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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 solutions can create a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be taken care of with a little effort and a good blueprint, replacing a home window needs serious work and a bit of technical smarts.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy task. 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 items it will take to make the right fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may want to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first significant factor in matching the proper type of window to your replacement project. If you are constructing a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 install. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean removing the previous frame and constructing 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

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically calls for replacing the current 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 current window.

To safeguard your home exterior trim when taking out the frame, set 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 styles can satisfy your needs when undergoing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are frequently seen in new construction projects, or any job 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 perimeter 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 a difficult task and may demand the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window 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 placed before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Also, if you are wishing to add a nail fin window to a present wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the process might not be worth the expense demanded.

Block frame windows present an option for jobs where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to place. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that presently have a window structure built 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 designed to fit 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior surrounding the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, however with less steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be unscrewed 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 shield your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any incidental 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 make certain your window has a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The requirements necessary to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear vision of your design plans and a exact installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, many homeowners realize that the idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Boise, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement project, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you choose what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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