So we have some single pane windows in our stair way which Doc installed, he’s really good at stuff like that. However, we didn’t get fancy (expensive) pane, special gas filled, UV whatever, etc. and so despite my use of (mua-ha-ha-HAAAAA!!! wooo hooo!) Great Stuff (or expanding foam off brand equivalent) for windows, and caulk on the outside, there is still a decent draft from those areas… And if it gets really cold, the windows collect condensation, and if it get colder, it freezes into ice. Or if I’m diligent, I have a towel hung nearby which I use to wipe the condensation.
So, there are options. There’s board up the windows… but that sucks. No light comes in, you can’t see out, if you want to open the window, it sucks to be you. And it probably won’t really stop the draft…
There’s use that weird plastic stuff that you put over the window, it involves a lot of tape and maybe staples… I don’t like stapling the wall, and the tape just never holds up, and that plastic stuff can get ripped if you, say, trip going up or down the stairs and flail and catch yourself on the window frame instead of the hand rail (hey, it’s totally feasible, I’m one of the clumsy crowd, and we have cats and dogs who dart past you on the stairs, as well as leave toys on the stairs to test your skills). And again, there’s no option to open the window if needed. And if you want to see well through that stuff, I think you still need a hair dryer. I’ve never owned a hair dryer… I think my mom owns one, ’cause we used it to pep up the charcoal grill as a kid… (nobody in my family goes much into cosmetics… hair brushes, tooth brushes, floss, yes… eye brow tweezers, curlers, hair dryers, no…not so much). So, yah I’ve actually used a hair dryer, and I suspect when I ended up at senior prom (ok, I lost a bet, and made a bunch of people happy, long story) that they tried to use a hair dryer on me, but I don’t have, own, use, or want one… So aside from picking up burning logs from the stove and waving them near the plastic… no, wait, this sounds like a bad idea.
Anyway, there’s something I’ve been wanting to try for a while… I’ve done it a bunch of times in my head, trying to figure out what would go wrong, and after a while, I got sick of the ice forming and decided to wager about $25 and a few hours of my time…
It would have been a tad less than an hour, but it took a while to find a way that actually makes progress cutting the not-glass plastic stuff… So, here we go!
I started by measuring and deciding where I wanted to cut the sheet of Optix. With luck, I’d be able to make 2 window inserts from the one sheet.
Since the instructions at the store for cutting it suggested scoring it (however, with the proprietary branded tool you could buy which I decided not to buy, and actually didn’t see, but hadn’t really looked for it), I decided to score it repeatedly with the little awl tool on my mini multi-tool.
And if that failed, I was going to try to score the plastic with the massive rasp thing (which used to be used for horse hooves, and the farrier gave me a bunch when she was done with them, Doc wanted them for various eventual projects). So… yes, I was able to make little scratches, and some almost sort-of deep scratches with the multi-tool, but because I didn’t have any clamps to clamp my piece of wood which was my guide for them, I wasn’t able to hold the wood in place well enough with my other hand and foot. So, I ended up sort of frosting a narrow section, not scoring deep enough that I thought it would actually snap cleanly along the score if held against a straight table edge. And the rasp ended up not being rough along the edge in the right shape to score, or even to slowly saw through the plastic.
Soooo…. I decided since the instructions suggested a hot knife as your first option (the 2nd option was their proprietary scoring tool), I would make a hot knife… I used the wood stove, tongs, channel lock pliers (first pair of pliers I found), and the grabby part of the easy-open pop-top lids for can of raviolis. I don’t know if those things have a name, but they’re kind of 8 shaped, and kind of oval shaped… So I took the tongs, sat in front of our wood stove with the door open, held the tab thingy in the hottest part of the coals, toasted my knuckles a bit, and …well, managed to melt about 1/32 of an inch long and about 3 sheets of paper deep… because I’m pretty sure the tongs held the heat better than the tab, and so did the pliers, and potentially my knuckles. So I gave up on that idea too…
And then after that, I decided I would try to carefully, slowly, carefully, did I say carefully try to cut it with my saw… the fine toothed one, which I think was called a finishing saw or something when we bought it. Thing is, the saw wasn’t my first option because it was suggested it would shatter the plastic. But I figured I wanted to cut the stuff… like, really wanted to cut the stuff. And well, if I was careful and cut it at a really shallow angle, I might more… scrape the plastic, and kind of maybe score it with the saw. And to make sure it didn’t shatter, I would hold it ever so firmly against the work table… by well, clamping it down with about 150 pounds… or well, by kneeling on it. And also, I’d make sure to keep my eyes safe, I’d wear goggles… I’d rather not get a shard of something clear and sharp stuck in one (or both, double sucksville).
