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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 projects, few solutions can produce a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be taken care of with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window demands serious work and a good deal of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to understand what type of window is necessary, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to create the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may wish to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first prominent factor in matching the proper type of window to your replacement project. If you are constructing a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also referred to as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed in projects where the window frame is not being removed, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part in which kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate removing the previous frame and building a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. Because of that, a full frame replacement window will be demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

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

To cushion 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 take out the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can meet your needs when doing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are frequently seen in new construction projects, or any project where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that goes around the outer edges of the window frame. When adding the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects the window directly to the house’s studs and is placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing 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 apply 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 finished around it. Plus, if you are wanting to place a nail fin window to a current wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be replaced, the task might not be worth the expense demanded.

Block frame windows offer an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to place. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that currently have a window structure constructed or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged or removed to place a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are a little different than full frame replacement windows and are designed to be added inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be removed for the new window to be placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior surrounding the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with less steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected 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 protect your wall exterior when removing the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any unintended 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. Remember to plumb, level and square the window at each step of the installation to have the best chance for a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The tasks needed to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear vision of your design goals and a precise installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, most homeowners find that the idea of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Newport, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

No matter where 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 determine what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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