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 solutions can make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be handled with a little bit of elbow grease and a good blueprint, replacing a home window needs serious work and a good deal of technical knowledge.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to understand what type of window you’ll be using, the specific steps 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 want to consider:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first prominent factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement plan. If you are creating a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise pulling the wall down to the studs, choose new construction windows, also referred to as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be installed 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 use. Replacing a window with one that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window more likely. 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. That means a full frame replacement window will be needed 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 typically be taken care of with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your installed 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 take out the old window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can satisfy your needs when undergoing 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 taken down to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal extending from 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 hidden between the interior and exterior of your home.

Installing a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may demand the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can add 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. Further, if you are wanting to place 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 process might not be worth the effort required.

Block frame windows bring an alternative for projects where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to add. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to sit inside existing window flashing (the area of the window that holds material to prevent water from entering into your walls) with minimal new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that already have a window structure in place 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 slightly 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 placed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior around the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, this time with not as many steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be taken out 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 protect your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help prevent any incidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be placed into the opening and existing frame. Make sure 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 necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear vision of your design goals and a exact installation of your window. You can see detailed step-by-step installation plans based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, many homeowners discover that the chance of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, expense and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the pros at Pella of Owensboro, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job right.

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

Back to Blog