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Removing Old Aluminum Windows
This week we are going to talk about the process of actually removing your aluminum windows in preparation for installing vinyl replacement windows. Let's start with a horizontal sliding window, which is pretty common nationwide. There is going to be a sliding panel and a stationary panel. You want to remove the slider first. All you do is slide the panel open, grab the sides of the panel with your hands,lift up and swing out. Under ideal circumstances, it would be that easy. However, there are small obstacles that can prevent you from lifting out the panel.
Many sliding windows have rollers on the top as well as the bottom. The top rollers don't actually do anything, they are there more as spares to replace the bottom rollers when they wear out. But many times the window installer will adjust these top rollers to prevent anyone from lifting out the panel. If this is the case with your windows, there will be a screw at the top of each side rail. If you loosen these screws, then lift up on the panel, it should come out. Another obstacle involves a little piece of rubber that the manufacturer places in the top track. This rubber piece has the same effect as adjusting the top rollers. It prevents you from lifting out the panel because it's wedged between the top of the window panel and the top of the upper track. If you can see that the window panel isn't lifting all the way up in the top track, and the top rollers are not the reason, then you have to dig out that rubber piece. It's usually at the point in the center, where the sliding panel and fixed panel overlap when the window is closed. Reach in there with a long, thin screwdriver, and try to pry it out.
Once you have the slider out, take out the screen. You can just pull it out. No need to be gentle since you're throwing it away anyway. The last step is the fixed panel removal. There are a few different applications here. All of them will have a center vertical bar. It's usually there to accept the locking mechanism on the slider, but not always. Look for screws holding this center bar in place. They will either be on the outside top and bottom, or you might find them on the side channel where the screen would go. Check the top and bottom corners.
Assuming you found the screws and removed them, you now need to take the center bar off. Take a screw driver and a hammer and tap the center bar at the very bottom. Tap it off the fixed panel frame. Now, pull the fixed panel away from the side where it rests in the side channel. What you are trying to do is slide the fixed panel open the same way that you did the sliding panel. Then, you can lift the fixed panel up and out. Sometimes, the fixed panel won't want to slide open because it has gotten stuck in the side track. You can put a screw driver into the side channel and pry the fixed panel away from the side. It doesn't matter if you bend the frame that's still attached to the house, because we are going to hide all of that anyway.
Now, let's go back to the vertical center bar and assume you didn't find any screws to remove it. That means the fixed piece of glass doesn't have a frame around it. It's glazed in with either silicone, caulk, or double foam tape. You have to take out the glass, then cut the center bar out using a reciprocating saw. Usually, there will be "stops" on the outside to help keep the fixed piece of glass in place. There will be 4 of them, one on top, bottom, and each side. You should be able to just pry them out with a screw driver. Then, you can go inside and cut away the adhesive holding the glass in the frame. Use a utility knife and cut between the glass and frame. Wear gloves, and be careful not to put your hand through the glass. Put a sheet or tarp outside and let the glass fall into it. You could also have a helper stand on a ladder above the glass and try grabbing the top edge as you cut it away from the frame. Have your helper also wear gloves. The reason for the ladder is that you want to be above the glass in case it has a little crack that you can't see. As soon as you grab the glass, the crack will run across to the opposite edge, and suddenly you will find yourself trying to hold multiple pieces of glass at the same time. Being on the ladder, if the glass "runs", you let go. After the glass is out, cut the bottom portion of the center bar flush with the bottom track. Then, you can wiggle the bar back and forth to break the top screw free. You can apply this removal process to picture windows that have no sliding panel. Just treat it like you did the fixed portion, without having to remove a center bar.
Next week we will talk about the installation differences between a vinyl replacement frame and a vinyl retrofit frame.
John Rocco has been installing replacement windows since 1978. To learn more, visit How To Install Windows
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