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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 make a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be handled with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window needs serious work and a good deal of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy task. 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 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 significant factor in matching the proper type of window to your replacement plan. If you are building a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed 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 choice that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate taking out the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. That means a full frame replacement window will be demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically calls for 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 current window.

To protect your home exterior trim when removing the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to remove the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can meet your needs when doing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are common in new construction projects, or any job where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that goes 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.

Installing a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may need the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window can add 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. Also, if you are wishing to place a nail fin window to a current wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be replaced, the job might not be worth the effort demanded.

Block frame windows bring a choice for jobs where nail fin windows would be more difficult 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 a house’s walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that already have a window structure built or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted or removed to place a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are created to be placed 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 installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep 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 fewer steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be unscrewed before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible 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. 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 requirements necessary to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear knowledge of your design goals and a precise installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these detailed instructions, many homeowners realize that the possibility of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Portsmouth, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement plans, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you decide what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation plans.

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