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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 impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be completed with a little bit of elbow grease and a good strategy, replacing a home window needs significant work and a bit of technical smarts.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to understand what type of window you’ll be using, the specific tasks 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 thoughts you may need 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 plan. 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 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 factor in which type of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will require removing the previous frame and constructing 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 suggests, typically requires replacing the 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 current window.

To safeguard your home exterior trim when uninstalling the frame, place 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 choices can meet your needs when undergoing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are often use in new construction projects, or any project where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that runs around the perimeter of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin joins 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 a difficult task and may require the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window can attach 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 put in before the rest of the wall is built around it. Plus, if you are looking to install a nail fin window to a present 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 expense needed.

Block frame windows present an option for projects where nail fin windows would be more difficult to install. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that holds 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 already have a window structure built or walls 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 designed to be added 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain 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 adjoined with screws that must be uninstalled before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a good way to help defend against any unintended damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be placed into the opening and existing frame. Remember 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 requirements required to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear knowledge of your design goals and a exact installation of your window. You can review detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, a number of homeowners discover that the chance of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Scottsdale, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement project, 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 approaches.

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