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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 jobs, few solutions can produce a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be handled with a little work and a good strategy, replacing a home window demands significant work and a bit of technical smarts.

So, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to know what type of window you’ll need, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to build the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may need 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 proper type of window to your replacement plan. If you are creating a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also referred to as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used in projects where the window frame is not being taken out, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part in which type of window you should use. Replacing a window with a choice that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate removing the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. That means a full frame replacement window will be needed 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 taken care of with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your existing window.

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

Full Frame Window Options

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

Nail fin windows are common in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that goes around the perimeter 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 placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both hard work and may need 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 installed before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Plus, if you are wanting to install a nail fin window to a present wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the process might not be worth the time required.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with little 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 a little different than full frame replacement windows and are built to be placed 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 installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior near the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, but with not as many steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be uninstalled before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping 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 have the best chance for a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps necessary to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear vision of your design goals and a exact installation of your window. You can review detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

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

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement project, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help determine what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation options.

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