Q&A: How Do I Replace My Old Wood Windows?

From on May 06, 2008 in Window Replacement

Old Wood WindowsOlder wood windows can be an energy nightmare. They are usually single pane, through which drafts can feel more like a steady breeze on a cold winter’s day. Replacing these old windows will certainly have an impact on your monthly energy bills. However, a good look at these antiques can have quite the stymieing effect. But have no fear, removing and replacing old wooden windows is not terribly difficult and you’ll be reaping the benefits of energy efficient windows in no time.

The first thing to do is carefully measure the window opening and order you replacement windows. The odds are fairly good that the existing window is a bit out of square, so measure width and height in a few spots and note the shortest measurement. Subtract about 1/4” from each number to allow a little play for the window and to prevent pressure from the wood framing, as it swells and contracts. From the inside of the window, wood windows consist of an inside stop, lower sash, parting bead, upper sash, outside stop.

Begin by removing the inside stop. Try to do this carefully as you can reinstall these stops after the new window is in place. These stops are usually painted to the frame so use a putty or utility knife to score the edges and break the seal of the paint. It is best to start prying from the middle of each piece, where there is more flexibility, and steadily move to the edges.

Next, you should be able to remove the lower sash (the window glass and surrounding wood frame). Again this may have been painted shut so use your putty knife or utility blade where necessary. Both sashes most likely have cords attached to them for support when the window is open. When you have pulled the sash out, use a pair of tin snips to cut these cords. Now you will find the parting bead, or middle stop, which separates the two sashes and creates a track for each to slide in. You need to pry this bead out and discard it.

Now the upper sash is ready to come out. Be sure and check to see if it is painted to the outside stop. The outside stop will not be removed so carefully pry the sash from the outside stop to prevent damage. A stiff putty knife should do the trick. Once you have the upper sash removed, clean any old caulking or excess paint from the inside of the outside stop. You want to give your new window a nice, smooth surface to rest against.

Now clean up the whole window opening and you are ready to install your new window. Run a new bead of caulk along the outside stops and put the new window in place. Center the window in the opening and use shims if necessary to make sure it is square. A retrofit window such as this should have pre-drilled holes in its sides so that you can screw it to the side jambs of the rough opening. Use shims to fill any airspace between the two before screwing.

Now reinstall the inside stops you removed and caulk then paint them. And finally, go outside and run a bead of caulk around the exterior of the window frame and paint. And you’re done.

If this sounds like a little more than you’re ready to take on, you can always get help from a professional, pre-screened window contractor. Get free estimates on your project today!