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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 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 significant work and a good deal of technical smarts.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to identify what type of window is necessary, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to create the right fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts 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 right type of window to your replacement plan. If you are constructing a new window frame, taking out 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 role in which kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a choice that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate 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 demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically means replacing the current window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually 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 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 styles can take care of your needs when undergoing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are often use in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that runs around the perimeter of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects 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 construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder 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 bring a choice for situations where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to install. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that has 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 already have a window structure in place or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted or removed to install a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are created 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 home exterior around the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, but with less steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much 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 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 ensure a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps required to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear vision of your design plans and a specific installation of your window. You can find 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 detailed instructions, many homeowners find that the chance of unintended 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 Mankato, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Wherever 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 professional can help you choose what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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