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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 produce a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be taken care of with a little effort and a good blueprint, replacing a home window needs substantial work and a bit of technical know-how.

So, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to know what type of window you’ll need, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to make the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may need to review:

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 project. If you are constructing a new window frame, removing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing 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 taken out, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part in which type of window you should install. Replacing a window with a window that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. 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 demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

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

To cushion 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 styles can take care of your needs when doing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are often use in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that runs 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 hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may require the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can add 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 installed before the rest of the wall is built around it. Plus, if you are wishing 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 replaced, the task might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows offer an option for jobs where nail fin windows would be more damaging to install. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for a number of older homes that currently have a window structure in place or walls with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged 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 removed for the new window to be installed, 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 determine how the pocket replacement process works, but with not as many steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be uninstalled before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when removing the old window is a smart way to help defend against any unintended damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing 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 tasks necessary to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear vision of your design plans and a exact 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 detailed instructions, many homeowners realize that the possibility of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Falls Church, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement plans, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help determine what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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