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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 bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window needs significant work and a piece of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll need, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to build the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may want to review:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first prominent factor in matching the correct type of window to your replacement project. If you are constructing a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used 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 part in which style of window you should use. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window easier. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate taking out the previous frame and constructing 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 needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically calls for replacing the existing 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 installed window.

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

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can meet 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 remodel where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that runs around the edges 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 hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may demand the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the installer can add 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 completed around it. Also, if you are looking to add a nail fin window to a present wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the task might not be worth the time required.

Block frame windows bring a choice for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that already have a window structure in place or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed or removed to install a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are a little 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 surrounding the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with less 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 clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when taking out 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. Don’t forget 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 require a clear knowledge of your design plans 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 illustrated instructions, many homeowners discover that the possibility of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Mt. Pleasant, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement project, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you decide what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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