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 jobs, few solutions can make a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be completed with a little effort and a good plan, replacing a home window requires serious work and a bit of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy job. You’ll want to know what type of window you’ll need, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to build the proper 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 right type of window to your replacement plan. If you are creating a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing 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 taken out, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a part in which type of window you should use. 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 mean removing the previous frame and building 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 infers, 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 installed window.

To safeguard your home exterior trim when uninstalling the frame, set a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to clear away the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can meet 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 remodel where the walls will be exposed to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that follows around the perimeter 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.

Adding a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may need the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the installer 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 finished around it. Also, if you are looking to install a nail fin window to an existing wall in a part of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be removed, the process might not be worth the expense needed.

Block frame windows bring an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more cumbersome to install. These windows are created without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the section 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 a number of older homes that presently have a window structure built or homes with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged 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 be added inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be uninstalled 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 wall exterior around the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, however with not as many steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, a good deal of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be unscrewed before clearing away 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 unintended damage.

After pulling 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 steps necessary to replace a window in an existing wall need a clear understanding of your design ideas and a specific installation of your window. You can see 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 chance of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, price 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 St. Paul, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

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