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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 solutions can make a more dramatic impression 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 good deal of technical know-how.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to know what type of window you’ll be using, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to create the right fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may wish 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 constructing a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used 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 an equal size will make a pocket replacement window easier. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate uninstalling the previous frame and building 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

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically requires 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 safeguard your home exterior trim when taking out the frame, set 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 choices 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 project where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that goes around the edges of the window frame. When affixing 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.

Adding 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 installer can attach 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. Further, if you are wanting to install a nail fin window to a present wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the process might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that presently have a window structure built or homes 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 designed to be added 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior around the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, this time with fewer steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined 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 shield your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a smart way to help defend against any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be set into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget 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 necessary to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear knowledge of your design ideas and a specific installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation plans 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 chance of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Eau Claire, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement project, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you decide what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation options.

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