Building An Addition: A Homeowner's Guide

Window Framing 101: Tips for DIY Repair

by Toni Richards

Sometimes the best way to give your home a fresh new look is to replace your old, damaged window frames. If your window frames are showing signs of wear and weathering, you can do the work on your own to give your home the look you have wanted. Instead of dismissing the project as too complicated or complex, take some time to read through this guide so you can see how easy the job really is.

Remove the Damaged Frame

Before you can install new window frames, you'll need to remove the existing ones. If there's any trim around the frames, you'll need to use a screwdriver to remove the screws securing it. Once the screws are out of the way, you can remove the trim by prying it loose with a thin pry bar. Just work your way around the window, pulling up on the edges of the trim. Once you have all of it loosened, you can pull it away and set it aside for recycling or disposal.

Ensure a Proper Fit

To properly expose the rest of the window frame, you'll need to cut away some drywall around the edges. Using the window itself as your guide, score the drywall around the window edges. Make sure you're particularly attentive to any corners, crevices, or other fine details. The best way to score the drywall is with a utility knife or something similar. The small, sharp blade makes it easier to puncture the drywall.

Once the drywall is scored, break the edges of it away to expose the new opening. You can even use a putty knife or something like that to help clear the drywall away. Just be careful not to cause any damage to the drywall that has to remain, otherwise it could be exposed to moisture and other hazards due to damage. The goal is to expose the metal strip that runs along the window frame edge. Once it's exposed, you'll need to remove the nails holding the strip in place so you can pull it out of the window.

Measure the Frame Pieces

The easiest way to be sure that your window frame pieces are the right dimensions for the window is to create templates for each of the areas that you want to cover. You can do this with most any kind of sturdy yet flexible material. Cardboard, poster board, and similar items are great for this type of work.

Measure the window starting from the outside edge of the glass and going straight to the edge of the exposed drywall. Once you know how wide it is, create a template that matches that width. Repeat this process to measure the height of the window as well. Then, you can use those measurements to create the templates for the window frame. Cut the pieces out and test them against the window to be sure that they are the proper size before you proceed.

Build the Base Trim

The base of the window frame is a good place to start. It takes a lot of weather-related abuse. Since rain will run down the windows to the base of the frame, it needs to fit properly to prevent water from seeping into the house around the window. Opt for a water-resistant material for this space to minimize damage. Materials like PVC are great for this, because they aren't vulnerable to rust, rotting, or water damage.

Use the template you created to cut the trim piece for the base of the window. Test fit the piece against the bottom of the window, then you can sand the edges to smooth it out. Use sandpaper to smooth it by hand so that you can avoid taking too much off the edges, because that will alter the fit.

If you choose a material that needs to be sealed, like pressure-treated wood, apply the sealant or paint once you've sanded the edges down. Once the sealant has dried according to the product's directions, you can put it into place. Lay the trim piece flat against the window base, then secure it with nails and either wood glue or PVC adhesive depending on the material that you've made the trim pieces from.

Apply the Trim

For wood trim pieces, drive the nails straight down into the window frame. That puts the nails directly into the wall structure. Put glue on the bottom edges of the trim first to help keep it in place before you drive the nails into it. The glue adds support so that the trim doesn't shift.

Once the base trim is in place, it's time to cut the pieces for the sides and top. Test fit each one, then attach it the same way you did the base. Put the sides on first, then attach the top to complete the frame. If you're staining the trim pieces, do that before you put them on.

With these tips, you can replace your damaged window frames with new material. If you aren't comfortable tackling the project on your own, companies like Miller Roofing & Guttering Inc. can help you.

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