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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 make a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be completed with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window needs serious work and a piece of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to know what type of window is necessary, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to build the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may need 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 creating a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, look for 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 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 use. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean removing the previous frame and constructing 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

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically calls for 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 existing 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 take care of 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 added to the window itself that runs around the edges of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin attaches 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 hard work and may demand 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 easier 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 completed around it. Also, if you are wanting to add 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 replaced, the process might not be worth the time needed.

Block frame windows offer a choice for situations where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to add. 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 a house’s walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that currently have a window structure built or walls 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 slightly 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 keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior near the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be uninstalled before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when removing the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After removing 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 have the best chance for a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The requirements required to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear knowledge of your design plans and a specific installation of your window. You can find 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, a number of homeowners realize that the possibility of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Albuquerque, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement job, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help you decide what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation options.

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