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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 solutions can create a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be completed with a little work and a good blueprint, replacing a home window demands substantial work and a piece of technical smarts.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll be using, the specific plans 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 concerns you may need to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first significant factor in matching the proper type of window to your replacement plan. If you are building a new window frame, replacing 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 placed 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 role in which kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean uninstalling the previous frame and building 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 needed 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 normally be accomplished with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your existing window.

To protect your home exterior trim when uninstalling the frame, lay 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 options 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 remodel where the walls will be taken down to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that goes around the outer edges of the window frame. When adding the window to a new frame, this nail fin attaches the window directly to the house’s studs and is placed between the interior and exterior of your home.

Applying a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may need 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 more convenient to install in new construction (for example, when adding a room to your house), as the window is placed before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Also, 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 damaged, the task might not be worth the time demanded.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for situations where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to add. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that currently have a window structure constructed or houses 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 a little different than full frame replacement windows and are built to be added 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 house exterior surrounding the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with not as many steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be uninstalled before clearing away 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 taking out the old window is a smart way to help prevent any accidental damage.

After pulling 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 have the best chance for a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design plans and a precise installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, most homeowners discover that the chance of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Overland Park, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement plans, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a professional can help you decide what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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