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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 make a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be taken care of with a little work and a good blueprint, replacing a home window requires significant work and a good deal of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to know what type of window is necessary, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to create the right fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may want to think about:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first major factor in matching the correct type of window to your replacement project. If you are creating a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, consider 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 taken out, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a role in which kind of window you should install. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will require removing the previous frame and creating 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 required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

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

To safeguard your home exterior trim when taking out the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to take out the old 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 common in new construction projects, or any job where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that runs around the outer edges of the window frame. When adding the window to a new frame, this nail fin attaches the window directly to the house’s studs and is hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both hard work and may demand the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window can apply the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are better 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 completed around it. Plus, if you are wishing to place 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 removed, the job might not be worth the effort required.

Block frame windows present a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to add. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that already have a window structure in place or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged or removed to add a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are built to be added 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain 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, this time with fewer steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be taken out before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when removing the old window is a smart way to help defend against any accidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be set into the opening and existing frame. Make sure 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 tasks needed to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear understanding of your design plans and a precise installation of your window. You can see 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 detailed instructions, a number of homeowners discover that the possibility of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Providence, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement job, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you decide what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation plans.

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