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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 projects can be handled with a little effort and a good blueprint, replacing a home window requires substantial work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll be using, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what items it will take to create the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may wish to think about:

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 constructing a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also called 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 install. Replacing a window with a choice that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate removing 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 needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically means replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally be accomplished with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your current window.

To protect your home exterior trim when removing the frame, place 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 options can satisfy your needs when doing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are frequently seen in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that runs around the perimeter of the window frame. When adding 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 labor-intensive and may need 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 easier to install in new construction (for example, when adding a room to your house), as the window is placed before the rest of the wall is built around it. Also, if you are wanting to install 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 job might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows present an option for jobs where nail fin windows would be more difficult to add. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that presently have a window structure constructed 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 built 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 placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior surrounding the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with less steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be uninstalled before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help avoid any accidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying 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 required to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear understanding of your design ideas and a exact installation of your window. You can review detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, most homeowners find that the possibility of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Southern Pines, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement project, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you decide what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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