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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 jobs, few solutions can make a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be completed with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window demands substantial work and a good deal of technical smarts.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll be using, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to make the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may wish to review:

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, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing 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 removed, 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 a window that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean taking out 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 demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically calls for replacing the pre-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 current window.

To cushion your home exterior trim when taking out the frame, set 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 choices can meet your needs when undergoing 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 feature a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that runs around the perimeter of the window frame. When installing 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.

Applying a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may require the construction 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. Plus, if you are looking to add a nail fin window to an existing wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the job might not be worth the expense needed.

Block frame windows bring an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that presently have a window structure in place or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged 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 built 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 maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior surrounding the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, but with less steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be taken out before clearing away 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 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 installed into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget 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 plans and a exact installation of your window. You can review detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, most homeowners find that the idea of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Ketchum, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement job, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about 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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