Replacing a big window |

Replacing a big window

Sam Bauman
Appeal Staff Writer
Sam Bauman/Nevada Appeal The new window was too large for the old frame, so David Rittenhouse used a reciprocal saw to open the frame up. The drop cloth closed the window to keep sawdust out.

A few years ago we enlisted an old friend and ski pal, David Rittenhouse, to replace a bedroom window in our house. The old aluminum-framed slider window leaked air and dirt and made the guest room less then ideal. The replacement was a vinyl-framed double-pane window which worked well.

This fall we were tired of using those plastic window shield kits to reduce air leakage (and dirt) around a 5-foot-square sliding aluminum-framed window in the living area. We called David again.

He came, he saw, and he measured. A flat 59 inches square, he figured.

So with that size in hand, we went to a H&G store and ordered a one-piece Thermopane vinyl-famed window. Cost: About $200 and two weeks to arrive.

Getting started

Last Saturday, David arrived with tools and an afternoon of time. We needed the time and then some.

Before we could put in the new window, we had to removed the old aluminum-framed one.

First job was to carefully remove the 2-by-6-foot frames, of cedar and redwood.

“Can’t get that 2-inch stuff anymore,” David remarked as he saved all the nails from the frame. Next was to removed some of the wood framing to get at the nails that held the old window in place. Those nails removed, we hefted the old window out.

How big’s the hole?

Careful measuring showed that we would have to remove about an inch of the wood interior framing all around. David did this with a reciprocating power saw, making cuts as neat as if they were done by robots.

A lot of skill was involved in making these cuts (and it became easy to see why the apprentice system works in construction; many of the tricks David used required experience, not to mention physical skills). Frequent use of a 5-foot level were required to assure that the hold would be even and square.

Before bringing the new window out, David applied sealing caulk around the perimeter of the hole. “Don’t usually do that until the new window is in,” David said, “but this one seems to be going to fit well.”

Spoke too soon

With the help of neighbor Rick we lifted the new window into the opening. Oops, the frame wasn’t quite big enough. About a half-inch too small.

Lifting the new window back out, we held it while David took a chisel and reciprocating saw and removed excess wood. This is not a task for someone not completely at home working with hand tools. It required a deft touch and tight control of the chisel and saw.

A second try and one area was still to high. David attacked again with chisel and hammer.

Third try, and it fit. David at once put a few nails in the nail flange to hold the window in place. After making sure the new window was seated correctly, David added more nails around the metal flange, locking the window in place.

Replacing the framing

David had carefully put the framing aside earlier. Now he had to trim it to the new window’s size. He used a small table saw to reduce the thick frame pieces to size. Then we nailed the frames in place, using the nails we had saved.

Inside the house, David removed the drop cloth that had held all the sawdust out and with a caulking gun did the inside window edges where they abutted the frame.

Again, watching David apply the caulk smoothly and evenly as a lesson in craftsmanship. “Some people never learn how to caulk neatly,” he noted. (Later, we did the outside caulking, trying to imitate David’s smooth movements; we didn’t quite measure up.)

If you are interested in replacing a large window after reading this, we suggest that you go to the Internet and look abound under the heading of “replacing an old window.” Lots of fine guidance there. But this is not a job for anyone less than truly skilled with do-it-yourself projects. Find a David if you can.

After all is done

We never had opened that old sliding window; the sliders stuck and the view north wasn’t very spectacular. Now we leave the blind up most of the time. The view isn’t any different, but it sure looks more attractive without the aluminum frame dissecting things.

The elder gentleman across the street putters about entertainingly, and the single lady next to him looks cheerful as she drives off in her SUV. The woman walking her dog looks happy and the kids on skateboard zoom by nicely. The room feels a lot more open and warmer now.

Any heating savings? Doubt it, most heat goes out through the roof, and we insulated that last year. But it sure feels nice to see that big picture out there.

• Contact Sam Bauman at or 881-1236.