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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 projects, few options can make a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be handled with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window requires serious work and a good deal of technical smarts.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to identify what type of window is necessary, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to build the right fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may need to consider:

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 project. If you are building a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also referred to as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed 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 factor in which type of window you should use. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate taking out 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 required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically means replacing the current window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally 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 uninstalling 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 options can take care of your needs when working on a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are common in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that goes around the perimeter of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects 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 need the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can apply 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 put in before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Also, if you are looking to install a nail fin window to an existing wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be replaced, the process might not be worth the effort required.

Block frame windows offer a choice for situations where nail fin windows would be more damaging to install. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that holds 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 many older homes that currently have a window structure in place or homes 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 a little different than full frame replacement windows and are created to fit 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 placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior around the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, this time with less steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be unscrewed before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a good way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping 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 need a clear vision of your design goals and a specific installation of your window. You can see 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, a number of homeowners realize that the chance of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Greenfield, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

No matter where 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 window installation pro can help you choose what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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