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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 choices can make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little bit of elbow grease and a good blueprint, replacing a home window needs substantial work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to know what type of window you’ll need, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to build the right 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 correct type of window to your replacement plan. If you are constructing a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing 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 window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require removing the previous frame and constructing 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 current window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be done with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your existing window.

To cushion your home exterior trim when removing the frame, set 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 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 pulled to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that goes around the edges 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 hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may need the addition 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 put in before the rest of the wall is built around it. Plus, if you are wanting to install 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 job might not be worth the effort required.

Block frame windows offer a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to add. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that presently have a window structure in place or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed 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 added 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior surrounding the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with less steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, much 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. As with the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a good way to help avoid any unintended damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be installed into the opening and existing frame. Make sure 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 necessary to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear understanding 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 specific instructions, a number of homeowners realize that the idea of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor required) 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 Muncie, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

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

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