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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 produce a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be taken care of with a little work and a good blueprint, replacing a home window demands significant work and a piece of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to understand what type of window is necessary, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to make the right fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may want to think about:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first prominent factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement plan. If you are creating a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, look for 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 removed, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part in which style of window you should install. Replacing a window with one that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate removing the previous frame and building a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. Because of that, a full frame replacement window will be required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically means replacing the current window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually 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 uninstalling the frame, set a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to clear away the old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can satisfy your needs when working on 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 exposed to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that follows around the perimeter of the window frame. When adding the window to a new frame, this nail fin attaches the window directly to the house’s studs and is unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may demand the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the installer can attach 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 put in before the rest of the wall is built around it. Plus, if you are wishing to place a nail fin window to a current wall in a part 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 a choice for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult 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 a house’s walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that currently have a window structure in place or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged or removed to install a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are created 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 retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior around the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, this time with less steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, much 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, placing a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when removing the old window is a smart way to help prevent any incidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be placed 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 requirements required to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design ideas and a precise installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, a number of homeowners discover that the idea of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Edmonton, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement plans, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help determine what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation options.

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