Skip to Content
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 create a more dramatic change than replacing your home windows. But while many other improvements can be taken care of with a little bit of elbow grease and a good plan, replacing a home window demands significant work and a bit of technical know-how.

Because of that, replacing your windows is no easy task. You’ll want to know what type of window is necessary, the specific plans required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what materials it will take to build the correct fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may need 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 right type of window to your replacement project. If you are building a new window frame, taking out a damaged frame, or otherwise exposing the wall down to the studs, look for 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 style of window you should use. Replacing a window with a choice 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 demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Using a full frame replacement window, as the name infers, typically requires replacing the current 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 existing 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 previous window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles 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 job where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows include a thin piece of metal added to the window itself that runs around the outer edges of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects 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 a difficult task and may demand the addition of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder 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. Plus, if you are wishing to add a nail fin window to a current wall in an area of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the process might not be worth the time 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 sit inside existing window flashing (the section 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 many older homes that currently have a window structure constructed or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged or removed to add a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are slightly different than full frame replacement windows and are built to be added inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be removed for the new window to be installed, pocket replacements allow homeowners to keep 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, however with fewer steps. Unlike full frame replacement window removal, much of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be adjoined with screws that must be taken out before pulling out the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. Like the full frame replacement window, using 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 prepping the opening, the replacement window can be installed into the opening and existing frame. Remember 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 needed to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear knowledge of your design goals and a specific installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the kind of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, many homeowners find that the idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor needed) make window installation a project they’d rather not handle. Meeting with a professional home window installation expert, like the staff at Pella of Indianapolis, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

No matter where you are in your home window replacement project, contact a Pella professional today. Even if you are thinking about replacing a home window on your own, a technician can help determine what installation method is best for your home and discuss installation plans.

Back to Blog