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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 projects, few solutions can make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be handled with a little bit of elbow grease and a good blueprint, replacing a home window needs serious work and a bit of technical know-how.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy job. 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 materials it will take to create the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may wish to review:

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, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also referred to as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used in projects where the window frame is not being removed, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part in which style of window you should use. Replacing a window with a choice that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will require uninstalling the previous frame and building 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 suggests, typically means replacing the current window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually be taken care of with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your current window.

To cushion 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 take out the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can meet your needs when doing 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 have a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that runs around the outer edges of the window frame. When affixing 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.

Installing a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may require 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 better to install in new construction (for example, when adding a room to your house), as the window is installed before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Also, if you are looking to place a nail fin window to a present wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be replaced, the task might not be worth the expense needed.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for jobs where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to place. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that already have a window structure built or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted or removed to place a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior around the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected 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 protect your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a smart way to help defend against any unintended damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing 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 make certain your window has a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The requirements necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design ideas and a exact 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, a number of homeowners discover that the idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Jackson, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement job, get in touch with 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 correct for your home and discuss installation plans.

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