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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 tasks, few options can create a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be completed with a little effort and a good blueprint, replacing a home window requires substantial work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to understand what type of window is necessary, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to create the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may want to think about:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first prominent factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement plan. If you are constructing a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also known as 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 the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will require removing the previous frame and constructing 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

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically means replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally be accomplished with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your current window.

To protect your home exterior trim when removing 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 styles can meet your needs when doing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are common 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 runs around the edges of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin attaches 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 demand the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window 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 installed before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Further, if you are wanting to install 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 replaced, the job might not be worth the effort required.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for situations where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to install. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that includes 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 constructed or homes 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 created 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 impact how the pocket replacement process works, however with less steps. Unlike 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 clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when removing the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be set into the opening and existing frame. Make sure 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 requirements 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 review 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 specific instructions, a number of homeowners find that the idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Boston, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement project, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you decide what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation options.

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