Installing Retrofit and Replacement Vinyl Windows

This article will explain the process of installing vinyl replacement windows and vinyl retrofit windows.

In previous articles,Guest Posting I explained to you how to determine whether your windows are candidates for vinyl replacement style frames or retrofit style frames. This week, I'm going to explain the installation techniques for both frame styles. Let's start with the retrofit frame.

Retrofit window installation is really the easiest of all. The retrofit window already comes with an exterior trim attached. That's the flush fin that goes against the outside surface, usually stucco. Prepare the window by drilling 3/8” holes in the areas of the frame where you want to screw it in place. Normally, there will be 3 holes on each side and 3 more across the top. Don't predrill any holes in the bottom track. After removing the old panels, you want to run a heavy bead of caulk on the face of the old aluminum frame that you left in place. Then you and a helper set the bottom of the vinyl window onto the old aluminum bottom track and raise it into position. The flush fin or retrofit lip will act as a “stop” to hold the window in place. Have your helper hold the window while you go inside.

Once inside, you want to center the window in the opening. Slide the vent panel open and closed to make sure the window is plumb and level. To adjust for out of square conditions, shim the bottom right or left corner by placing a shimming material between the sill and bottom of the window frame. Once square, drive a 3” deck screw through the 3/8” holes and into the wood studs. Just seat the screw, don't overtighten. After you get the screws into the sides and top, remove the sliding panel. The bottom track should lift out. Look for drainage holes in the track and insert a thin screwdriver and lift up. Drive one screw in the bottom center, caulk around the screw head, then put the track back in place and re-install the sliding panel. Now, you want to go back outside and caulk the gap where the retrofit fin meets the exterior surface of the house. You want to have a double barrier of protection against water infiltration. Remember, you already applied a generous bead of caulk before inserting the new frame into the opening. The rest of the job is done on the inside.

First, you want to plug the 3/8” screw holes to hide the heads of the screws. We sell the hole plugs on the website. The plugs will pop into place in the hole. The next step is to fill the gap around the new frame with R-13 Insulation. Do not use the foam insulation that comes in a can. Many manufacturers will not honor the warranty if the foam is used. Even the non expanding foams can cause the frame to distort, causing problems. Pack the insulation in tight. You might want to wear a dust mask during this procedure. Many people, myself included, are very sensitive to insulation. After the insulation is in place, you want to install trim around the inside to finish the job. You can use wood trim from the hardware store, or some other product. But in my experience, the best product is a vinyl flat trim that matches the window frame. The flat trim can also be purchased on the website, or you could try to find it from a local window contractor. Ours comes in 3 different widths, although the 1 ¾” wide piece is by far the most common. The trim has a double sided adhesive tape on the back. You cut the top and bottom first, stick them on the vinyl frame, making sure the trim goes to the drywall. This covers all the insulation and the old metal frame. Do the side pieces next. The final step is to caulk where the trim meets the walls.Lag Bolts