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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 options can produce a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be taken care of with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window demands substantial 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 be using, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to create the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may need to review:

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 building a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used in projects where the window frame is not being replaced, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part in which style of window you should use. Replacing a window with a choice that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. 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. 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 implies, typically calls for 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 installed window.

To cushion your home exterior trim when taking out the frame, place a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to take out the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window options can take care of 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 taken down to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that follows around the edges of the window frame. When adding the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects 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 labor-intensive and may need 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 finished around it. Plus, if you are wanting to add a nail fin window to a present wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the task might not be worth the effort demanded.

Block frame windows offer a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to place. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to be placed 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 most older homes that presently have a window structure in place or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed or removed to add 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 removed for the new window to be installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior around the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with not as many steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected 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, using a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a smart way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be installed 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 vision of your design ideas and a precise installation of your window. You can review detailed step-by-step installation manuals 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 realize that the possibility of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Monroe, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement project, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you decide what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation options.

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