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 projects, few options can create a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be taken care of with a little work and a good strategy, replacing a home window demands serious work and a good deal of technical smarts.

So, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll need, the specific steps required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to create the right fit for your new window. Here are a few things you may want 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 proper type of window to your replacement job. If you are building a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also called full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be used 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 purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is the same size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require removing the previous frame and creating 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 required for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically means replacing the current 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 existing window.

To cushion your home exterior trim when removing the frame, place a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to remove the previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles 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 pulled to the frame (studs). These windows feature a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that follows around the outer edges 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.

Installing a nail fin window can be both a difficult task and may need the building of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can add 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 built around it. Plus, if you are looking to add 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 task might not be worth the expense demanded.

Block frame windows offer an alternative for projects where nail fin windows would be more damaging to install. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that includes material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for many older homes that already have a window structure constructed or homes 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 slightly different than full frame replacement windows and are designed to be placed 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 maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the house exterior surrounding the window opening will impact 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 unscrewed before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, adding a piece of wood to protect your wall exterior when uninstalling the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any accidental damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and readying 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 ensure a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The tasks necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear knowledge of your design goals and a specific installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation manuals based on both the type of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these detailed instructions, a number of homeowners discover that the possibility of accidental damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not undertake. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Asheville, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

Wherever you are in your home window replacement project, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help you choose 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.