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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 tasks, few solutions can create a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be handled with a little work and a good blueprint, replacing a home window needs significant work and a bit of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to understand what type of window is necessary, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what items it will take to make the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may need 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 proper 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, consider new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used in projects where the window frame is not being taken out, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a role in which kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean taking out the previous frame and constructing 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 demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically calls for replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can usually be done with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your existing 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 clear away the old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can satisfy 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 project where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that follows around the edges of the window frame. When adding the window to a new frame, this nail fin joins the window directly to the house’s studs and is placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing 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 person placing the window can attach 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 completed around it. Plus, if you are wishing to add 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 expense needed.

Block frame windows offer an alternative for situations 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 section of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that presently have a window structure constructed or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged or removed to install a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are designed to be placed 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 around the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, however with not as many steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, much 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 removing the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing 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 ensure a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps needed to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear knowledge of your design goals and a precise installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, a number of homeowners find that the possibility of incidental 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 staff at Pella of Gaithersburg, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement project, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help you decide what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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