Bathroom window replacement in a block construction house.

The last weekend in February, we finally got to do our very first “putting something in” project versus “taking something out” in regards to our bathroom renovation. Actually, I’ll go ahead and totally contradict myself by now saying that it started off with taking out the window which, aside from the floors, is all we have left of our bathroom gutting.

Here’s a shot of our old bathroom window from the outside of our house. We think it was the original from when our house was built in 1979; it was aluminum, single pane, presumably not very energy efficient and had frosted glass.

Next up is a shot of us cajoling it out. There’s blue tape on the glass because after a few minutes of watching my husband with the crow bar and hammer, I realized we were probably going to shatter the glass everywhere. And we did shatter it, but the blue tape completely prevented us from having to deal with any clean up whatsoever. I’d love to take credit for that little bit of genius, but our friend Gary gave me the idea when we took out our bathroom mirror a few weeks earlier.

And below is how it looked from the outside all loose and ready to be pulled out completely:

After that, we had one small issue to deal with. The window had been held in with several small metal tabs on either side that were now sticking out of the block. They were dealt with via hacksaw:

and pliers…

Look how pretty it is sans window!

Testing out the new window to see if it fits! And it did. Actually it was a bit a lot small.

So here’s where it gets interesting and hopefully informative.

We had taken lots of measurement many different times weeks earlier to be sure we were ordering the right size, but the home improvement store guys made us a little nervous, rightfully so, when we went to order the window. I understand they want to make sure you don’t order a window too big, cause that would be the worst. So we ordered it about 1/2 inch smaller on either side (1/4 inch on all 4 sides). Long story short, we definitely could have gone a little larger than we did.  Of course, it’s better to go smaller than larger, especially if you’ve never done this before. However, we now know that we really only need to reduce the size by 1/4 of an inch total if you are totally and completely sure that your measurements are 100% exact.*

It wasn’t any problem, to be honest. Since you do want to have  it slightly smaller than your opening, we did what we would have done anyway. We centered the window in the opening by placing shims around all sides. We ended up needing three stacks of two shims on the top and bottom and one “stack” of two shims on each side which you can see here:

At this point we  ran out of shims and had to go back to the store. This turned out to be a very good thing because a guy who had been installing windows for 16 years ended up giving us lots of helpful tips. He also reassured us that most of what we were doing was right which calmed our (my?) nerves a lot. One thing we hadn’t yet figured out was that we were able to slip the sliding half of the window right out. I had been really nervous about breaking the glass, so I was really happy to learn that little tidbit. Also, it gave us room to balance our level right on the window.

So once we had it all level and made sure it was even on all sides, we needed to screw it into place. Our window expert had also assured us that we only needed one screw on each side for such a small window. Screwing the windows into the sides was probably the hardest part, and it’s why we don’t have photos. We had to make sure not to move the shims or knock the frame out of place. That was really important because we plan to tile around the window ledge on the inside and the tiles won’t line up properly if it’s further in or out on the left or right.

We then did what I now know is called countersinking (a technique to keep the screw flush with the window frame). Chet then drilled a hole through the window frame and into the block of the house and then drilled in the screw. One more on the other side, and our window was stable and not going anywhere! And, we hadn’t broken the window pane that isn’t removable, which = happy.

The next step was spraying in the foam insulation (we used Great Stuff Window and Door Insulating Foam Sealant) around the open areas between the window frame and the block of the house. This stuff made me nervous because it’s very sticky and hard to get off once it’s cured. Chet really put in a lot more on the outside, but it held up through a night-long rain storm, even without caulk, so it’s good stuff!

Here’s a close up around the bottom corner from the inside:

Our new home improvement friend also gave us this tip on getting rid of the shims that are hanging out past the window frame…hammer and chisel. That’s all you need:

Here’s how it looked after chiseling out the extra shim:

It was hard to get a good shot since we have very little lighting in here right now and the late afternoon sun was shining straight in, but here’s how it looked from the inside after all the extra  shim edges were removed:

And here’s a better shot of our new view. I found this quite exciting and a very satisfying conclusion to all our hard work because we can actually see all those huge bushes and the blue sky outside our window now. Love!

We had to wait 8 hours for the foam to fully cure before we could scrape off the extra foam, but it rained all the next day so we had to wait until a few days later. Chet did this on his own before I could get pictures of the heavily foamed outside. He also caulked it, which apparently is quite the skill, one which we might need a little more practice with.

Nonetheless, I felt super proud of us. I’ve never done anything even remotely this DIYish and now we both feel like we could replace all the windows in our house, which we definitely would love to do at some point. I’m adding it to the list!

* Please keep in mind, we are total novices just trying to help out and share some tips on what helped us. None of this should be taken as expert advice. Contact your local home improvement peeps for help with your specific situation.

Wishing you lots of lovely.

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