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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 produce a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be completed with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window demands substantial work and a good deal of technical know-how.

So, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to know what type of window you’ll need, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to build the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may want to think about:

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 constructing a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, consider 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 part in which kind of window you should install. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean uninstalling the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. Thus, a full frame replacement window will be required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically requires replacing the current window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually be accomplished with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your installed window.

To safeguard your home exterior trim when uninstalling the frame, set 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 options can satisfy 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 remodel 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 runs around the 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 unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may need the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window can add the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are better to install in new construction (for example, when adding a room to your house), as the window is installed before the rest of the wall is built around it. Also, if you are wishing to add a nail fin window to a present wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be replaced, the process might not be worth the expense demanded.

Block frame windows offer a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that currently have a window structure in place or homes 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 created 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 retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior around the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, but with not as many steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be uninstalled before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a good way to help avoid any incidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be installed into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget 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 steps required to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear knowledge of your design goals and a precise 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 specific instructions, many homeowners find that the chance of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Roanoke, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement project, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you choose what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation plans.

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