No sweater thick enough
December 11, 2006 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I have a double sliding glass door in my bedroom that leads on to an enclosed porch. These doors are slightly bowed outward away from each other, which leaves a gap about the thickness of my finger in the middle. In Beijing, in December, with prepaid utilities and heating that's barely adequate to begin with, that's not a good thing for my wallet, conscience, or bodily comfort. So how can I McGuyver this gap shut?

I'm lucky, because unlike most Beijing residences, where there is a prepaid heating fee for the winter that's controlled by the building committee, my natural gas water heater doubles as the radiator for the house. That means I can turn it off when I'm not home/awake and potentially save a lot of cash and resources. And it works - the other rooms in the house, especially the smaller ones, are almost roasting after I turn that baby on. But my room, well, like I said, has this big gap in the door that lets in all the air that enclosed porch is supposed to be an insulator for, and it's cold in here. My desk is next to that door and the only way I'm able to move my fingers to type is the electric heater that I have aimed at me right now. Of course, that thing sucks more electricity than if I were growing pot, and my meter is visible to my neighbors, and they've asked me exactly what it is I'm doing in here that takes up so much power.

So that's where I'm at with this gap. I'm buying thicker curtains tomorrow, but short of replacing the entire door (it's a rented apartment and the landlords are an old Beijing couple who I'd have a big argument about sweaters with; and I'm already wearing one), are there any "passive heating" solutions you can think of?
posted by saysthis to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
duct tape
posted by Max Power at 2:15 PM on December 11, 2006

how about something to stick between the gap, like wedges of folded cardboard or compacted wads of newspaper, covered by duct tape.
posted by netsirk at 2:21 PM on December 11, 2006

If you have access to the exterior, you could add some sort of rubber/foam weatherstripping attached (duct tape, if nails are a no-no) to the external slider that covers the gap. If it is carefully measured and attached you could leave it on there even when you'd be opening the slider, or you could be sloppier about it and just remove it in the spring.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:24 PM on December 11, 2006

If you want to close it in a fairly permanent way, try expanding foam insulation in a can - I use the Great Stuff gap filler, but there's probably some similar thing available there.

Keep in mind that it sticks (in dry form) all over the surface, so when you go to remove it, there will be scraping. I'd only do it if you're going to be there for at least 6 months.
posted by pocams at 2:25 PM on December 11, 2006

Weather stripping in the form of foam rubber that you stuff into the gap. This is usually used for windows for air conditioners. You could also use pool noodles or pipe insulation.

I wouldn't use duct tape - it will fail to stick in some places and stick too well in others. Instead, I'd look at tape used for sealing up duct work, which ironically is not duct tape and works better (I tried some cursory searches to find what that kind of tape is called, but my Home Depot Fu let me down).
posted by plinth at 2:33 PM on December 11, 2006

Some such doors lift out. And in again.

Can you reverse them so that they bow IN?
posted by blue_wardrobe at 2:48 PM on December 11, 2006

If you do not need to open the sliding doors then perhaps you could get some thick clear plastic sheeting. We have that here and there is a special tape to hold it into place. It will stop the air infiltration a great deal. Even taping the bowed area with duct tape would help. The thick drapes are a definite improvement. But this suggestion presumes that you can leave those doors closed until warm weather.
posted by JayRwv at 4:04 PM on December 11, 2006

Block it. The fancier your solution, the better (some kind of insulation material would be best), but even just strips of tape will be an improvement! I would start with tape and, probably, newspapers, and then get a tricky as I could manage. But that can wait until you can get to some kind of hardware store for supplies (foam insulation, like what is wrapped around pipes would be great); in the meantime, just get that gap blocked!
posted by schwap23 at 4:22 PM on December 11, 2006

I've seen foam tape sold at both Carrefour and at the small mom-and-pop hardware places in the houtongs. They also have tons of other options. Looks like most locals hang up one of those green army blankets or that colorful plastic sheeting stuff that they make bags out of. I've also seen old banners used as window covers.

