Replacing aluminum frame windows in a brick veneer house
September 10, 2006 4:46 PM   Subscribe

Wanting to replace aluminum frame windows in a brick veneer house. Long description to follow.

Searching on the interweb has not been fruitful for my situation. I find info on replacing broken panes, but not on replacing the entire window.

My house was built in 1966 with aluminum frame single pane windows. The kind of frame and brick veneer are the problem. Anytime I see windows installed/replaced the window frame has flange/tab and the house has siding. That is a straight forward install. Window opening is framed, window installed securing flage to framing, insulate/waterproof, and trim window outside and inside.

Here are some pictures of 2 of the windows. There are 3 windows 58 3/4" x 43 3/4" and 3 windows 43 1/2" x 72". The 72" wide windows are slider windows while the other are single hung. The single hung windows do not have counter weights to keep window open, but a kind of "spring rod" that is visible inside the frame. The measurements are of the window openings from inside (sill to sheetrock and sheetrock to sheetrock) because the frame sits on top of the sheetrock. The sheetrock is even with the brick opening.

My thought on how to replace these windows is to remove the existing window, sill, and sheetrock (it is 1/2"). Frame out the opening with 2x4 (adding 1/2" ply to adjust for sheetrock) to have something to secure new window (frame with flange) to. Then water/weatherproof and add trim. The 72" wide windows I'd frame in a center post and install two windows. Finishing the inside would be interesting because sill depth from frame to wall is 5" on 72" windows and 4 3/4" on others. I am less worried about that than the earlier part of installation and sealing.

So if that is a proper retro-fit install I need to calculate if I am close to a stand size flanged window frame or order custom sizes. I understand the framing I described might not enough for the flange and to attach exterior trim, so it might require losing some of pane size to more framing.

My other concern is how is the alum frame is secured in place. There are no indications of screws/nails through frame and sheetrock into framing. Is it possible there is a flange on all sides of frame (similar to the new windows I want)? That would have meant the sheetrock was done, then the frame installed, and bricking done last. A coworker told me they are probably collapsable frames, and after removing panes the sides could be pryed out individually.

I have all requisite tools and a fair amount of diy experience (framing, sheetrock, hanging doors, flooring, plumbing, electrical, but none with windows). I do not believe this project is outside of my abilities.

Thank you for reading my long rambling question.
posted by sailormouth to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This guy has some ideas on the matter. Some additional ideas here. I have seen people replace the "lights" or "panes" in older aluminum windows (as the second source discusses) with retrofit double pane products, which saves some energy, and reduces sweating of the window in cold climates, but aluminum frames are often still cold in winter. Some people manage to cover the aluminum on the inside with vinyl strips to provide some additional insulation, while keeping the windows operable.

Ultimately, I suppose you have to evaluate your existing situation carefully, and decide if you want to completely replace your aluminum units with vinyl, and if you are willing, as you seem to be, to do some reframing and finish work, after tearing out and replacing what you already have in place. If you reframe for conventional flanged vinyl windows, you will have a different "street" appearance to your house, as the framing will likely be a solid "paint item" appearance on your house, unless you take some steps to back your brick facing around the new window framing after you install the windows. I have seen people install flanged windows in new framing, and then step paint the frame in several step shades of paint toward the brick, to minimize the visual appearance of the frame, creating something of a shadow box effect to the street.
posted by paulsc at 5:19 PM on September 10, 2006

You can custom order vinyl "replacement windows". These do not have a nailing flange around the outside. You measure your opening and the will custom make windows that are very slightly smaller than that opening. The windows will pop right into the space that you have, and screw through their sides into your existing house framing (this is extremely common, and in no way inferior to a new construction window)

You should not have to do any framing work at all. You will likely have to remove the drywall that is around the inside of your window sills. Ideally, you want to get back to the original wood framing that surrounds your windows. When you order the replacement windows, you can request that they include a "return" to insert a replacement window sill into (a channel that runs around the outside of the window facing into the room into which drywall or wood could be inserted)

