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Replacing Windows

Overview | Window Styles | Energy Conservation | Frame Materials | Glass Options
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Replacing your windows can feel like a daunting task. Not sure what all is involved? Are you concerned how long it will take? Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or prefer the red-carpet treatment or anywhere in between, we hope this information will help you make better informed decisions when you plan your window replacement project.

Installation plays a huge factor in the ultimate efficiency of your new windows. A quality installation will ensure your new windows will perform as expected, while poor installation can erase any of the benefits that caused you to replace your windows in the first place. Water is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to window installation.

Installation Methods
The installer should follow the manufacturer’s recommended installation procedures for their product or the InstallationMasters™ guidelines prepared by AAMA. In general though, there are three methods used to replace old windows. Two methods involve tearing out the old window frame and the third method covers your existing window frames. Ask your dealer or installer how they plan to install your new windows. Be sure that you are comfortable with their preferred installation method before you purchase your new replacement windows.

Full Tear Out
During a full tear out, the glass is removed from the old window frame. Next, the exterior material of the home around the window and the house wrap, or weather barrier, is removed or pulled back to expose the nail fin of the window frame. The type of exterior material your home is made of – siding, stucco, brick or wood – will determine how much is removed. The old frame is removed and the new window is installed using the nail fin. The house wrap, or weather barrier, is reapplied following building code guidelines and the siding of the home is replaced or repaired. While a new window can be installed in the opening and secured in about 2-3 hours, it depends on the exterior façade material as to how long the entire replacement process will take.

The benefits to a full tear out are that the new window is secured behind the weather barrier providing the best protection against water infiltration and the home exterior looks as if the new window was the original.

Modified Full Tear Out
Following the example above, after removing the glass the installer will cut off the nail fin around the window frame by using a reciprocating saw. This method allows the installer to remove the frame without having to cut back the house façade material. The old frame is then removed from the opening, leaving the original nail fin and weather barrier in place. The replacement window is installed using either a flush fin frame or a block frame with trim accessories.

The benefit with this method is that the weather barrier on the home is undisturbed. In addition, the façade of the home is kept in tact and the installation time should be less than with the full tear out method.

Covering the Existing Window Frame
When the installation method uses the existing frame, the glass is first removed from the old window. At this point, the old window frame may be trimmed down with a reciprocating saw by removing the lips and tracks that held the existing sash or the frame may be left alone. In either case, the new window is set into place over the existing frame, sealed and secured to the home. This method would use a flush fin window frame that covers the old frame to provide a finished look from the exterior.

The benefits to this method are that the home’s weather barrier is left intact as well as the exterior façade of the home. The installation process is typically shorter than with a full tear out with the average window taking about 2-3 hours to install.

Nail Fin Frame
Nail Fin Frame
Flush Fin Frame
Flush Fin Frame
Block Frame
Block Frame

The Day of Installation
When the day arrives for your new windows it can be very exciting. Yet it can also be one filled with anxiety. Will they ruin my floors or walls? Will I freeze if they are installing my windows in the middle of winter? Will they damage my landscaping? What kind of mess will they leave me to clean up? All of these are valid concerns, but easily overcome with a little bit of knowledge.

Preparing Your Home
On the day of installation, the installers will arrive and set up their work space. Most dealers will ask that you remove all window coverings including curtain rods and brackets. You should also remove any items on walls adjacent to the windows to be replaced to avoid them falling during installation. Clear all furnishings away from the windows to allow ample space for the installers to work. Some sections of your home will become a temporary construction site. Be sure to keep children and pets away from the work areas to prevent any accidents.

If you have an alarm system, you should notify your alarm company of your installation date. You will need to make arrangements with them to reconnect any sensors. Installers are not trained in alarm systems and will not make any reconnections.

Installers Arrive
Once the installers arrive, they will set up a work area either in the yard or driveway. The installers should use a tarp inside and outside the home to minimize any damage to the area during installation. Installers should take precautions when entering your home.

Removing Your Old Window
Installation will be focused on one or two windows at a time. This helps to minimize the extent of heating or cooling loss during the installation. The window is then removed using one of the installation methods outlined above. Once the old window is removed, the opening is cleaned out and prepared to accept the new window.

Installing Your New Window
The new window is inserted into the opening, sealed and secured to the home. The window is finished off by caulking the interior and adding trim as necessary. The exterior façade of the home is replaced if it was removed during the installation. The new window may also be finished off with brickmould or other trim accessories if necessary. A flush fin frame would not require any trim.

Clean Up
After all of the windows are installed for the day, the areas inside and outside the home are cleaned up removing all construction debris. Your old windows will be loaded up and ready to be hauled away to the installer’s facility for recycling and disposal. At this point, your installer should provide you with the option to review and inspect their work and have you sign a customer satisfaction form prior to leaving your home.