You could also ask your corner bycicle repair man if you can buy one or two of his old innertubes and use that to cram into the gap and secure it with duct-tape.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:51 PM on December 11, 2006

I bought WindJammer from Home Depot this year. It's advertised as "temporary caulk." I have no idea if you can find it where you are. It definitely sealed up my windows; I'll tell you in the spring if it comes off as easily as advertised.
posted by david1230 at 5:54 PM on December 11, 2006

Your profile says you are in TJ, are you there or in Beijing? If Beijing I may be able to scope out some spots for you to pick up seals/weather stripping/etc.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:25 PM on December 11, 2006

i have a gap all the way around my porch door too. i take a bunch of plastic shopping bags, or garbage bags, and a butter knife. twist the bags into ropes and use the knife to jam them back and forth into the gap. if the bags stck out all fluffy on both sides of the gap, they'll insulate better. the idea is for the bags to completely fill the gap in a crumply way- so the little air pockets in the scrunched part of the bags acts as insulation.

use the knife hard, and really jam them in there- each bag should only fill about 3 or 4 inches of the gap. don't scrimp on the bags-when i do the top and one side of my standard-sized door, i use 30-50 bags. once all the bags are whammed in there, you should be great. basically the bags are the ghetto version of expanding insulation.
posted by twistofrhyme at 7:42 PM on December 11, 2006

Embrace the fresh air. Really. It is how our Chinese hosts live.

Alternately buy an electric mattress pad. I've got one that I understand was about 100-200rmb at one of the numerous blanket stores. I'm in Chongqing and while it isn't at cold as Beijing it is cold enough to require heat. I've taken to sleeping on the couch when I don't have company.
posted by geekyguy at 8:43 PM on December 11, 2006

Yes, fresh, that's the word for it. The air is so fresh this time of year. There is something about a thick, freezing, blue/gray haze of coal smoke that puts you in that festive, holiday mood.

Some more local remedies I scoped out during lunch:

-Aluminum foil, rolled, stuffed in crack.
-Twistofrhyme's plasitc bag method.
-A childrens' play mat sealed over the window.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:03 PM on December 11, 2006

Response by poster: Some of these are great. I'd love to be that ghettotech. But, I forgot to mention I have to open it now and again to hang laundry in there to dry.

Electric mattress pads? Got 'em, and they're attainable for 50. Now I like the foam tape, and as soon as I figure out how to say that I'll be picking some up. I also like the army blankets; it'll give it that peasanty touch my apartment so desperately needs, because the pink lenoleum floors and particle board doors just aren't cutting it. I was thinking about those today while scouting curtains at the Dongsishitiao whatever-it's-called market and Ikea where the curtains are either ass or much too expensive. Obscene/banned characters in glow in the dark tape on the army blankets should make my room totally badass.

Pollomancho, I'm in BJ. I need to update that.
posted by saysthis at 7:05 AM on December 12, 2006

Seems like you might be able to find some discarded styrofoam packing stuff, like from a computer or TV box, and then cut it to shape. Maybe wrap it in some kind of cloth if you don't want squeaking every time you use the door.
posted by jiawen at 9:04 AM on December 12, 2006

OK, so I did some scoping on my walk home last night, did not see the actual foam tape, but that does not mean it isn't buried.

There are some great little hardware/crap stores (spaced between the dumpling spots and "hair salons") across from the oh-so-fancy Modern Moma (yes, that is repetitive, thanks, you try telling the Chinese that) apartment complex in the Dongzhimen area (on xiangheyuan lu, not dongzhimen wei, if you are in dongsishitiao, you are walking distance, I walk it twice every day to/from work). Even if you don't find the foam tape there, you will find plenty of army blankets and other various bodgering implements.

If all else fails, hop the 18 bus from there directly to the San yuan qiao Carrefour for a kuai (bring a single, they don't make change) and enjoy the chaos that is French Wal-mart. (and if that too fails, they have such chic sweaters and long undies available for the discerning, dapper dan...-wei resident)

If you need more help finding where I'm talking about, I'm at hotmail.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:49 PM on December 12, 2006

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