Adding a Garden Window

A garden window not only lets in light and makes a room seem more spacious, it gives you a place to nurture flowers or herbs right in your kitchen. Some units have side windows that open casement-style with a crank; the other glass pieces are fixed in place. Prices vary widely, depending on whether you prefer a vinyl, metal, or wood unit. Some manufacturers offer off-the-shelf units made to standard window dimensions; others produce made-to-measure units only.

Determining the Rough Opening - Garden windows often are not in stock, so you’ll need accurate measurements of the rough opening (without removing the old window) to place an order. Here are some hints:

If you have old double-hung sash windows with ropes (or chains) attached to weights in the side cavities, measure from jamb to jamb (the surfaces that the sides of the sash slide against) and add 5 inches.

For newer-style windows, measure the casing (the molding that is on the wall) from outside edge to outside edge, and subtract 3 inches.

1. Remove the old window. Use a hammer and flat pry bar to pull off the molding, both inside and outside. On the sides and at the top, you will be able to look through your wall. You’ll see a series of nails holding the window in place. Cut the nails with a reciprocating saw or metal-cutting keyhole saw, or chop them in two by chiseling through them with the pry bar and hammer. Remove the window.

2. Measure, fill in. The directions accompanying your window will tell you what the size of the rough opening should be. Cut away framing pieces only if you know how to reframe the opening in keeping with local codes. Make the opening smaller by filling in the space with lx or 2x spacers. Allow about 1/2 inch of wiggle room on all sides of the garden window—you can shim the difference later.

3. Install the window. Tip the garden window into place, making sure the front edge is flush with the wall surface so the molding will sit flat. Level and plumb, then firmly anchor it to the framing with shims and screws. On the outside, apply generous beads of exterior caulk before covering over the seam with molding. If your new window is a good deal smaller than the old one, you may need to use extra-wide molding. This is a simpler solution than filling in exterior siding or masonry.

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