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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 solutions can create a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires serious work and a bit of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to identify what type of window is necessary, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what items it will take to create 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 major factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement project. If you are creating a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 role in which type of window you should install. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will require taking out the previous frame and building 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

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically requires 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 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 clear away the existing 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 remodel where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that goes around the perimeter 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.

Applying 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 builder can add 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 placed before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Also, if you are wanting to place a nail fin window to an existing wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the job might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows offer a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the section 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 most older homes that currently have a window structure constructed or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged 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 built to be placed 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 installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior around the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, this time with not as many 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 removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a smart way to help avoid any unintended damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be installed 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 needed to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear understanding of your design ideas and a specific installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, most homeowners discover that the chance of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Albany, 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 technician can help you choose what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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