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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 options can make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be handled with a little work and a good plan, replacing a home window demands significant work and a good deal of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll be using, 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 things 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 right type of window to your replacement plan. If you are constructing a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also called 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 factor in which type of window you should install. Replacing a window with a choice that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, 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. Because of that, a full frame replacement window will be needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically calls for replacing the current window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually be accomplished with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your existing window.

To protect 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 old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window options 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 added to the window itself that goes 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 labor-intensive and may demand the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window 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 installed before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Further, if you are wanting to add a nail fin window to a present wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be replaced, the task might not be worth the effort demanded.

Block frame windows bring an option for projects where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. 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 the walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that already have a window structure constructed or walls 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 somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are designed 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior surrounding the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, however with less steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be unscrewed before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a good way to help avoid any accidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be placed into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget 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 tasks necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need 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 discover that the idea of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Shrewsbury, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement plans, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about 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 options.

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