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

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to understand 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 tools it will take to build the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may wish 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 right type of window to your replacement project. If you are building a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed in projects where the window frame is not being replaced, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part in which style of window you should install. Replacing a window with a choice that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate uninstalling 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 pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually be done 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 removing 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 choices 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 project where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that goes around the edges of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects the window directly to the house’s studs and is placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may need the addition 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 easier to install in new construction (for example, when adding a room to your house), as the window is installed before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Plus, if you are wishing to place a nail fin window to an existing wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the job might not be worth the time needed.

Block frame windows offer an alternative for jobs where nail fin windows would be more damaging to place. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that presently have a window structure in place or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed 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 maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior surrounding the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with not as many steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be taken out before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, using 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 pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping 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 have the best chance for a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design ideas and a exact installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these detailed instructions, a number of homeowners discover that the possibility of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Casper, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

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 professional can help determine what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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