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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 jobs, few options can make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be completed with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window needs significant work and a good deal of technical smarts.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to understand 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 build the right fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may want to consider:

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 plan. If you are constructing a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, consider 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 replaced, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part in which kind of window you should use. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean 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

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically calls for replacing the existing 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 safeguard your home exterior trim when taking out 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 styles can take care of 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 project where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that runs around the perimeter 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.

Installing a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may need the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the installer 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 finished around it. Further, if you are looking to install 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 damaged, the task might not be worth the expense required.

Block frame windows offer an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that currently have a window structure constructed or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed or removed to install a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are slightly different than full frame replacement windows and are designed to be added inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be taken out for the new window to be added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior surrounding the window opening will determine 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 taken out before clearing away 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 sensible way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be set 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 steps required to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear understanding of your design goals and a precise installation of your window. You can review detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these detailed instructions, many homeowners discover that the chance of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Baton Rouge, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement project, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you choose what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation options.

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