Pella window frame

What You Need to Know When Replacing a Window in an Existing Wall

Published on

When it comes to home repair projects, few options can make a more dramatic impression than replacing your home windows. But while many other jobs can be taken care of with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window requires substantial work and a bit of technical smarts.

So, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to identify what type of window you’ll need, the specific tasks 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 concerns you may want to think about:

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 project. If you are building a new window frame, taking out 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 placed 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 style of window you should use. Replacing a window with a choice that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window a better choice. Still, upgrading your window to a larger size will mean taking out 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 demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically means replacing the pre-existing window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be done with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your current window.

To cushion 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 options can satisfy your needs when doing 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 include a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that follows around the edges 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.

Applying a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may demand 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 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 completed around it. Further, if you are looking to add a nail fin window to a present 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 offer a choice for jobs where nail fin windows would be more damaging to add. These windows come without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the part of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with minor 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 place a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are slightly different than full frame replacement windows and are built 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 installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the wall exterior surrounding the window opening will impact how the pocket replacement process works, but with not as many steps. As opposed to full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be attached with screws that must be uninstalled before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to shield your wall exterior when removing the old window is a sensible way to help defend against any incidental damage.

After pulling out the existing sashes and inspecting and prepping the opening, the replacement window can be installed 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 plans and a specific installation of your window. You can review detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these specific instructions, many homeowners realize that the idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor demanded) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Working with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Annapolis, offers the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job correctly.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement job, get in touch with a Pella professional today. Even if you are planning on replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help you choose what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation plans.

Pella Screen WIndow
From Impact Protection to UV Defense, Pella Windows Help Provide Comfort in Severe Weather