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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 produce a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be handled with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window demands significant work and a piece of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to know 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 make the right fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may need 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 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, look for new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 factor in which kind of window you should use. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean taking out the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. Thus, a full frame replacement window will be needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically means replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually be done with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your installed 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 old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can take care of 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 project where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that goes around the edges of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin attaches the window directly to the house’s studs and is unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may require the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window 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 built around it. Plus, if you are wishing to place a nail fin window to an existing wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the task might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows bring a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to place. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that currently have a window structure built or houses 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 be placed inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be uninstalled for the new window to be added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior near the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be unscrewed before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a smart way to help avoid any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be set into the opening and existing frame. Remember 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 requirements necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design goals and a exact installation of your window. You can review 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 illustrated instructions, many homeowners realize that the chance 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. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Baltimore, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

No matter where you are 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 options.

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