget that poor weatherproofing is often a more important source of discomfort, as well as high heating and cooling bills.
  • Some air leakage can be prevented during construction by using housewrap or getting a tight fit between framing members, for example. Once the house is built, however, the remaining gaps must be sealed. Gaps around doors and window sashes should be weatherstripped, and gaps between permanent building materials sealed with caulking.



  • A number of factors must be considered when choosing caulking. They include durability, flexibility, whether the caulk can be painted and, of course, price.
  • The most expensive caulk is not always the best product for every job, so you should carefully consider which product is appropriate to your situation. Read product labels and manufacturers’ literature, and ask your salesperson for his or her recommendation.
  • Here is a list of common caulks and their characteristics. Different types of caulking are designed for different applications, and quality can vary among different brands of the same type because of different formulations used.
  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Oil-Base Painter’s Caulk (1-2 yr. life) – Not very elastic. Dries out easily. Paintable after curing. Lowest cost.
  • Latex (3-10 yr. life) – Use mostly indoors. Goes on easily. Low elasticity. Sticks to porous surfaces only. Easy water cleanup. Low in cost. Paintable.
  • Butyl Rubber (3-10 yr. life) – High elasticity. Sticks to most surfaces. High moisture resistance. Flexible when cured. Most difficult to work with as it is very sticky.
  • Acrylic Latex (10 yr. life) – Good elasticity. Sticks to most surfaces. Reasonable moisture resistance. Paintable. Good for around doors and windows. May not be used below freezing.
  • Silicon-Latex Blend (20+ yr. life) – Good elasticity. Excellent weathering ability. Medium shrinkage. Adheres to most surfaces. Some cannot be painted. May not be used below freezing.
  • Silicone (20-50 yr. life) – Excellent elasticity. Sticks very well. Excellent moisture resistance. Needs solvent to clean. Strong odor possible while curing. Low shrinkage. Generally not paintable, but available in many colors. May not be used below freezing. May be applied to wood, asphalt or metal, but not vinyl or masonry.
  • Urethane (20-50 yr. life) – Excellent elasticity and adhesion. Excellent moisture resistance. Easy cleanup. Strong odor possible while curing. Low shrinkage. May not be used below freezing. May be applied to wood, brick, asphalt, metal, vinyl or concrete.
  • Elastomeric Copolymers (50+ yr. life) – Excellent elasticity and adhesion. Will stick to damp surfaces. Can be applied below freezing. Cleanup with lacquer thinner. May be applied to wood, brick, asphalt, metal, vinyl or concrete.
  • Polyurethane Foam Sealant (in aerosol can) – A specialized expanding foam product useful for filling large gaps. Expanding foam may be tricky to apply because of the amount of expansion but has excellent sealing and insulation qualities.
  • How Caulks Are Packaged – 10-oz. (approx.) tubes for standard caulking guns are the most common size, but 1-qt. builder’s tubes, 5-oz. squeeze tubes and rope caulk are also available. Approximate coverage, 10-oz. tube: 400′ at 1/4″ bead, 200′ at 3/8″, 100′ at 1/2″.
  • Caulk Backer Rod – Most caulks should not be used on cracks larger than 3/8″ or more than 1/2″ deep (check the instructions). Fill large cracks with flexible foam backer rod.


  • Caulking should be applied to any gap where air, moisture or insects may penetrate the structure, including the following common locations:
    • Joints between foundation and siding
    • Joints between roof overhang and house
    • Joints between window/door and siding
    • At any penetrations into the house (i.e., telephone wires, TV cable, electrical conduit and gas and water pipes)
    • Dryer, bathroom and kitchen vents
    • Joints between the siding and chimney
  • As a rule, surfaces must be clean and dry in order for caulking to stick. Loose material should be brushed away, and dirt, grease or oil should be removed with a detergent solution. Do not apply in cold weather, except as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • To use a caulking gun, first pull the plunger all the way back and insert the caulking tube (see image). Turn the plunger so the notches engage the trigger of the gun, then push the plunger snugly against the heel of the tube. Cut the nozzle tip with the utility knife and make a hole the size of the bead you want. Puncture the seal at the top of the tube with a 16d nail.

