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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 create a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little work and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires substantial work and a bit of technical smarts.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to identify what type of window is necessary, 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 want to review:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first prominent factor in matching the proper type of window to your replacement plan. If you are constructing a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 part in which kind of window you should install. Replacing a window with a choice that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require taking out the previous frame and creating 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 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 accomplished 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 removing 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 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 project where the walls will be exposed 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 adding 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 builder 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 placed before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Plus, if you are looking to install a nail fin window to a current wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the job might not be worth the time demanded.

Block frame windows bring a choice for jobs where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that has 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 many older homes that already have a window structure in place 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 a little different than full frame replacement windows and are designed to be added 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 home exterior surrounding the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with not as many 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 unscrewed before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when removing the old window is a good way to help avoid 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. Make sure 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 steps required 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 plans based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, many homeowners find that the chance of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Charlotte, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

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

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