How to Remove and Replace Old Windows
Using common carpentry tools, you can install a sash kit or window insert from inside your home without destroying the surrounding interior molding or exterior casing.
If you have the right tools and tips, installing a window yourself can be a weekend project. Whether you're replacing a damaged window or just want a new look, we will show you how to get the results you want without calling in help from a professional. Check out our steps below and get started today.
Before You Begin
Installing a window yourself will only work when the replacement window is the same size and shape as the old one and when the existing window opening is square. To determine whether your window opening is square, measure it diagonally one way (from the upper left corner to the lower right corner) and then the other (from the upper right corner to the lower left corner). If the opening is square, the two measurements will be the same, give or take 1/8 inch. The slightest deviation from square can prevent the sash from closing and the weather stripping from sealing properly. If that happens, you'll be stuck with drafts, condensation, and high utility bills.
What You Need
- Utility knife
- Pry bar
- Sash replacement window
- Caulking gun
- Wood putty
Step 1: Measure Window
Successful replacements depend on good measurements of the existing opening to find out how big your new window needs to be. Start by measuring between the left and right jambs at the top, middle, and bottom of the window; the shortest of these three measurements is the window width. After that, measure the distance between the head jamb and sill at the far left side, middle, and far right side of the window; the shortest of these three measurements is the window height.
Step 2: Remove Trim and Head Stop
Score the paint where each piece of trim meets the existing window casing. Scoring the seams prevents the wood from splitting when you remove the trim pieces. Slide a flat pry bar behind the inside stops and remove the pieces.
Next, score head stop and gently pull it loose with pliers. Set aside for later use.
If you wish to remove the surrounding trim as well, use a utility knife to slice through any paint or caulk between the interior casing and the wall. Use a flat pry bar and a scrap piece of wood to remove the casing. If you will reuse the casing, use slip-joint pliers to remove the screws.
Tip: After removing a stop or other trim pieces, use pliers to pull the nails through the back of the piece. Doing so reduces the odds that the piece will split or fracture.
Step 3: Remove Jamb Liner
Raise the lower sash 6 to 8 inches, then pry back the old jamb liner. Repeat with the upper sash.
Fold the jamb liner at a 90-degree angle underneath the sash. Repeat with the upper sash, folding the jamb liner across the top of the sash.
Step 4: Remove Window
Remove the old sashes and jamb liner as a single unit. You may need a helper for assistance with larger windows. With a helper standing outside to catch the window, start prying outward. You may need to tap the jambs with a hammer. Once the window is loose and ready to fall, go outside to help pull it out. Use proper lifting techniques to avoid back injuries.
Step 5: Insert new Jamb Liner
Install a liner bracket every 4 to 5 inches along each jamb. Make sure each bracket is level before you nail it on.
Attach the jamb liners to the liner brackets. Each liner should pop into place.
Step 6: Install Sashes
Insert the upper sash in the exterior track of the jamb liner. Open and close the sash to make sure it slides smoothly. Insert the lower sash in the interior track and check that it operates.
Step 7: Install Head and Side Stops
Reattach the head stop. Set the nails below the wood surface. Fill the holes with wood putty and touch up with paint.
Reattach the inside stops. Set the nails and fill the holes with wood putty. Caulk the seams and touch up with paint.
How to Remove the Window and Framing
For windows where the jamb and sill are in bad shape, consider removing the whole unit as opposed to just the sashes. We'll show you how to remove casing, sash weights, molding, stool, jambs, and more. Before you begin, make sure you understand that this method may also modify siding and change the wall framing.
You'll need about two hour to remove the window, plus some basic carpentry skills. Before you begin, place drop cloths on the floor and seal off the room's doors with plastic. Place a tarp or sheets of plywood outside the window to protect the lawn and any plants.
What You Need
- Flat pry bar
- Drill with screwdriver bit
- Utility knife
- Slip-joint pliers
- Reciprocating saw
Step 1: Remove Casing
Use a utility knife to slice through any paint or caulk between the interior casing and the wall. Use a flat pry bar and a scrap piece of wood to remove the casing. If you will reuse the casing, use slip-joint pliers to remove the screws.
Step 2: Remove Sash Weights
If you have an older wood window with sash weights, pull back the cords or chains and cut the ones that attach to the weights for the lower sash. Pull down the upper sash and do the same. Remove the sash weights.
Step 3: Remove Molding
On the exterior cut through any caulk and pry out the molding all around the window. If your window has a flange that is covered by siding.
Step 4: Remove Stool and Apron
Inside the house pry out the stool (inside sill). It may be easiest to cut through the nails first (see next step). Also remove the apron, which is attached to the wall directly below the stool.
Step 5: Cut Through Nails
Cut through the nails that attach the jamb to the house's framing. A reciprocating saw works best for this, but you can also use a hacksaw. Or slip the notch of a flat pry bar onto the nail's shank and bang hard with a hammer to break the nail.
Step 6: Remove Insulation and Sashes
Pull out any insulation and other obstructions, and check that all the nails have been removed. Remove one or both sashes.
Step 7: Pull Out the Window
With a helper standing outside to catch the window, start prying outward. You may need to tap the jambs with a hammer. Once the window is loose and ready to fall, go outside to help pull it out.
Bonus: How to Detach Windows from the Exterior
A metal or vinyl window may have a flange that is nailed to the sheathing and covered with siding; in that case you must cut back the siding. Molding that rests on top of siding is the easiest to remove. Siding butts up against brick molding.