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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 choices can produce a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be handled with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window needs serious work and a good deal of technical know-how.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to understand what type of window you’ll need, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to make the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may wish to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first significant factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement job. If you are building a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also called 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 part in which style of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean taking out the previous frame and building 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

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically requires replacing the pre-existing 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 installed window.

To cushion 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 clear away the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window options can satisfy 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 have a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that follows around the edges of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin attaches 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 a difficult task and may require the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder 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 placed before the rest of the wall is built around it. Also, if you are looking to add a nail fin window to an existing wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the task might not be worth the expense needed.

Block frame windows offer an alternative for situations where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to add. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that includes 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 already have a window structure constructed or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged 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 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 installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior around the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with less steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, most 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. Similar to the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help avoid any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be installed into the opening and existing frame. Remember 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 need a clear vision of your design plans and a specific installation of your window. You can find 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, a number of homeowners discover that the idea of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Concord, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement plans, 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 right for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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