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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 options can produce a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires serious work and a piece of technical know-how.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to understand what type of window you’ll need, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to create the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts 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 job. If you are creating a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also known 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 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. Still, 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. 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 implies, 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 taking out the frame, place a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to take out the old 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 common in new construction projects, or any project where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that follows around the perimeter of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects the window directly to the house’s studs and is unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both hard work and may need the building 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 installed before the rest of the wall is built around it. Further, if you are wanting to install a nail fin window to an existing wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the process might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows present an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that holds 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 presently have a window structure constructed or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted 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 added inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be removed for the new window to be added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior surrounding the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, but with not as many steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be unscrewed before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when removing the old window is a good way to help avoid any incidental 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. 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 vision of your design plans and a exact installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the kind 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 incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Lewes, provides 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 considering replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you choose what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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