Updating plumbing in a home workaholic dating

In most older houses with basements, air seeps in where the house framing sits on the foundation.

Spread a bead of caulk between the foundation and the sill plate (the wood immediately above the foundation), and along the top and bottom edges of the rim joist (the piece that sits atop the sill plate).

Then tackle the basement to prevent cold air that enters there from being sucked into upstairs rooms. When you consider that many homes have 30 or 40 of these fixtures, it’s easy to see why researchers at the Pennsylvania Housing Research/Resource Center pinpointed them as a leading cause of household air leaks.

Lights labeled ICAT, for “insulation contact and air tight,” are already sealed; look for the label next to the bulb. An airtight baffle ( to ) is a quick, 10-second fix.

Silicone costs the most ( a tube) but works better next to nonporous materials, such as metal flashing, or where there are temperature extremes, as in attics.

Acrylic latex caulk ( a tube) is less messy to work with and cleans up with water.

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One warning: If you find vermiculite insulation, hold off until you’ve had it checked for asbestos; your health department or air-quality agency can recommend a lab.

Once you’ve covered the openings, smooth the insulation back into place.

Building codes require that wood framing be kept at least 1 inch from metal flues and 2 inches from brick chimneys. Cover the gaps with aluminum flashing () cut to fit and sealed into place with high-temperature silicone caulk ().

Low-expansion polyurethane foam in a can is great for plugging openings 1/4-inch to 3 inches wide, such as those around plumbing pipes and vents.

A standard 12-ounce can () is good for 250 feet of bead about 1/2-inch thick.

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