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 choices can produce a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be taken care of with a little effort and a good strategy, replacing a home window requires significant work and a bit of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to understand what type of window is necessary, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what items it will take to create the proper fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may want 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 correct type of window to your replacement project. If you are creating a new window frame, removing 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 installed in projects where the window frame is not being replaced, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a factor in which type of window you should install. Replacing a window with one that is an equal size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require taking out the previous frame and constructing 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

Choosing a full frame replacement window, as the name suggests, typically calls for replacing the pre-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 installed window.

To safeguard 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 old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can satisfy your needs when working on a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are common in new construction projects, or any project where the walls will be pulled 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 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 installer can attach 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. Also, if you are wanting to install a nail fin window to a current wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the task might not be worth the expense required.

Block frame windows offer an option for jobs where nail fin windows would be more difficult to place. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that includes 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 most older homes that currently have a window structure constructed or walls 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 a little different than full frame replacement windows and are created 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 added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior around the window opening will play a role in how the pocket replacement process works, but with fewer steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be taken out 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 safeguard your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a good way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing 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 steps needed to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear knowledge of your design goals and a exact installation of your window. You can find 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 specific instructions, a number of homeowners discover that the possibility of incidental damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Kingston, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement project, call 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 right for your home and discuss installation approaches.

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