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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 impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little work and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires significant work and a good deal of technical know-how.

As a result, 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 materials it will take to make the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may need 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 project. If you are creating a new window frame, replacing 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 taken out, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a role in which kind of window you should use. Replacing a window with a window that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate uninstalling 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 implies, typically calls for replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually be accomplished with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your installed 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 take out the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can meet your needs when working on 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 feature a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that follows 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.

Installing a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may demand the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can apply 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 put in before the rest of the wall is built around it. Further, if you are wishing to install a nail fin window to a current wall in an area 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 offer an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that has 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 presently 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 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 taken out 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 around the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with fewer steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be unscrewed before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a smart way to help defend against any unintended damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing 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 demand a clear vision of your design ideas and a specific installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, most homeowners find that the possibility of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Natick, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement project, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help determine what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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