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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 jobs, few choices can make a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be taken care of with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window needs 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 is necessary, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to create the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may need to think about:

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 plan. If you are creating a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed in projects where the window frame is not being removed, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a factor in which type of window you should use. Replacing a window with one that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require taking out 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

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically calls for replacing the existing 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 installed window.

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

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices 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 pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include 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 demand the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can apply the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are more convenient 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 built around it. Also, if you are looking to install a nail fin window to an existing 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 cumbersome to place. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minor 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 install a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are slightly 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 maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior near the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, but with not as many steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be taken out before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a good way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying 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 requirements needed to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear vision 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 detailed instructions, most homeowners realize that the chance of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Binghamton, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in 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 technician can help determine what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation options.

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