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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 choices can create a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be handled with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window needs serious work and a piece of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to know what type of window is necessary, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what items it will take to make the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may wish 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 right type of window to your replacement job. If you are constructing a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 type of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will require uninstalling the previous frame and constructing 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

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically means replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually be accomplished with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your current 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 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 frequently seen 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 connected to the window itself that runs around the edges of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects 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 labor-intensive and may require the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window can add 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 installed before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Plus, if you are wishing to add a nail fin window to a current wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be replaced, the task might not be worth the effort demanded.

Block frame windows offer a choice for situations where nail fin windows would be more damaging to add. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the section 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 currently have a window structure constructed or walls 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 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior surrounding the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, but with less steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be taken out 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 shield your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a sensible way to help avoid any incidental 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. 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 requirements needed to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear knowledge of your design plans and a precise installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, most homeowners realize that the chance of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) 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 West Springfield, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement job, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you choose what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation options.

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