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What You Need to Know When Replacing a Window in an Existing Wall

What You Need to Know When Replacing a Window in an Existing Wall

When it comes to home repair tasks, few options can create a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be taken care of with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window requires serious work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll need, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what items it will take to create the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may want to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first major factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement project. If you are building a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed in projects where the window frame is not being replaced, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a role in which type of window you should install. Replacing a window with a choice that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate removing the previous frame and constructing a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. That means a full frame replacement window will be required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically means replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be done with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your current window.

To protect your home exterior trim when removing the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to clear away the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can satisfy your needs when working on a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are often use in new construction projects, or any job where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that follows around the outer edges of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects the window directly to the house’s studs and is unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may demand the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the installer can attach the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are easier to install in new construction (for example, when adding a room to your house), as the window is put in before the rest of the wall is built around it. Also, if you are wishing to add a nail fin window to an existing wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the task might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows present an alternative for jobs where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to place. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that presently have a window structure constructed or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed or removed to install a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are built to fit inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be taken out for the new window to be added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior near the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, this time with not as many steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be uninstalled before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a smart way to help defend against any accidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be set into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget to plumb, level and square the window at each step of the installation to make certain your window has a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps required to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear knowledge of your design goals and a precise installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, many homeowners find that the chance of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of South Burlington, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement plans, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you decide what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation options.

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