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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 tasks, few choices can make a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be handled with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window requires serious work and a good deal of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to know what type of window you’ll be using, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to make the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may want 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 creating a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used 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 role in which kind of window you should use. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will require uninstalling the previous frame and constructing 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

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically calls for replacing the current window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally be taken care of with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your existing window.

To cushion 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 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 runs around the perimeter of the window frame. When affixing 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.

Installing a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may require the addition 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 installed before the rest of the wall is built around it. Further, if you are wanting to install 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 replaced, the process might not be worth the effort demanded.

Block frame windows offer a choice for jobs where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that includes 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 in place or houses 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 slightly 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 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 determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer 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 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 removing the old window is a smart way to help avoid any incidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be installed into the opening and existing frame. Remember 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 required to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear understanding of your design ideas and a exact installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, most homeowners find that the chance of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Tucson, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement project, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help determine what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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