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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 make a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be taken care of with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires substantial work and a bit of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll be using, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to make the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may wish 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 proper type of window to your replacement plan. If you are building a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, consider 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 removed, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a factor in which style of window you should install. Replacing a window with a window that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate removing the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. That means a full frame replacement window will be demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically means replacing the pre-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 current window.

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

Full Frame Window Options

Two window options 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 job where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include 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 joins the window directly to the house’s studs and is hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both hard work and may need the building 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 placed before the rest of the wall is built around it. Further, if you are wishing to add a nail fin window to a present wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be replaced, the task might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for jobs where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to place. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that presently have a window structure in place or homes 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 somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are designed to fit 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior surrounding the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, however with less steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be uninstalled before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when removing the old window is a good way to help prevent any incidental damage.

After taking 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 required to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear knowledge of your design goals and a exact installation of your window. You can find 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, most homeowners find that the chance of accidental 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 the staff at Pella of Lafayette, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement job, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you choose what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation plans.

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