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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 choices can produce a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be handled with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window demands serious work and a piece of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to know 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 create the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may wish to review:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first major factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement job. If you are constructing a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 role in which type of window you should install. Replacing a window with a choice that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. But, 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. Thus, a full frame replacement window will be needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, 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 safeguard 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 clear away the existing 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 frequently seen in new construction projects, or any project where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that follows 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 placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding 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 installer 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 put in before the rest of the wall is built around it. Further, if you are looking to add 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 replaced, the job might not be worth the effort required.

Block frame windows offer a choice for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows come 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 the walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that already have a window structure constructed or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed or removed to install 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 uninstalled 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 house exterior near the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, however with less steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, most 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, adding a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a good way to help avoid any incidental 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 steps needed to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear knowledge of your design ideas and a precise installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, a number of homeowners discover that the chance of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Denver, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

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

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