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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 impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be completed with a little bit of elbow grease and a good blueprint, replacing a home window demands substantial work and a piece of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll need, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to make the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may wish to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first major factor in matching the correct type of window to your replacement project. If you are building a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, consider 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 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 use. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean 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 required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically means replacing the current window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally be done with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your current window.

To cushion your home exterior trim when uninstalling the frame, place 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 options 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 frequently seen in new construction projects, or any project where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that runs 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 hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may demand the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window 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 placed before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Plus, if you are wishing 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 replaced, the process might not be worth the time needed.

Block frame windows offer a choice for jobs where nail fin windows would be more damaging to place. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that already have a window structure constructed or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed 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 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 placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior near the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with fewer steps. Unlike 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, placing a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After taking out 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 requirements needed to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear understanding of your design plans and a exact installation of your window. You can review 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 illustrated instructions, a number of homeowners find that the possibility of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Nashville, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement project, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you choose what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation plans.

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