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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 choices can create a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be completed with a little work and a good blueprint, replacing a home window demands significant work and a good deal of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to understand 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 items it will take to build 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 proper type of window to your replacement project. If you are building a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 factor in which type of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will require removing the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. Because of that, 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 means replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be taken care of 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, 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 take care of 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 feature a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that follows 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 labor-intensive and may require the construction 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 better 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 completed around it. Also, if you are looking to add 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 process might not be worth the time demanded.

Block frame windows present an alternative for jobs where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the section 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 a number of older homes that currently have a window structure in place or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed 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 designed to be added inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be uninstalled 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 near 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 uninstalled before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when removing the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any unintended damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be placed into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget 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 needed to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear knowledge of your design goals and a exact 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 detailed instructions, most 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. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Bloomington, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement project, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help determine what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation plans.

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