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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 options can make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be completed with a little work and a good plan, replacing a home window requires serious work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll need, 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 thoughts you may want 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 right type of window to your replacement plan. If you are building a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, look for 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 kind of window you should install. Replacing a window with one that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean uninstalling the previous frame and constructing 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 required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically requires 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 existing 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 remove the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles 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 job where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that follows around the outer edges of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects the window directly to the house’s studs and is hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may require the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can add the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are better 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 wanting to add a nail fin window to a current 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 demanded.

Block frame windows offer a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to install. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the part 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 a number of older homes that presently have a window structure built or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted or removed to install a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are slightly 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 removed for the new window to be placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior surrounding the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with not as many steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be unscrewed before clearing away 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 removing the old window is a sensible way to help avoid 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. Make sure 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 tasks needed to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear vision of your design goals and a precise installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation plans 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 accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Bloomington, IN, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever 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 window installation pro can help determine what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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