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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 solutions can create a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be taken care of with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window requires significant work and a bit of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to understand what type of window you’ll need, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to create the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may wish to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first major 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 tearing the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used 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 factor in which kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate 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 demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically requires replacing the current 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 cushion your home exterior trim when uninstalling 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 choices can satisfy 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 remodel where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that goes around the outer edges of the window frame. When affixing 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.

Applying 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 builder can add 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 completed around it. Also, 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 process might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for jobs where nail fin windows would be more difficult to add. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into your 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 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 a little different than full frame replacement windows and are created to be added 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 maintain 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, but with less steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be taken out before pulling out 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 removing the old window is a good way to help avoid any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be installed 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 tasks required to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear understanding of your design plans and a precise installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, a number of homeowners realize that the idea of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Des Moines, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement project, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you decide what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation options.

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