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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 options can create a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be taken care of with a little work and a good blueprint, replacing a home window needs substantial work and a good deal of technical know-how.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to know what type of window is necessary, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to make the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may want to think about:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first major factor in matching the correct type of window to your replacement project. If you are building a new window frame, replacing 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 used 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 part in which kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean removing 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

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically means 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 existing window.

To cushion your home exterior trim when removing the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to remove the old 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 frequently seen 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 added to the window itself that runs around the perimeter of the window frame. When affixing 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.

Installing a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may need 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 more convenient 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. Further, if you are wanting to place a nail fin window to an existing wall in an area 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 offer a choice for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to add. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the section 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 impacted or removed to add a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are slightly 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 taken out for the new window to be installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior surrounding the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be unscrewed before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Similar to the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a smart way to help avoid any unintended damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be set into the opening and existing frame. Don’t forget 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 require a clear vision of your design plans and a specific installation of your window. You can review 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 detailed instructions, a number of homeowners realize that the possibility of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Salt Lake City, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Whatever part you are in 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 professional can help determine what installation method is correct for your home and discuss installation options.

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