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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 jobs can be taken care of with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window needs substantial work and a piece of technical know-how.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to understand 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 make the right fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns 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 proper type of window to your replacement plan. If you are creating a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also referred to as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 factor 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 easier. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate removing 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 required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically requires replacing the 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 installed window.

To cushion your home exterior trim when uninstalling the frame, place 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 options 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 remodel where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that follows around the edges of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects the window directly to the house’s studs and is placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may demand the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder 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 placed before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Also, if you are wanting 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 damaged, the task might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for situations where nail fin windows would be more damaging to place. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that already have a window structure in place or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed 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 built to fit 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior near the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer 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 unscrewed before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when removing the old window is a smart way to help avoid any accidental damage.

After pulling 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 steps needed to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear understanding of your design ideas and a exact installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, most homeowners realize that the possibility of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Fargo, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement job, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you choose what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation plans.

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