We have an old tudor revival house in the Pacific Northwest. Our winters are mildly warm, but long. Our old house had insulation blown into the walls which may have done something... but the windows are still big, single pane leaded things, and there are a lot of them.

For about 5 months over the last winter we were footing $300/month bills to keep the place decently warm. We'd like an option that will be cost effective over another two winters, if not this winter.

  1. Ripping them out and installing new windows all around is too ambitious.
  2. Wrapping them in plastic is not possible because the plaster is sort of set around the sill in a quasi-adobe way/
  3. Is throwing on storm windows a good middle-of-the-road option?

I estimate we can do some if not all of them for less than $2K. Will that reduce drafts and heat loss? Would it pay off in the long run? And lastly, is it worth it to hire a contractor for a second eye and/or to measure out/order/install the storms at the turn of Autumn?

7 Answers 7


I had some problem with first winter in NE with 100+ house. Fixing the windows help, but at least for me, I found other low-hanging fruit, especially fixing the draft from the attic door.

If you are interested in keeping your old windows and aren't averse a little winterizing every year (which is the main reason to get new windows), a good inner storm window will help too.

I made very cost effective storm window using plastic sheet, mesh screen frames and some weather striping:

enter image description here enter image description here.

It took a couple of tries to get them to fit perfectly but once I did, they worked great: no more condensation on either main or storm windows. Huge improvement for ~$15 per window.

  • 1
    This looks great!
    – AdamO
    Jun 28, 2021 at 16:49
  • An even easier solution is to use double-sided tape (thin celulose, not foam tape) and directly stick the plastic to the wooden frame. Then use a hairdryer to gently warm and tension the plastic so it takes out all the wrinkles. Downside, crusty tape residue after a couple years.
    – Criggie
    Aug 24, 2021 at 22:51

I want to add another point to improving winter performance on old houses with OEM windows.

While a good set of storm windows do a good job dealing with heat through sashes, one thing that storm will not fix is heat loss through sash weight pockets.

For obvious reasons, the weight pocket are uninsulated and allow significant air convection. Moreover, when it come to cover from the outside, it is the combination of outer sheathing, casing and sill that cover the weight pockets, allowing air infiltration through gaps and seams.

enter image description here

Obviously closing up the seams is vitally important to good winter performance. Though challenging to remedy, inspection from outside might be in order.

On the question of replacing vs. storms, however, being able to fill the weight pockets with insulation and blocking air convection is a major PLUS in the column of replacing windows.

  • 1
    Good eye on the air leak! Aug 24, 2021 at 22:52

I live in the Northeast, where the winters are a lot colder than yours, and I can attest that storm windows are absolutely a valid option. Most of the houses where I've lived had old wooden single-glazed windows, plus storm windows. This combination works pretty well when it's installed correctly.

Whether you can install them yourself is a question I can't answer. It depends on how high off the ground the windows are, how big they are, how comfortable you are working on a ladder, how easy is it to set up a ladder by your house... (One possible compromise: do the ground floor windows yourself, and hire someone else for the upper floors.)

Something else to do this winter: get an infrared camera, and take some pictures of the outside of the house to figure out where you're leaking the most heat.


You should have a thermography of your house to address where major leaks are (leaky windows and thermal bridges at least).
Best option, if you don't want to replace all windows, is, at least, to have the ones you already have, at least for north north/east side double-glazed.
Another effective, and not as expensive as double glazing, thing that help is insulating your roof from outside, if attic i living space, or just put some centimetres of insulation on attic's floor. Also you can go haunting for draughts and seal them with silicone.


If the existing windows are in good serviceable condition, worthy of maintenance, and/or (preferably and) they are historically or aesthetically valuable you should consider exterior storm windows with minimalistic framing, ie just large glass panes. Where you open your windows you'll need storm windows that also open, or that are removable. If you have non-opening picture windows you can permanently install the storms.

If the existing windows are rotten beyond repair and/or have no historical or aesthetic value, you should look at the cost of replacing them and whether or not that would add value to your home. Usually it's a good investment in the resale value but not always. For example in neighborhoods where smaller old homes tend to get knocked down, you might never get the money back. A real estate agent would be a good person to consult on that point.


Frost-King and other brands sell kits for covering your windows in plastic. Basically they consist of a roll of double-sided tape, and some plastic sheeting that has some slight heat-shrink properties. You install them by finding a perimeter beyond the window proper, applying tape to the perimeter, then sticking the plastic to the tape.

Once installed, you can generally pull the plastic off the tape a few times to adjust it, and hit it with a hair-dryer to heat-shrink the plastic once you've got the positioning right.

I have "modern" window trim (the smooth curved stuff in every 60's/70's era house) so it works quite well for me.

If you have rough walls, you might have to case your windows with some kind of smooth layer, using a fat bead of caulk or other sealant to seal the gap between the casing and the rough wall. This part you could leave permanently in place, just paint it some non-descript color.

Best of all, you can get into this for fairly little money, since you can do one room and stop. The benefit should show up even in the summer time- it will stop "breezes" and either make your house more comfortable (air conditioner works less) or less comfortable (less breezes passing through). The kits are not cheap - they tend to be in the $20-$40 range. But they're a good way to get started in air controlling your house, and many of them can be left in place full-time, as with storm windows.


I wanted to add to the other answers, I hung blinds and found that it reduced gas costs approximately 33%. The winter temps were same as the previous year, so it was a good apples-to-apples comparison. I'm quite surprised how much value blinds added.

  • I wanted to update blinds to cellular that fit snugly within the frame of the window to add a 4th barrier to air convection, until I realized that I can't do both inner storm AND blinds. So for now I'm sticking with the more air tight inner storm. I get great satisfaction seeing, on a cold cold day, that plastic film balloon outwards by the warm inside air fruitlessly trying to escape to the great outdoors.
    – codechimp
    Jul 20, 2021 at 22:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.