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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 tasks, few solutions can produce a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be handled with a little work and a good blueprint, replacing a home window needs substantial work and a piece of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to know what type of window you’ll need, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what items it will take to make the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may wish to review:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first significant factor in matching the correct type of window to your replacement job. If you are building a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also referred to as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used 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 type of window you should use. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate uninstalling the previous frame and constructing 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

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically calls for replacing the current 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 current window.

To safeguard your home exterior trim when taking out the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to remove the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window options can satisfy your needs when undergoing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are frequently seen in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that goes around the outer 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 hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying 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 installer can attach 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 put in before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Plus, if you are wanting to install a nail fin window to an existing 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 time demanded.

Block frame windows bring an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more damaging to install. These windows are created 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 the walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that currently have a window structure built or homes 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 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 keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior around the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, this time with less steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much 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. Similar to the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when removing the old window is a smart way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be placed 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 tasks needed to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear vision of your design plans and a exact 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 specific instructions, a number of homeowners realize 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 handle. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Minneapolis, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement job, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you decide what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation options.

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