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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 options can produce a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be taken care of with a little work and a good plan, replacing a home window demands significant work and a piece of technical knowledge.

So, replacing your windows is no easy task. 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 proper 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 prominent factor in matching the proper type of window to your replacement job. If you are constructing a new window frame, taking out 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 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 part 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. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate taking out the previous frame and building 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

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 accomplished with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your installed 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 remove the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices 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 job where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that follows around the perimeter of the window frame. When adding the window to a new frame, this nail fin attaches the window directly to the house’s studs and is placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may require the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the installer can attach 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 put in before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Further, if you are wanting to place a nail fin window to an existing wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the task might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows present an alternative for projects where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to install. These windows are created 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 your walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that currently have a window structure in place or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed 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 designed to be placed inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be uninstalled 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, this time 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 uninstalled before removing the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with 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 defend against any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping 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 make certain your window has a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps 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 find 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 illustrated instructions, a number of homeowners realize that the idea of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Terre Haute, brings the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement plans, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you decide what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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