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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 handled with a little bit of elbow grease and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires serious 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 plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what items it will take to create the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns 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 job. If you are constructing a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed 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 type of window you should use. Replacing a window with a choice that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. Still, 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. Thus, 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 pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually be taken care of with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your existing 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 clear away the existing 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 common in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that goes around the edges of the window frame. When installing 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 a difficult task and may require the addition 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 put in before the rest of the wall is built around it. Plus, if you are wishing to install a nail fin window to a current wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the task might not be worth the expense required.

Block frame windows present a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to add. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that includes 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 most older homes that presently have a window structure constructed 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 a little different than full frame replacement windows and are built to be added 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 retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior surrounding the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with less steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be uninstalled before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a good way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be installed 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 tasks required to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design goals and a specific installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, a number of homeowners find that the idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense 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 Santa Fe, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement job, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you decide what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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