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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 solutions can create a more dramatic change 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 requires substantial work and a good deal of technical smarts.

As a result, 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 tools it will take to build the right fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may want to review:

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 project. If you are creating a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 type of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a choice that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window easier. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate uninstalling 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 demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically requires replacing the existing 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 current window.

To safeguard your home exterior trim when uninstalling the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to take out the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window options 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 remodel where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that runs around the edges of the window frame. When adding the window to a new frame, this nail fin joins the window directly to the house’s studs and is hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding 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 installer can apply 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. Plus, if you are looking to install 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 replaced, the process might not be worth the expense required.

Block frame windows offer a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into your 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 walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged 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 be placed 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 installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior near the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with less 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 removing 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 sensible way to help avoid any incidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying 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 tasks required to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear vision of your design goals and a precise installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these detailed instructions, most homeowners realize that the possibility of unintended 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 those at Pella of Mankato, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

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

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