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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 choices can produce a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be taken care of with a little effort and a good blueprint, replacing a home window demands significant work and a good deal of technical smarts.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to understand what type of window you’ll need, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what items it will take to create the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few things 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 correct type of window to your replacement job. If you are building a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed 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 purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean removing 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

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically means replacing the current window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be taken care of 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, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to clear away the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices 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 remodel where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal connected to 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 unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing 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 apply the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are easier 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 built around it. Also, if you are looking to install 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 situations where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome 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 has material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that currently have a window structure constructed or houses 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 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 removed for the new window to be added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior near the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer steps. As opposed to 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. Similar to the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a good way to help prevent any incidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be placed 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 steps required to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design goals and a exact installation of your window. You can see 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 specific instructions, a number of homeowners find that the possibility of accidental 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 the staff at Pella of Memphis, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement project, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help you decide what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation plans.

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