New window after installation. Old House Remodeling:

Replacing A Window - Part 1
Removing The Old Wood-Framed Window

In This Article:

Old window sashes are removed, the jamb cut away, the old sill reconditioned and the rough opening is prepared.

Related Articles:
Skill Level: 3-4 (Intermediate to Advanced) Time Taken: 12 Hours

By , Editor

This article explains how an old window was removed and replaced with a "new construction" type of vinyl-clad window. Replacing an old window with a "remodel" type of window would be different because the replacement window fits inside the existing window jambs.

Preparing The Opening:

The original window had an ugly aluminum storm window that rattled in the wind and leaked badly.

On the inside, the window was deteriorated beyond repair. The lower sash was difficult to open. The previous owner had filled around the sash with expanding foam, in a lame attempt to stop the drafts that plague this old house during the windy Northern Michigan winters.


Removing window stop trim to remove wood sash.

We removed the trim that held the lower sash in place.

The lower sash just fell forward after the trim pieces were removed.

Many old windows simply let the sash slide in a wood channel, which swells in the summer, causing the sash to stick. Plus, countless coats of paint inevitably interfere with the sliding ability. The original design is inferior, plain and simple. It worked in 1900 because wood was the only widely available and affordable material.


Getting the top sash out meant sliding it all the way down, which required a hammer, and removing a thin strip of wood.

The aluminum storm window frame was removed.


We pulled all visible nails from the sill.


Cutting nails around wood window jamb or frame.

And now the fun part... We took our reciprocating saw and cut all the nails around the jamb.

Then we cut between the jamb and the outer window trim, to sever all the nails that held the window unit together.

As far as we could tell, this window was installed as a pre-hung unit, as opposed to being fabricated on-site or in a carpenter's shop. We base our claim on the uniformity of the wood components, the fact that many of the other windows in this house look identical, and the similarity to other pre-fabricated windows from the first half of the 20th century.

Our goal was to salvage all of the exterior, visible wood components and re-use them with the new window.


Tearing out old wooden window frame.

When all the nails were cut, the jamb was removed.

We paused to take a photo of the jamb assembly, just before the unit was unceremoniously hurled from the second-story window. Then it went to the burn pile.


With the window frame removed, we were able to inspect the condition of the structure.

A Bit Of Old House Anatomy:

1) Window exterior trim
2) 1x12 sheathing
3) Framing (stud)
4) Lath
5) Plaster
Cross-section of wall in old house.


The sill, which was attached to the window frame, now only held in place by a few nails. We removed this piece to re-finish it.

Removing the exterior window trim meant getting the awning out of the way. Note how the awning brackets rest on the vertical trim.

These decorative awnings are common on some older homes. We wanted to avoid complete removal of the awning. After a thorough inspection, we decided to try simply prying the awning up, leaving the top attached (it has a metal flashing that goes under the siding).

At this point we realized that working on ladders would require a long reach. So we brought out the heavy artillery: the ladder jacks and the extension plank. This equipment, while expensive, gives us easy and safe access to almost any part of this two-story house.


This photo shows the ladders and the wooden extension plank (at the bottom of the window). The plank rests on special brackets called ladder jacks, which hook onto two rungs of the ladder.

We used a chisel to break the paint at the seam.


After carefully prying up the brackets, we cut the nails and inserted shims to keep them away from the wall.

With successive rounds of prying we managed to place a shim above the window trim, keeping the lower part clear.


We used a chisel to break the paint around the top trim.

A reciprocating saw was used to cut the nails that held the trim in place. Note the wooden wedge below the saw. This keeps a prying force applied and makes sawing easier.


Another view of cutting the nails that held the vertical trim in place.

The top trim was cut free.


The trim was completely removed. The new window had a nailing flange that needed a few inches of clear area around the opening. Some replacement windows do not require demolition this extensive.

The lower part of the window opening.


Making Improvements To The Window Opening:

We drove in 2" deck screws to provide a better bond between the sheathing and the studs. We pre-drilled all the holes. The entire task took 10 minutes.

We pried the ends of the siding away from the wall, so later we could slide some form of flashing behind the siding.


The sill was completely coated with an epoxy wood preservative and allowed to harden for several hours. Then it was given a coat of oil-base primer.

The other window trim boards were sanded on a belt sander, the nail holes were filled with epoxy, and then primed.


Wood window sill installed after being coated with primer. The sill was installed with 3-1/2" deck screws.


The Window Opening Was Complete...

See Part 2 For The Window Installation And Finishing Touches.


Tools Used:

  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Basic Carpentry Tools
  • Table Saw
  • Belt Sander
  • Extension Ladders (2)
  • Ladder Jacks (2)
  • Extension Plank

Materials Used:

  • Andersen 400 Series Tilt-Wash Double-Hung Window
  • 2" Roofing Nails
  • Flashing Material

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Copyright 1999, 2005

Written October 10, 1999
Revised January 23, 2005