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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 create a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be taken care of with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires substantial work and a good deal of technical smarts.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to understand 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 prominent factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement job. If you are creating a new window frame, taking out 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 placed in projects where the window frame is not being removed, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part in which type of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean uninstalling the previous frame and building 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 requires replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally be taken care of with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your installed 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 remove the old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can satisfy 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 pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that follows around the edges of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin joins the window directly to the house’s studs and is unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing a nail fin window can be both hard work and may demand the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can add the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are better 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. Further, if you are looking to add 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 process might not be worth the effort required.

Block frame windows bring a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to place. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that already have a window structure constructed or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged 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 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 retain 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 fewer steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be uninstalled before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when removing the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be installed into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget 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 tasks required to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear vision of your design plans and a precise installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, many homeowners discover that the chance of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Vancouver, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in 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 professional can help determine what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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