Air is devious

Skill level skill3

For some reason I am always cold sitting at the kitchen table in our house. My back and the table feel just frigid anytime the outside temperature is below 60. My ever-loving wife, “Francine” (not her real name), on the other hand doesn’t complain as much about it. Her chair is in the middle of the room while mine is near the outside wall. So, being the quick study that I am, after 5 years of shivering I started wondering if cold air could be coming in through the windows or the floor.

Whence the air?

We had replaced the 1923-era windows with triple-pane units a couple of years ago so they really shouldn’t be the source of the cold air. I took a closer look, or should I say feel, and found cold air leaking between the floor and the molding at the base of the wall. This is not a place that anyone talks about as a source for cold air. “Caulk the windows. Caulk the doors. Yada, yada, yada.” But they don’t tell you to caulk the floor.

leaky floor molding
Air is leaking between the molding and the floor and out of the outlet.

The cold air was pouring through that crack at the floor. It was also coming in around the outlets near the floor. (If you want to feel for air leaks just get your hand wet and hold it near suspicious spots.)

We have a sun room in the front of the house and it too always seems cold in the winter and warm in the summer. The wooden windows don’t fit very well so I had previously screwed the lower sash to the upper sash of each window to stop some of the air flow. But there was still plenty of air coming in from the great outdoors. Placing my hand along the floor-to-wall molding in the sun room confirmed that even more cold winter air was pouring through those cracks than in the kitchen. 

Sneaky leaky

Air is very devious. It is good at throwing little head fakes and then driving the other way. You can block lots of big holes and it will still find a way to get in through some tiny, unseen cracks. It just won’t take no for an answer. You can hear it saying, “There is some way to get in there if only I can find it.” I’m not sure Francine can hear it the way I can but I know that is what it is saying.

So I decided to pull off the quarter-round molding in the sun room and see what was behind there. Wind. That is what was behind the molding. Wind. I pulled out my trusty can of Great Stuff Pro with the metal gun and started foaming the gap where the wall was supposed to touch the floor but didn’t–by a long shot.

foaming behind molding
After removing the quarter round molding, I foamed the big crack between the floor and wall.
foaming outlet
After removing the outlet cover, I foamed around and in the box.
sunroom renailing
Re-nailing the quarter round molding.

 

I also took off the outlet cover plates and foamed the outlet boxes.

The effect was immediate. The wind stopped blowing into the sun room and it felt warmer. Francine said so. My ever-loving wife is always encouraging me on my projects and I don’t think it is just so I will keep fixing things for her, although that might be a small factor.


The next day after the foam had cured I used a utility knife to trim it where it had expanded out of the crack and into the area where the molding was supposed to go. (Note to self: next time put the molding back on immediately so you don’t have to trim the foam.)

Draft dodger

taped for caulk
Blue painter’s tape about 1/8″ from the molding

Back in the kitchen I ran blue painter’s tape 1/8″ from the floor molding and used white caulk to seal it. But the outlets needed the Great Stuff foam treatment, so to avoid the risk of shorting out the circuit by touching the metal gun to the hot side of the outlet, I went down to the basement to turn off the circuit breaker.

foam gasket
Foam gaskets for sealing electric outlets or switches
(Click to see on Amazon.com.)

As soon as I filled the outlet box area with foam I pressed one of those white gaskets they make for stopping air leaks onto the outlet and screwed the cover back on. This kept the foam from expanding into the room. By then it was time for dinner and Francine offered to “cook,” by which she meant heat up the frozen snap peas. How could I refuse a generous offer like that? I had just gone upstairs to wash up when my ever-loving wife yelled out, “The microwave won’t turn on!”

It is always the details. OK, so maybe I had forgotten to turn the power back on. Air is so devious.

5 thoughts on “Air is devious”

  1. Fascinating post, Gary. I’m going to make sure Jack reads it. Maybe it will inspire a new project! And I’ve no doubt this idea will come in handy when we move to Amherst, Mass., this summer and start working on whichever older home we wind up buying.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I’m sure whatever good-old-house you pick in Amherst will have a long to-do list for Jack. I’ll do my best to write up some articles that will help him cross off some of those items. Happy house hunting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *