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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 tasks, few choices can produce a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be handled with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window demands substantial work and a bit of technical know-how.

So, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to understand what type of window is necessary, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to build the right fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may want 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 correct type of window to your replacement project. If you are building a new window frame, removing 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 placed 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 role in which type of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate uninstalling the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. That means a full frame replacement window will be needed for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically calls for replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally be taken care of 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 removing the frame, set a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to clear away the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window options can satisfy your needs when working on a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are common 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 extending from the window itself that goes around the edges of the window frame. When installing the window to a new frame, this nail fin joins the window directly to the house’s studs and is placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing a nail fin window can be both hard work and may demand the addition 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 completed around it. Further, if you are wanting to install a nail fin window to a present 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 an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that already have a window structure in place or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted or removed to place a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are built to fit 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 maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior near the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, this time with not as many steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be taken out before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when removing the old window is a good way to help defend against any accidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be installed 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 necessary to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear understanding of your design ideas and a exact installation of your window. You can find 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, a number of homeowners discover that the idea of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Calgary, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement plans, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about 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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