  • To apply caulking, squeeze the trigger and push-don’t pull-the gun along the gap (see image). Pushing the gun drives caulking down into the gap and gives you better adhesion.
  • To tool the joint, first wet your finger with soapy water (if the caulking is formulated for soap-and-water cleanup) or a dab of automotive hand cleaner (if the caulking is formulated for solvent cleanup). Run your finger along the joint, smoothing it and pressing the caulking into the joint. Wipe away excess with a rag.


  • The greatest source of air leakage in most homes occurs around doors, windows and access hatches such as the ceiling opening from the living area into an unheated attic (see image). Weatherstripping can be a delicate job because those openings need to be fitted loosely enough that the door or window operates freely, yet tightly enough that air leakage is stopped.
  • The type of weatherstripping you’ll use depends on the location and the type of opening. Three types of weatherstripping are common:
  • Compression – Compression weatherstripping (see image below) is used to seal swinging doors and window sashes. It consists of a molded strip (it may be wood, aluminum or rigid vinyl) with a flexible vinyl bulb along one side. As a rule, compression weatherstripping is the most durable type available.

  • V-Type Strips – V-shaped weatherstripping (see first two images below) is fitted against the side of the door or window jamb so it presses against the edge of the door or sash and forms a seal. V-stripping may be vinyl or bronze.
  • Foam – Foam weatherstripping (see third image below) is used to seal either swinging or sliding doors or windows. It comes in various sizes, with an adhesive backing on one side. It is fastened to the edge of a door or window stop or to the bottom of a sliding window sash.
  • Thresholds and Door Bottoms – A threshold fills the gap between the floor and the bottom of a door. It may have a built-in vinyl bulb. If not, it must be used in combination with a door bottom (see fourth image below), mounted on the lower edge of the door.


  • To weatherstrip a door, first install the threshold. Measure the distance from the floor to the bottom edge of the door; thresholds come in a number of heights-typically 5/8″, 1″ and 1-1/2″. Choose a threshold that allows about a 1/2″ gap to leave room for the vinyl bulb.
  • The threshold should be placed so its highest point (or the center of the vinyl bulb, if the threshold has a built-in bulb) is directly under the door. Measure the width of the opening and cut the threshold to length with a hacksaw (aluminum thresholds) or a fine-toothed handsaw (wood thresholds). The threshold will probably have to be notched on each end so it fits around the door stops.
  • Set the threshold in place and close the door to check the fit and position. Once the threshold is in place, mark the location on the floor, then open the door. Run a thin bead of caulking along the underside of the threshold on each side. Aluminum thresholds have a C-shaped channel along the edges to accept caulking. Set the threshold in place and screw it firmly to the floor.
  • To apply compression weatherstripping to a door or swinging (casement) window, first close the door or window. If the door has a deadbolt, lock it. Cut each strip to length with a hacksaw or tin snips and stand it in place. Push the strip in toward the door or window sash so the bulb is partially compressed. Don’t fit it too tightly or the door/window won’t close properly. Nail the strip in place, starting from the center and working your way toward both ends. Check the door/window frequently to make sure it operates easily.
  • To apply foam weatherstripping, cut the foam strips to length with scissors. Peel back about 1″ of the adhesive cover strip and press the foam into place at the top of the door/window stop. Work your way down, peeling the cover strip away as you press the foam into place.
  • To apply V-type weatherstripping to a door or swinging (casement) window, cut the strips to length with scissors (vinyl) or hacksaw (bronze). Place each strip on the jamb with the raised “V” facing away from the door or window sash, positioned so the door/window sash will be centered on the strip when closed. Fasten the strips in place.
  • To apply V-type weatherstripping to a double-hung window, first lower the sash. Cut the strip to length and slip it down along the side of the sash with the raised “V” facing outside. Position the strip in the center of the sash and fasten it in place as far as possible. Raise the sash and repeat the process along the lower half of the strip.
eXTReMe Tracker