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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 jobs, few options can produce a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little bit of elbow grease and a good strategy, replacing a home window needs significant work and a good deal of technical know-how.

So, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to know what type of window is necessary, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to build the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may need 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 right type of window to your replacement plan. If you are building 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 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 purchase. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean removing the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. Thus, a full frame replacement window will be needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically means replacing the pre-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 installed window.

To cushion your home exterior trim when removing the frame, set a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to remove the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window options 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 goes around the edges 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 a difficult task and may demand the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder 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 placed before the rest of the wall is built around it. Plus, if you are wanting to add a nail fin window to a present wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be replaced, the job might not be worth the time needed.

Block frame windows offer an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to add. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that holds 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 built or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed or removed to place a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are slightly different than full frame replacement windows and are designed 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 installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior around the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, but with not as many steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be uninstalled before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a smart way to help prevent any unintended damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be installed 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 tasks necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear knowledge of your design goals and a precise installation of your window. You can see 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 illustrated instructions, many homeowners realize that the possibility of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Winston-Salem, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

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

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