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

So, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to identify 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 create the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may want 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 proper type of window to your replacement job. If you are creating a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 install. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will require taking out 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 needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically means replacing the pre-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 installed 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 take out the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices 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 exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that runs around the edges of the window frame. When affixing 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.

Applying 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 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 placed before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Plus, if you are looking to install 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 process might not be worth the expense needed.

Block frame windows bring a choice for situations 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 section of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that presently have a window structure constructed or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted 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 built 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 maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior surrounding the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with fewer steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be taken out before removing 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 sensible way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing 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 necessary to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear knowledge of your design ideas and a specific installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions 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 find that the chance of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Hunt Valley, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

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

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