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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 choices can create a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be handled with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window demands serious 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 tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to create the right 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 major factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement job. 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 used in projects where the window frame is not being taken out, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part 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. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require taking out 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

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically means replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be accomplished 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 removing the frame, place 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 options can meet 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 project where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that follows around the perimeter 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 unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing a nail fin window can be both hard work and may demand the construction 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 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 built around it. Also, if you are looking to place a nail fin window to a present wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the job might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows present an alternative for projects where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that presently have a window structure built or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted or removed to place a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat 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 installed, 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 play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with not as many steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be unscrewed before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a good way to help prevent any incidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be placed 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 understanding of your design plans and a exact installation of your window. You can review 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 accidental 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 the pros at Pella of Colorado Springs, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement project, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help determine what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation plans.

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