Things to keep in mind include make sure you REALLY do hold the plastic down so it can’t wobble, wave, get dragged up and down with the saw, or twisted, tweaked or anything like that, because it will start to shear, shatter, or sort of …tear.
And keep the saw at a REALLY shallow angle, so it sort of shred off bits, not trying to cut it. Cutting it doesn’t work, because if you try to pinch/cut it (if you think of a scissors in really close detail, it pinches it’s way through the material, and the material sort of moves to the side to accommodate the scissors between the two pieces of separated, sheared/cut/pinched apart material). So instead of cutting it to cut it, I ended up scraping a narrow piece of the plastic sheet away in a precise line to ‘cut’ my pieces apart.
And to keep the plastic as still as I can, I have climbed on top of it, kneeling on it (our saw horse work table is pretty sturdy, well done Doc!). Keeping my knee/shin as close to the edge as I can helps, as well as a hand close to the saw, keeping the ‘saw here’ line very close to the edge of the table. The more distance between the pressure holding the sheet from wobbling or moving and the movement/force of the saw, the more wobble and chance for the plastic to shatter. Hence, as much of me as possible is used to hold the plastic down.
Remember, take it slowly, shallow angle, keep it well secured or it will shear. I even ended up flipping it so I could keep the angle shallow when I couldn’t back up along the sheet on the table (I can’t saw left handed), and sawed along the line from the other end. Luckily, I can see the line through the plastic.
So, the plan was to cut the sheet to a tad smaller than the size/shape of the window frame, put some of that pipe foam insulation on the edge of the plastic sheet, and then stuff/wedge the sheet into the window frame so the tension and friction keeps it in place. The rigidity of the plastic will maintain that tension, I hope and not just wilt.
And here is my start on the next cut, I marked the distance I wanted to cut off the piece, then drew a straight line along it using a piece from the previous cut. I did make sure to use the manufactured edges to line up and keep things straight.
When you’re using a saw like this, or any saw, you have to remember that it’s hard to cut curves tighter than the length of the saw that’s in the little cut you are making. So, since I’m using a REALLY shallow angle, there’s a lot of saw in the plastic, so I have to make sure I cut and aim well, because it’s hard to curve back to where I wanted to cut if I veer off course.
And remember, you probably want to do a test-fit before you get too excited and ahead of yourself… so you don’t have to try cutting with the protective thin layer of plasticwrappy stuff peeled off both sides of the plastic sheet… (I peeled it off the first sheet, then wrapped the edge in the pipe foam, and then tried to fit it… it was too big by a bit, and so I had to fold a bath towel around it to keep it from getting scratched when I climbed on it to cut off the last little bit, but it did fit after the adjustment. So, I’ve learned to test fit.
I’ve used the shoe string to hold the pipe foam in place while I cut triangles into the inside of the corners so they fit well when bent.
And to make sure there aren’t drafts where there are meeting places between the pieces of pipe foam I had to cut to fit, I put pieces of duct tape over those seams.
So, finally, I remembered I should probably take a picture of the product label, … after I had peeled it off the first pieces I cut. So here it is, what I started with.
And here’s what it looks like, protective layer peeled off, and stuffed into place. I used some of the little triangles I cut out of the corners to stuff into the outside of the corners between the frame and the pipe foam, because they tended to bend in a rounded shape despite being fitted around (approximately) 90 degree corner.
It’s been a few weeks since I did this, and it has definitely reduced, nearly eliminated the draft in that area. There is still a tad of condensation forming on the original window, but less than used to be. I was hoping there wouldn’t be enough moisture in the air / enough air forcing in to the space between the new plastic sheet and the old window so it wouldn’t form condensation, but tough luck. It’s really been a lot reduced, so I’m pretty happy there. However, I’m a little worried that it will actually make it worse in a way, because there’s moisture getting in there that I can’t get to…then again, on nice days and stuff, it seems to clear up so maybe it’s not collecting in there.
I’m pretty happy with the results overall, because I’m pretty sure I will be able to easily store the plastic sheets in the summer, and use them again year after year. I’ll probably need to use new pipe foam and duct tape, but that’s not too expensive, and it’s not that much of a hassle to wrap the plastic. And if we wanted to, (for example, if we cook something and mess something up and make a horrible stink in the house… or if one of the dogs gets the toots…) we can pry the plastic out, open the window, and then re-stuff the plastic back in. If we’re careful, we can probably reuse the foam if we’ve only had it out a little while, and don’t have to try to store it without messing it up form more than a few hours.
Hopefully this might be helpful to someone! Have a great day!