How to Install Replacement Vinyl Windows in Your Old House

Susanne Clemenz

Removing old windows and replacing them is challenging but doable. This task list can help you want to learn how to install replacement vinyl windows yourself.

Basics of Window Installation: Ten Careful Steps

  1. Measure existing windows jamb-to-jamb top, middle and bottom, and left, center and right. Write down smallest measurements. Note if diagonal measurements are more than 1/4" different.
  2. Pry off or unscrew the interior sash by carefully removing the stops, then the beads (if present.) Pry off vinyl or aluminum jamb liners with a flat bar, but don't disturb interior and exterior casings.
  3. Remove unsound paint and fill cracks with wood putty. Sand and prime.
  4. Remove access panels to sash weights. Remove fiberglass insulation and replace with low-pressure expanding window foam through bored holes. Harden for 6 hours. Break off excess. Replace weights and panels.
  5. Apply elastomeric caulk to the insides of exterior facings or to the top and sides of blind stops. The windowsill needs two lines of caulking.
  6. From inside, rest the new vinyl window snugly on the bottom sill, then tilt it tightly against the exterior blind stops or casings.
  7. Drive just one 2-inch screw through a top side jamb only enough to close the sash and lock it.
  8. Place shims to center the window perfectly. Make sure it's square. Check for easy operation. With shims behind each pre-drilled hole, screw through jambs to frame. Trim shims.
  9. Fill exterior gaps between frame and casing with 1/4" elastomeric caulk. Fill inside gaps with low-pressure expanding foam. Replace or reinstall stops.
  10. Finish the interior sash and frame as desired.

That, briefly, is how to install replacement vinyl windows. If you're capable, you may save hundreds of dollars immediately, and even more with your beautiful new energy-efficient vinyl windows. One thing to note: if you are replacing your old home's original windows, and maintaining the historical integrity of an old house is a concern, you should first look into window restoration to see if this option will work with your existing windows and budget.

About the Author
Suzanne Clemenz designed her passive solar home and interacted with the contractors every day of the 6-month project. She started drawing floor plans and making models in the early '70s after purchasing several building lots. Recently she expanded and remodelled her newly-purchased home, working with contractors on the floorplan, electrical changes, painting, installation of wood laminate flooring, flood prevention walls and stonework, major drainage issues, an irrigation system and a landscaping. Researching and keeping up on issues and products related to home design and maintenance is an ongoing avocation.

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