Part I of 2: What are my Window Choices and What is a Full Frame Replacement Window
When you’ve finally “had it” with your old windows, your first stop might be your local home center, where you’ll likely be overwhelmed by the many different windows in all different styles and configurations. Take a breath. Your first choice on the road to new windows will be whether to get “Full Frame Replacement Windows” or “Insert Replacement Windows”. Full Frame Replacement Windows are also known as “New Construction Windows” while Insert Replacement Windows are also known, simply as “Replacement Windows”. The main difference between the two types is the installation method used to attach them to your house. You can generally get all the same features, options and performance with both types (depending upon the manufacturer), so it comes down to how you want your new windows installed.
New Construction Windows
As you might guess from the name, New Construction Windows are generally what are used on new homes as they are being built. For a number of practical reasons, it’s best to choose these windows if you have the flexibility to frame the window opening to the window rather than the other way around.
Stock Window Sizes
New construction windows can be ordered in a number of “stock” sizes manufacturers make ahead of time. Stock refers to the fact that manufacturers make these windows and have them “in stock” for easy ordering by lumberyards, home centers, etc. If you’re building a new house, it’s simple to select your new window in the style and options you want and then design and build your home to match the window sizes you selected.
In an ideal world, you install your New Construction Windows before the house siding. New Construction Windows are attached to the house with what are called “nailing flanges” which are nailed through the sheathing into the wall framing from the outside of the house. These nailing flanges are then ideally covered with ice and water shield. Then, the house is covered with house wrap which is stapled and taped around the window. Finally, the siding is installed on the house and around the window. In some cases, depending upon the type of siding to go on, foam insulation board is installed before the siding.
Removing the Old Window
If you follow this installation method, you can see that if you plan to replace your existing windows with New Construction Windows, you have to do this process in reverse first. To get the old window out, your installer will have to remove the siding around the window, then cut way the insulation board (if it exists), then remove any ice and water shield (if applicable) and peel back the house wrap, in order to get to the existing window. Then, to remove the existing window, your installer will have to remove the nails holding the existing window in place through the nailing flange, cut out any caulk or sealant and, finally, remove the existing window.
To prepare the existing opening for your new window, the installer must then adjust the window opening framing to the new window size, return it to square if it isn’t and then install the new window using the steps outlined in the previous paragraph. Whew! That’s a lot of steps!
Sizing Your New Window
While some window sizes are standard in certain areas, there’s a good chance that you may not will be able to purchase your New Construction Window with the exact dimensions in the exact size and shape of your existing window. In this case, your installer will have to adjust the existing window framing to fit the stock size of the New Construction Window you ordered.
Enlarging the Window Opening
Should your new window be larger than your existing window, your installation crew will have to remove the existing window trim and cut out the old framing and wallboard on the inside of your house and remove the sheathing, etc. on the outside to reframe the window opening to match the size of the new window. This usually involves replacing wall studs and repairing sheathing and wallboard before installing the window. The interior window trim will not fit a larger window, so, even if they could remove it without damaging it, you will have to purchase, install and finish all new interior moldings.
Reducing the Window Opening
Should this sound like a lot of work (and it is), and you choose to select a New Construction Window that is slightly smaller than your existing window in width or height, your installation crew will have to add new window framing inside the window opening. If you’re lucky and the old moldings can be removed without damaging them, in some rare cases, it’s possible to recut the moldings to fit the new window.
If you have wide window trim on the inside and your existing wallboard came right up to the old window, you might get away with being able to just fill the space on top of the new studs with scrap wall board and cover any gaps with the moldings. If you’re not so fortunate, new wall board will have to be patched around the opening and taped and compounded to blend into the rest of the wall. Of course, in this case you’ll likely need multiple coats of compound, with sanding (and all the mess and dust that creates) before the walls can be painted and the window trim installed. On the outside, it’s usually not too difficult to patch in any missing sheathing and housewrap. A bigger issue is how to make up the difference where you’re siding is too short to cover the sheathing up to the window frame. This can be particularly difficult with vinyl siding, brick or stucco.
One of the issues with removing and reinstalling siding, particularly if you have to replace or add to it, is getting the color of the new siding to match the color of the existing siding. If you have vinyl siding, it will be difficult or impossible to get a perfect match. Even if you have “leftover” siding from when it was first installed, the siding on the house will likely have faded from exposure to the sun and other weather elements. While wood trim makes matching the siding slightly easier, you still have the fading issue to deal with, but you can always repaint the entire house to get the paint to match perfectly. Stone or stucco siding makes the patching and color matching very difficult.
If all this seems like a lot of work, it is. Installing New Construction or Full Frame Replacement Windows in place of existing windows takes a lot of time and effort. And if you’ve ever done any construction project, you know that “time is money”; the more time it takes, the more it will cost.
However, there is an alternative: Insert Replacement Windows.
Next Up: Replacement or Insert Replacement Windows
In our next article, we’ll discuss the features and benefits of a product that was invented specifically to mitigate all the issues involved in replacing existing windows: Insert Replacement Windows.
For More Information
For more information on the difference between Replacement and New Construction Windows please give Renewal by Andersen of Northern New Jersey a call at 1-888-826-2451 or fill out the short form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.