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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 create a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be handled with a little work and a good blueprint, replacing a home window requires substantial work and a bit of technical smarts.

So, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to know what type of window you’ll be using, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to make the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may wish to review:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first prominent factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement job. If you are constructing a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed in projects where the window frame is not being removed, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a factor in which style of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. However, 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 required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically calls for replacing the 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 current window.

To protect your home exterior trim when removing the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to remove the old 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 often use in new construction projects, or any project where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that runs 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.

Applying a nail fin window can be both hard work and may demand the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the installer 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 completed around it. Plus, if you are looking 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 replaced, the task might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows present a choice for jobs where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that currently have a window structure in place or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed or removed to place a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are a little 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 taken out 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 home exterior near the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be uninstalled before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a smart way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing 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 ensure a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps needed to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear understanding of your design ideas and a exact installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the style 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 chance of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Washington DC, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are 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 you choose what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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