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 produce a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be taken care of with a little bit of elbow grease and a good blueprint, replacing a home window needs serious work and a good deal of technical smarts.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to identify what type of window is necessary, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to make the proper 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 correct type of window to your replacement project. If you are constructing a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also known as 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 purchase. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will necessitate removing 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 suggests, typically means replacing the existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can normally 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 removing the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to take out the old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window choices can take care of 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 include a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that goes around the perimeter of the window frame. When affixing 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.

Installing a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may demand the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the person placing the window 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 put in before the rest of the wall is completed around it. Plus, if you are wanting to place a nail fin window to an existing wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be replaced, the process might not be worth the effort required.

Block frame windows bring an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to add. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into a house’s walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that currently have a window structure constructed 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 a little 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 taken out for the new window to be installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep 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, however with not as many steps. Different from 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 clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, placing a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any accidental damage.

After removing the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be set 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 exact installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

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

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

Back to Blog
Live Chat
I can help with your window or door replacement questions.