Q: When my house was built in 1978, the windows were bricked in — that is to say, the windows overlap the brick by one-half inch. Now I would like to update them.
My old windows will have to be removed from inside the house. My contractor wants to put the new ones on the brick and not in the original openings. He says that is how the windows should have been installed in the first place.
I’m not sure about this. Why can’t new windows be made and installed from inside the house?
If he places them on the brick, I will have to have new window sills made for all the windows in my house — not cheap! Also the windows will have to be trimmed out with an extra piece of molding to fill in the gap. I would like your opinion.
A: Without looking for ourselves it’s difficult to give you the perfect answer. But, for the life of us, we don’t understand why your contractor insists that new windows be installed on the outside of the brick.
If you remove the existing windows, it should be a simple, but expensive, matter to have custom windows made to fit into the existing openings.
We presume that your 1978 house has brick veneer. That is, the structure of the house is a wood frame (2 by 4s) covered with wood sheeting (probably plywood) over which the brick is applied.
In this type of construction, windows are typically installed with brick molding. Milled wood, approximately 1 3/4 inches by 1 3/4 inches, form an exterior frame around three sides of the window. The bottom of the window is formed by a wooden sill that discharges rainwater away from the opening.
In new construction, windows are attached by nails placed through the casing and the brick molding. Then a mason applies the brick veneer, butting the bricks to the brick molding. A bead of caulk around the exterior of the window provides an airtight seal and finishes the job.
From your description it sounds as if the builder dispensed with the brick molding and let the brick veneer run into the window opening, forming a lip so that the window frames could be installed flush to the inside face of the brick.
Although we’ve never seen this type of installation, we see no reason why it couldn’t work.
In either case, we’re having a tough time envisioning new windows affixed somehow to the exterior of the brick.
Whether the old windows have brick molding or not, the process for installing new windows is similar and we suggest you follow the installation process of the original builder.
You can discover this by paying attention when you remove the existing windows. Pay special attention to the bottom of the window, as this is the area most prone to leaking.
Remove the existing windows from their openings from the inside. If the windows have exterior brick moldings, remove these first from the outside. Take care to do as little damage as possible to the interior trim and the exterior brick. Carefully measure the opening for the new window.
We suggest you try to use the measurements for the existing windows. Measure them after removing the interior trim but before removing them from the openings.
Pay particular attention to the depth and width of the casings. Modern dimensional lumber tends to be smaller than it was years ago. A nominal 1 by 4 does not measure 1 inch by 4 inches and the 1 by 4 milled in 1978 will not necessarily be the same as one milled in 2005.
Once the windows arrive, check to make sure the dimensions are correct. Then install the windows. It should be a simple matter of sliding a window into the opening, shimming it so that it’s level and plumb and nailing it to the framing.
This is a great time to apply insulation between the framing and the window casing. Use either small pieces of fiberglass insulation or insulation foam. If you chose to use the foam, go easy. If it expands too much you risk bowing the casing.
Reapply the interior trim, fill the nail holes and paint or stain. For the exterior, reapply the wooden brick molding (if necessary) and make sure to caulk where the brick meets the molding or, if there is no molding, where the brick meets the window casing.