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Window Replacement


Here is an album documenting a recent window replacement at my house. A good friend of mine is a builder and came over to "give me a hand" replacing three windows. (Really, he did most of it and I provided some "semi-skilled" labour...)

This is a rather high-level look at the process. I will not be going into huge detail.

This is the "eating nook" in our kitchen. The house dates from 1984 and the kitchen windows are original, as far as I know. As you can see, the centre window is quite large, but it has one enormous flaw. The window is divided into a top fixed picture window, and the lower section has an operable sliding window. The problem is that horizontal board that divides the two parts of the window is almost exactly at eye level when you are sitting at the table.
The two side windows (here's one) are tall and narrow, and fixed.

Our plan was to replace the large window with one big picture window, and the two side windows would be replaced with casement windows. (For those who don't know, a "casement" window refers to a window that is hinged on the side and opens with a crank.)

The other side window.
Outside view of the windows...
... and the other side. My friend came by a few weeks ago and measured the windows. There are a few ways to measure and order windows. In this case, we measured the outside dimensions of the brickmold (the trim around the outside of the windows) and the manufacturer would make replacement windows to fit those dimensions, so that we would not have to make any changes to the outside siding of the house.

But first we need to clear away all that stuff that is by the side of the house. You need room to work.

Our original plan was to save and re-use the interior trim. This plan had to change, since the new windows were not quite the exact same size as the others. (The outside dimension were the same, but not the inside.)
Using a pair of putty knives, I slowly worked the casing away from the wall. This is a slow process, to avoid damaging the walls. A lot of wiggling and gentle twisting produces the best results. Patience! Each time I might only pull the trim out 1/8-1/4", then move the knives and wedge in a different spot, then come back and work it looser.
The end results -- all interior casing is removed from the windows. It was interesting to note how tight the fit was on these old windows. There was barely 1/4" gap all the way around these windows.

I checked and verified that there were NO nails or screws through the window frames into the walls. This is quite common with new construction, I'm told. The windows came with the brickmold attached and were fastened to the studs with nails through the brickmold.

The first step in the removal process is to take your utility knife and cut through all the caulking that surrounds the windows. Do not skip this step -- old caulking can be quite tenacious, and we are trying to get these windows out without damaging the siding, or the top flashing!

The new window is laying beside the house, ready for installation. These are vinyl windows from a local company here in Southern Ontario. They are almost entirely vinyl -- there is a trim piece of primed wood that fits into a flange along the inside. That gives you a piece to tie into the interior trim.

My son was on guard to ensure that the window stayed put and did not fall into the house.
Using a prybar, he worked on separating the brickmold from the window frame. He was careful here to always use twisting motions, more than prying. Always twist against the window frame itself -- watch out for the glass. Never pry from the outside, or we risk damaging the siding.
The first window is out, and the opening cleaned up. We checked and were pleased to find that there was no evidence at all of water incursion. For all that we didn't like them, the original windows did do a good job.
Repeat the process with the other two windows.
All hands were needed to hold and guide things during the installation, so we missed taking photos of that. Each window was tipped into place and checked for fit. We actually did NOT use levels much. With a renovation job, my friend tells me he more relies on his eye -- you want the window to fit the opening, and look like it is square to the opening, and equidistant to the sides and top/bottom. Whether it is truly level or plumb is of secondary importance.

A pair of shims were fitted under each side of the window to hold it up a bit in the opening and then two screws were driven into the side of the frames from the inside. My friend likes to use four-inch #10/#12 screws. These are very strong, and reach into both of the studs that (should be) framing each side of the opening. I was a bit surprised that it is only two screws on each side, but then again the old windows only had 3 nails on each side through the brickmold into the studs, and they stood fast for 30 years.

And here is the big window -- well, the top two-thirds of it at least. He used low-expansion foam on all four sides of the windows to provide good air-tight insulation to fill the gaps.

As an aside -- be aware that in my experience the foam off-gassed (mildly) for 2-3 days, so it is good to be able to ventilate the space for a few days!

Outside window installed and caulked. We were very pleased at how we did not have any damage to the surrounding siding. As well, we could just slip the new windows up and under the top flashing, so that was left as well. Everything was well caulked.
And this is about half of the pile that we had to cart away to the city's "enviro depot" to dispose of.
My friend's work was done. I now was in charge of the interior finishing. As mentioned previously we had to get rid of the previous casing. So I went off to the building supply store to pick out some new pre-primed casing.

I don't know if this has a specific name, but I used the method where the top piece is butt-joined to the side casing. On the ends of the top piece I cut pieces off at 45-degrees and then glued them back onto the ends, which makes it look like the trim turns into the wall, and gives it a very interesting finished look on the ends, rather than just a straight cut.

The previous photo looks nice as it was from far away. But the trim was only primed, and there were numerous nail holes that required wood filler. As well I applied wood filler to cover up the large screws that hold the windows in place. After it dried, this is sanded smooth and all the dust is wiped away.
(fuzzy photo, sorry) Neat bit of engineering here -- the cranks on the casement windows are designed so that they fold back over on themselves when not in use, to present a nice clean look.
And here it is finished: Caulking around the outside of the trim, Three coats of white paint on the trim, a small touch up on the red paint on the walls near the trim, and the window blinds re-installed.
The photo does not do justice to how gorgeous the large picture window is. As well, we are quite pleased with the white trim. This blends in with the lower wainscotting much better than the previous stained trim.
And that's all...


Thanks for reading!