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What You Need to Know When Replacing a Window in an Existing Wall

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When it comes to home repair tasks, few choices can create a more dramatic change 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 needs significant work and a piece of technical know-how.

So, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to understand what type of window you’ll be using, the specific plans 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 concerns you may need to think about:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first significant factor in matching the proper 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, choose new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed 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 style of window you should install. Replacing a window with a window that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean 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

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically means replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally be accomplished with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your existing 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 remove the old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices 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 job where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that goes around the outer edges 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.

Adding a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may need the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the installer can add 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 placed before the rest of the wall is built around it. Also, if you are wishing to add a nail fin window to an existing wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the job might not be worth the effort required.

Block frame windows present an alternative for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that already have a window structure constructed or houses 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 uninstalled 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 wall exterior near the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, however with not as many 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 unscrewed before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when removing the old window is a smart way to help defend against any accidental 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. Remember 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 needed to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear vision of your design plans and a exact installation of your window. You can review detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

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

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

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