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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 change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be completed with a little work and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires serious work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy job. 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 build the right fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns 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 proper type of window to your replacement project. If you are creating a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed 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 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. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate removing the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. Because of that, a full frame replacement window will be required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically means replacing the 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 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 clear away the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can meet your needs when working on a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are often use in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal extending from 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 hard work and may require the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can add the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are more convenient 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 looking to install a nail fin window to a current wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the task might not be worth the effort demanded.

Block frame windows present 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 be placed inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that already have a window structure in place or homes 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 a little different than full frame replacement windows and are built 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 installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior near the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, but with less steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be unscrewed before clearing away 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 removing the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any accidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping 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 ensure 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 specific installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, a number of homeowners realize that the possibility of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Rochester, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

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

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