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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 tasks, few choices can make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be completed with a little work and a good plan, replacing a home window requires significant work and a piece of technical know-how.

So, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to identify 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 create the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may want to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first major factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement job. If you are building a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, look for new construction windows, also called 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 kind of window you should use. Replacing a window with a window that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean taking out 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 infers, typically means replacing the existing 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 existing window.

To cushion your home exterior trim when taking out 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 doing 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 taken down to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that runs around the outer edges 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 unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both hard work and may demand the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can attach 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 put in before the rest of the wall is finished around it. Also, if you are wishing to add a nail fin window to a current wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the process might not be worth the effort needed.

Block frame windows offer a choice for situations where nail fin windows would be more damaging to install. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minor new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that currently have a window structure in place 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 slightly different than full frame replacement windows and are designed to fit 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 maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior surrounding the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with less steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, a good deal 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. As with the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be installed 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 tasks needed to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear understanding of your design plans and a precise installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these detailed instructions, most homeowners find that the possibility of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Haverhill, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement plans, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help determine what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation options.

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