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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 options can produce a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little work and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires significant work and a bit of technical knowledge.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to identify what type of window is necessary, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what items it will take to build 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 significant factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement plan. If you are building a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed 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 part in which style of window you should use. Replacing a window with a choice that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require 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 required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically requires replacing the pre-existing 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 current window.

To safeguard your home exterior trim when uninstalling 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 take care of your needs when working on a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are common in new construction projects, or any job where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that goes around the perimeter of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects the window directly to the house’s studs and is hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying a nail fin window can be both hard work and may demand the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can attach 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 finished around it. Also, if you are wanting to add a nail fin window to a present 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 demanded.

Block frame windows bring 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 be placed inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that already have a window structure in place or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged or removed to install a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are slightly different than full frame replacement windows and are created 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 placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior surrounding the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, this time with not as many steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached 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, placing a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a sensible way to help avoid any accidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be installed into the opening and existing frame. Remember 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 steps necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear vision of your design goals and a precise installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation plans 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 possibility of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Greensboro, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

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 technician can help you choose what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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