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What You Need to Know When Replacing a Window in an Existing Wall

What You Need to Know When Replacing a Window in an Existing Wall

When it comes to home repair jobs, few solutions can produce a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires significant work and a bit of technical knowledge.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to identify 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 items it will take to make the right fit for your new window. Here are a few concerns you may want to review:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first prominent factor in matching the proper type of window to your replacement plan. If you are constructing a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed 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 style of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require uninstalling the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. Thus, a full frame replacement window will be required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically requires replacing the 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 current window.

To protect 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 clear away the old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can take care of 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 taken down to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that goes around the perimeter of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin attaches 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 labor-intensive and may require the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the installer 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 placed before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Plus, if you are wanting to add 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 job might not be worth the expense demanded.

Block frame windows present an alternative for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to install. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the area 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 many older homes that already have a window structure constructed 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 a little different than full frame replacement windows and are created 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 keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior around the window opening will impact 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 uninstalled before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping 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 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 require a clear vision of your design goals and a specific installation of your window. You can see 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, many homeowners discover that the idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of El Paso, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement project, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you choose what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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