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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 options can produce a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be handled with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window needs serious work and a piece of technical knowledge.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll need, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to build the right fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may wish 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 job. 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 known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed 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 an equal size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean 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 demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically means replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be done 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 removing the frame, set 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 choices 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 job 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 adding the window to a new frame, this nail fin joins the window directly to the house’s studs and is hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying a nail fin window can be both hard work and may need 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 put in before the rest of the wall is built around it. Also, if you are looking to place 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 job might not be worth the time required.

Block frame windows offer an option for jobs where nail fin windows would be more damaging 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 includes material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that presently have a window structure built or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted 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 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 keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior around the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, this time with not as many steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be unscrewed before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any unintended damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be installed 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 needed to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear vision of your design ideas and a exact installation of your window. You can review detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, many homeowners realize that the possibility of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Murray, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

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

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