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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 make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be taken care of with a little bit of elbow grease and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires significant work and a bit of technical smarts.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to identify what type of window is necessary, the specific plans 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 thoughts 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 proper type of window to your replacement job. If you are creating a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed 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 use. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. 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. That means a full frame replacement window will be demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically means replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be done with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your existing window.

To safeguard 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 old 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 frequently seen in new construction projects, or any project where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that runs around the outer edges of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin joins the window directly to the house’s studs and is hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both hard work and may require the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder 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 completed around it. Further, if you are wishing 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 removed, the process might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows offer a choice for jobs 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 area of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that presently have a window structure in place or houses 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 built to fit 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 installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep 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, this time with less steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be uninstalled before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when removing the old window is a smart way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be placed 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 require a clear knowledge of your design ideas and a specific installation of your window. You can review 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 chance 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. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Petoskey, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement plans, 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 determine what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation plans.

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