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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 impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little work and a good plan, replacing a home window needs serious work and a piece of technical smarts.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to understand what type of window is necessary, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to make the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may need to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first prominent factor in matching the proper type of window to your replacement job. If you are creating a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also referred to as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used 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 use. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean taking out 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

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically calls for replacing the 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 protect 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 remove the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can satisfy your needs when undergoing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are frequently seen in new construction projects, or any job where the walls will be exposed 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 connects 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 labor-intensive and may require the building 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 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 built around it. Also, if you are wishing 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 damaged, the job might not be worth the expense demanded.

Block frame windows offer an alternative for jobs where nail fin windows would be more damaging to place. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that presently have a window structure constructed or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted or removed to add a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are built to be placed 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 retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior surrounding the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with not as many steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached 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, placing a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be placed into the opening and existing frame. Make sure to plumb, level and square the window at each step of the installation to have the best chance for a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps needed to replace a window in an existing wall demand 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 kind 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 incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Fall River, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

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

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