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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 impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be taken care of with a little bit of elbow grease and a good strategy, replacing a home window demands significant work and a bit of technical knowledge.

So, 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 need 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 project. If you are constructing a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing 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 kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean removing 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

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically requires replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally be done with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your existing window.

To safeguard your home exterior trim when uninstalling the frame, lay 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 options can satisfy your needs when working on 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 exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that runs around the outer edges of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin joins the window directly to the house’s studs and is unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may demand the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window can attach 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 installed before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Plus, if you are wanting 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 expense needed.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to install. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that currently have a window structure constructed or houses 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 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 house exterior surrounding the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, however with not as many steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be uninstalled 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 safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a smart way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be placed 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 necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design goals and a exact installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, most homeowners discover that the possibility of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Beltsville, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement plans, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help determine what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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