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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 create a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be completed with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window requires significant work and a bit of technical smarts.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to know what type of window is necessary, the specific steps 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 concerns you may need to think about:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first significant factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement plan. If you are constructing a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, choose 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 replaced, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a role in which kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with one that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. However, 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. That means a full frame replacement window will be needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using 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 existing window.

To protect your home exterior trim when taking out the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to clear away the old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can satisfy your needs when working on 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 connected to the window itself that follows around the perimeter 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 builder can attach 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 built around it. Plus, if you are wishing to add a nail fin window to a current wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the task might not be worth the expense required.

Block frame windows bring an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more damaging to place. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the area 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 many older homes that already have a window structure constructed or houses 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 created to be added 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 placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain 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. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be taken out before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a good way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be installed into the opening and existing frame. Make sure 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 tasks 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 find detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, many homeowners discover that the idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Norwalk, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement job, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering 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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