Blog
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 options can make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be taken care of with a little effort 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 know what type of window you’ll need, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to make the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may wish to think about:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first significant factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement project. If you are creating 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 part in which kind of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a choice that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. But, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate uninstalling the previous frame and constructing 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 implies, typically calls for replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be done 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 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 old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can meet your needs when doing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are common in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that follows around the perimeter of the window frame. When installing 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 a difficult task and may require the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can apply 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. Further, if you are looking to install a nail fin window to a present 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 expense required.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to add. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to fit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with minimal 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 homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be impacted or removed to install 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to retain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior near the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, however with less steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, much 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. Similar to the full frame replacement window, using 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 taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying the opening, the replacement window can be set into the opening and existing frame. Remember 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 necessary to replace a window in an existing wall demand a clear understanding of your design goals and a precise installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation plans 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 idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Plattsburgh, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

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

Back to Blog