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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 tasks, few choices can create a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be taken care of with a little work and a good plan, replacing a home window requires substantial work and a good deal of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll be using, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to build the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may need 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 proper type of window to your replacement plan. If you are constructing a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, consider 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 use. Replacing a window with a choice that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require uninstalling the previous frame and creating 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 implies, typically requires replacing the 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 installed window.

To protect 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 choices can take care of your needs when doing 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 feature a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that runs around the edges of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin joins the window directly to the house’s studs and is placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may require the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can attach the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are easier 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 install a nail fin window to a present wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the process might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows offer an alternative for jobs where nail fin windows would be more damaging 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 has material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that presently have a window structure built or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged or removed to add 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 maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior around the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, but with less steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be taken out before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a smart way to help prevent any incidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be set into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget 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 tasks needed 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 review detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, most homeowners realize that the chance of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Lethbridge, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

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

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