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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 create a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be handled with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires serious work and a good deal of technical know-how.

So, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to understand what type of window you’ll need, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to build 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 significant factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement job. If you are creating a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also known as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 factor in which type of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean 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 demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

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

To safeguard your home exterior trim when uninstalling the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to take out the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles 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 job where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal extending from the window itself that runs around the outer edges 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.

Installing a nail fin window can be both hard work and may need the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the installer can apply 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 placed before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Plus, if you are wishing to add 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 replaced, the process might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows bring a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to add. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that already have a window structure built or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be harmed or removed to add a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are created to be added 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 installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior near the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be taken out 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 protect your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a good way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be placed 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 necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design ideas and a specific installation of your window. You can see 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 specific instructions, most homeowners realize that the chance of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, price and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Champaign, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement job, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help you choose what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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