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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 solutions can produce a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window demands significant work and a bit 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 correct fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may wish to review:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first significant factor in matching the correct type of window to your replacement plan. If you are creating a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also referred to as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used 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 kind of window you should use. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. Still, 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 required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

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

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

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can satisfy your needs when working on a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are often use in new construction projects, or any job where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that runs around the outer 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 placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may need the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can attach 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 completed around it. Further, if you are wishing 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 process might not be worth the time needed.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for jobs where nail fin windows would be more damaging to add. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many 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 somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are built to be added 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior around the window opening will impact 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 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, adding 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 preparing the opening, the replacement window can be set into the opening and existing frame. Remember 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 understanding of your design ideas and a exact installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, a number of homeowners realize that the possibility of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Hingham, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement job, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you decide what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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