Winterizing Your “Antique” Rental – Part 1
November 7, 2007, 4:21 am
Filed under: DIY, home

If living in a drywall box sans any architectural consideration at all, with beige carpet and popcorn ceilings, offends you as much as it offends me, chances are you chose to live in an older building. Chances are, as well, you’re liable to freeze to death this winter. Ha, ha, ha….ah, the price we pay.

Myself, I live in a hundred year-old Victorian with huge single-paned windows all over the place. I got great light. I got lousy heat retention. And you know what? Flannel pants, sweaters, and fleece slippers only go so far. Sometimes, you just need to make the place warmer.

Obviously replacing your single-paned windows with double-paned low-E new ones is beyond your control as a renter. As is new blown-in insulation or upgrading to a heat pump with a higher SEER . But there are certainly some ways to be warmer this season that won’t pad your landlord’s property value while bleeding you dry. Personally, I’m not only living on a budget, but I’m also planning to move soon – so my strategies need to be really cost-effective.

First up? Shrink wrap those bleedin’ windows!

Not only do my windows radiate cold like a haughty English lord in a Regency romance novel, they are also black holes of air infiltration. With a little more training, I could get Zippity Doo Dah out of them in whistles. It’s imperative to my good health, sanity, and willingness to leave work at the end of the day to fix both of these problems before night temperatures get down below 50F.

I could go the medieval way, obviously, and staple-gun the thickest Goodwill blankets I can find to each and every frame. But I kinda like sunlight. In winter, you gotta get the most of it you can. I have thermal curtains already, bought to keep out the heat in the summer, and I draw them at night. They’re nice and all, but they don’t address the air infiltration nearly enough.

But you know what does work?

Shrink wrap.

Shrink wrap and foam tape are the greatest things Orchard Supply Hardware have deigned to sell me thus far.  I’m giving OSH this plug because I drove slam to Sunnyvale with a gift card burning a hole in my pocket only to be told Lowe’s has not a clue what window shrink wrap is, much less do they carry it.  Fools.


Because I wasn’t entirely convinced I was getting good closure, I put a strip of foam tape on the underside of the window pane where it came to rest against the sill. Then for privacy, I taped a piece of translucent plastic in the window to keep porch inhabitants from staring at my bed. That done, I was ready to wrap.

Shrink wrap kits come with a handy roll of double-sided tape. That tape goes around the window frame according to the graphics on the box. Or not, if you are me. I started with a strip at the top, brought two strips down the sides, and then ended with a double line of tape across the sill. I had a lot of decorative molding to work around. Just lay the tape down as flat as you can, and follow each valley and hill of your trim.

Now you’re ready to stick that plastic film on. Go ahead and get some wrinkles in it. It really won’t matter. Your hair dryer is totally going to take care of it.

The next part is hard to photograph, while also being the most fun part. Disappointing, I know. But here’s what you do. Once you’ve pressed the plastic film firmly against the tape, take your hair dryer, turn it on high, and hold it about four inches from the upper corner of your window. Slowly pass the dryer from one side to the next. The plastic film will tighten and the wrinkles and unevenness will literally melt away. It’s wicked cool to watch. The whole window gets the treatment, side to side, top to bottom. When you’re done, the plastic should be taut and crystal clear, and from a distance of a few feet should be difficult to even see.

Rehang your curtains (mine are fancy-schmancy metallic blue denim) and you’re done with part 1!

5 Comments so far
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i love the shrink wrap plastic. i have steel casement windows in less than prime condition. i’ve actually had stuff blown off the table in front of them when the windows were closed.

Comment by kikimarie

i lusted after an apartment north of downtown that had steel casement windows. (in the corners, just like yours!) it was such a fabulous building, right at the cusp of deco and modernist. i never could find a manager’s phone number to inquire about vacancies though. the place has zero google presence. :(

Comment by architheque

Comment by d d


Comment by d d

[…] in my dining room are enough to euthanize a horse, but it’s mid-winter by now and I’d plasticized most of my windows.   I open what I can and turn on the fan despite cold […]

Pingback by Project 5 | The Dresser From Hell « architheque

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