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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 choices can make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be handled with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window needs serious work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to know 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 items it will take to build the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may wish to consider:

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 plan. If you are creating a new window frame, replacing 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 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 role in which style of window you should use. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean uninstalling the previous frame and building 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 needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically requires replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally 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 take out the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can take care of your needs when undergoing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are common in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that follows around the 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 placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may require 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 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. Also, if you are wanting to place 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 process might not be worth the time demanded.

Block frame windows present an alternative for situations where nail fin windows would be more damaging to place. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that currently have a window structure in place or walls 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 slightly different than full frame replacement windows and are created 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 house exterior surrounding the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much 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. As with the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying 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 requirements necessary to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear understanding of your design goals and a specific installation of your window. You can review 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 illustrated instructions, most homeowners realize that the idea of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of South Portland, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement job, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on 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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