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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 create a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be handled with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window demands significant work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

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

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, removing 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 placed 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 part in which type of window you should purchase. 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 taking out the previous frame and building a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. That means a full frame replacement window will be needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically means replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually be taken care of with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your current window.

To protect your home exterior trim when removing the frame, set 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 satisfy 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 project where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that goes around the edges of the window frame. When adding the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects 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 a difficult task 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 better 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. Further, if you are wanting to place a nail fin window to a present wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the task might not be worth the time demanded.

Block frame windows present an option for projects where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to add. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that currently have a window structure built or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged 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 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 placed, 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, but with not as many steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, most 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. Similar to the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any unintended damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be set 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 needed to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear vision of your design plans and a precise installation of your window. You can see 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 realize that the idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Decatur, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement job, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help determine what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation plans.

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