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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 options can make a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be taken care of with a little work and a good strategy, replacing a home window demands serious work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to identify 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 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 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 exposing the wall down to the studs, consider 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 taken out, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a factor in which style of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate taking out the previous frame and building 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 calls for 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 current window.

To protect 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 clear away the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can meet your needs when undergoing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are common in new construction projects, or any project where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that follows around the outer edges of the window frame. When adding 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.

Applying a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may require 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 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 completed around it. Plus, 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 task might not be worth the expense needed.

Block frame windows present an alternative for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to place. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the area 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 most older homes that already have a window structure constructed or homes 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 built to be added 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 retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior surrounding the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, much 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. Like the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling 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 set into the opening and existing frame. Make sure to plumb, level and square the window at each step of the installation to ensure a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The requirements required 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 instructions based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these detailed instructions, many homeowners realize that the chance of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Long Island, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in 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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