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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 choices can make a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be completed with a little work and a good plan, replacing a home window demands serious work and a piece of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy task. 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 proper fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns 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 right type of window to your replacement project. If you are creating a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing 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 replaced, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a factor in which style of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a choice that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate uninstalling the previous frame and creating 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 needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically means 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 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 remove the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can meet your needs when working on a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are often use in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that goes around the edges of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin attaches the window directly to the house’s studs and is hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying 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 person placing the window can apply 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 put in before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Also, if you are wanting to install a nail fin window to a current 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 present an alternative for projects where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to install. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minimal 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 walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted 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 created 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 placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior near the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, this time with not as many steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be uninstalled before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any unintended damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be set into the opening and existing frame. Make sure 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 need a clear understanding of your design goals and a exact installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation instructions 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 discover that the idea of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor demanded) 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 Grand Rapids, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement plans, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help you choose what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation options.

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