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What You Need to Know When Replacing a Window in an Existing Wall

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When it comes to home repair projects, few solutions can create a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be handled with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window requires serious work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to know what type of window is necessary, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to build the right fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may wish 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 correct type of window to your replacement job. If you are constructing a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also referred to 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 part in which kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window easier. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate uninstalling 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

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically means replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be done 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 taking out the frame, place 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 meet your needs when doing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are common in new construction projects, or any job where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows have 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 labor-intensive and may require the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window can attach 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 finished around it. Also, if you are looking to place 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 removed, the job might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows offer an option for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to install. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that currently have a window structure constructed or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted or removed to add 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 removed for the new window to be placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain 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. 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 clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when removing the old window is a good way to help avoid any unintended damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be installed into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget to plumb, level and square the window at each step of the installation to have the best chance for a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps 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 kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these detailed instructions, most homeowners discover that the possibility of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Kalamazoo, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement plans, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help you decide what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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