You may even find that you could leave parts of the existing aluminum frame in place. All you really need are four sides that are flat and the window could slide into.
posted by davey_darling at 5:30 PM on September 10, 2006

Wny not go to a local window showroom (one that carries multiple brands), and get them to bid on the project. Play the concerned homeowner and ask them lots of questions about how the windows fit, as if worried about the new windows damaging your brick, not being properly fitted etc. Get a couple of options from them - replacement vinyl windows and new windows. No need to take them up on the offer if you can order and fit the windows yourself, but at least you will have the options of them doing the work if their way works out cheaper.

One more thing, you will find that almost all replacement windows these days are "custom". There are just too many different sizes in houses built anywhere from 1930 to 2006 to be able to get anything standard.
posted by Joh at 7:20 PM on September 10, 2006

Oh, and I hope you will consider replacing them with double-pane windows. You will save a lot on heating/cooling bills.
posted by Joh at 7:22 PM on September 10, 2006

Sailormouth, we're having the windows in our brick home replaced with 'custom' vinyl windows. We thought about doing it ourselves but, like you, we couldn't find enough diy info to feel comfortable.

The workmen should be installing the windows some time in the next 4 weeks. If you can wait I'd be happy to take pictures of the process and ask questions for you. Just send me an email.
posted by LadyBonita at 1:32 AM on September 11, 2006

The flanges on windows for ease of installation in a wood framed house are often removed when installing a window in a masonry wall -- or a wall where the veneer is already in place. I don't have time to dig right now but the question of getting a window into your existing opening is simply finding the next best way (aside from removing said flange) to install the unit. Depending on the type, this might even be by screwing directly through the window jamb in the rough opening -- even into masonry if required. You will want a wood framed window in this case. (The wood framing can be clad, of course, although I prefer quality paints, stains and woods to cladding.) Then it's just a question of finding the best combination of trim and sealant to complete the weather barrier. Look at Andersen, Marvin etc. for details on installation. My last note would be to encourage you to NOT install vinyl replacement windows of any kind. Your happiness will last in inverse proportion to the money saved -- or should that be the other way around.
posted by Dick Paris at 7:03 AM on September 11, 2006

Just to chime in with Dick Paris here - vinyl has many limitations: it cannot be painted, the white invariably yellows over time, and the vinyl will break down in sunlight. Also, IMO, they're just kinda cheesy looking.
In addition to the 'big names' out there (Marvin, Anderson, and Pella), there are many quality manufacturers of aluminum/wood 'clad' windows, or wood frame windows.
We used Sierra Pacific Windows for a wood window with aluminum cladding (only on the outside) and have been very happy - and saved about 1/3 over Anderson (and about 3/4 over Pella (gulp).
One other thing - please don't go with sliders! This is something I see all the time - an otherwise lovely home where the homeowner decided to 'save' money and have sliders installed (vinyl sliders only compound the crime). Consider modern casement windows, or (depending on what you home has/had) single/double hung - or even awning or hopper windows (the latter are casements "on their side" the awning opens at the bottom and the hopper opens at the top, these are good choices for smaller windows).
posted by dbmcd at 9:58 AM on September 11, 2006

Thank you all for the inputs and advice.
I did not say in the original post but yes double pane is the plan for new windows.
Vinyl is now out as an option for the reasons mentioned above by others.
I am planning to replace the 3 slider windows by framing in a slightly smaller opening with a center post to allow either 2 single hung or 2 casement windows.
The existing alum frames do have a kind of nailing flange which is sandwiched between the brick veneer and wall studs. The profile of the alum frame is such that I would not want to try the "insert style" retro fit window requiring attaching through the jambs.
For the existing single hung windows I am going to look further into custom sashes and reuse the frames.
The new trim needed for the replaced sliders should work because these windows are not visible with the existing single hung windows, so the difference should not be to obvious.
posted by sailormouth at 7:25 PM on November 11, 2006

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