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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 options can make a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be taken care of with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window demands substantial work and a piece of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy task. 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 make the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts 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 right type of window to your replacement project. If you are creating a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing 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 replaced, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a factor in which style of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. 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. Thus, a full frame replacement window will be demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically requires replacing the pre-existing 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 installed window.

To protect your home exterior trim when removing the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to remove the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices 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 common in new construction projects, or any job where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that goes around the edges of the window frame. When adding 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.

Applying a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may need the construction 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 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 completed around it. Plus, if you are wishing to add a nail fin window to a current wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the task might not be worth the time demanded.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for jobs where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to place. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minimal 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 homes 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 somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are built to fit 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 maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior near the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, however with not as many steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be unscrewed before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a good way to help avoid any accidental 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. Make sure to plumb, level and square the window at each step of the installation to make certain your window has a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The tasks required to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear understanding of your design goals and a exact installation of your window. You can review 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, many homeowners realize that the idea of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Raleigh, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement plans, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you decide what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation plans.

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