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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 impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little bit of elbow grease and a good blueprint, replacing a home window needs substantial work and a good deal of technical know-how.

So, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to know what type of window is necessary, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to build the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may want to review:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first prominent factor in matching the correct type of window to your replacement job. If you are creating a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also known 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 type of window you should install. Replacing a window with a window that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require uninstalling the previous frame and constructing a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. Thus, a full frame replacement window will be required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

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

To protect your home exterior trim when uninstalling the frame, set a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to remove the old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

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

Nail fin windows are common in new construction projects, or any job where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that goes around the outer edges of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin joins the window directly to the house’s studs and is unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may demand the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can apply the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are more convenient to install in new construction (for example, when adding a room to your house), as the window is installed before the rest of the wall is built around it. Further, if you are wanting to add a nail fin window to a current wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the process might not be worth the time demanded.

Block frame windows bring a choice for jobs where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows come 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 many older homes that presently have a window structure built 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 slightly different than full frame replacement windows and are designed to fit inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be uninstalled for the new window to be installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior surrounding the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, but with not as many steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be unscrewed 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 safeguard your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a smart way to help avoid any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be placed into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget to plumb, level and square the window at each step of the installation to ensure a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The tasks necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design ideas and a exact installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, a number of homeowners discover that the idea of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost 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 Wellesley, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement plans, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help determine what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation plans.

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