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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 projects, few options 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 requires serious work and a bit of technical smarts.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to know what type of window is necessary, 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 concerns you may wish to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first major factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement project. If you are creating a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also referred to 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 part in which kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a choice that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. Still, 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. Thus, a full frame replacement window will be demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically means replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically 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 removing the frame, place 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 remodel where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that follows around the outer 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 placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may need the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can add the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are better 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 completed around it. Further, if you are looking to place a nail fin window to a present wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the process might not be worth the effort required.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for projects where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that already have a window structure constructed or walls 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 a little different than full frame replacement windows and are created to be placed 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 placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior surrounding the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, this time with less steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be unscrewed before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any unintended damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping 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 steps needed to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear knowledge of your design plans and a specific installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these detailed instructions, most homeowners discover that the chance of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Kelowna, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

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

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