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While preparing to write this artical I did some searching to see how much information about window removal and installation was out there, and while there was some I noticed there was very little if any regarding replacing windows in a brick wall. Installing retrofit windows and replacing windows in a wall with some type of siding or stucco was about it. So here it is.

How to remove the original aluminum window with a nailing
fin and install replacement windows in a brick home.

Things to think about

What are replacement windows?
Replacement windows are windows without the nailing flange/fin and are ment to fit into the opening and secure to the wall through the sides of the window frame using screws. Depending on where you live, the term "replacement window" may mean retrofit, which involves leaving all or part of the old frame and installing and securing the new window inside this opening. By doing this however you will lose some glass area and at the same time increase the frames thickness. You can find replacement windows made of vinyl, aluminum and wood.
When windows with a nailing fin are installed in walls with brick it is more
difficult to remove because the fin is located behind the brick and therefor
the fasteners, usually nails, are not accessible.

Most residential brick homes have exterior walls consisting of 2x4 or 2x6 wood
framing with some type of sheathing on the exterior. When the brick is layed
an air gap between the sheathing and the brick allows for the framed wall to
breath which in turn helps to control the effects of condensation and allows
for expansion. The brick is attached to the framed wall
using small heavy gauge straps called brick ties.

If your removing an aluminum window you probable have either wood or drywall,
or both, surrounding the opening on the inside that butts up against the window.
Depending on the window. you may need additional moldings on the interior or
exterior to close any gaps. Some manufacturers will sale or furnish these with
their windows. If the brick has a sloped sill under the window you will need at
least the outside sill extention. Consult your window supplier

For this project the interior wrap did not have to be removed but I did take note of
its thickness to determine the rough opening of the window for the next step. If its
drywall its probably 1/2 inch thick. If its wood its probably 3/4 inch thick.

Measuring for windows

Not removing the window wrap means installing windows from the exterior that
must clear the brick. The tricky part here is finding the narrowest width and
height. When you order replacement windows usually the manufacturer will require
the smallest dimension of width and height of each opening then they automatically
deduct 3/8 to 1/2 inch from each measurement so that you have sufficient room for
installation. If your brick is distressed or irregular with oblong corners and peaks,
try holding a level or other straight edged tool in the opening before measuring to
find these high points. Of coarse a grinder could fix this but can also leave noticeable
marks. After measuring and recording the exterior, compare these measureents with the
inside rough opening (RO) that was deternimed from the previous paragraph. If the
RO width is over 1-7/8 inch less than the brick, the wrap will likely extend
in beyond the window frame and interfere with its operation. You will have to
use the measurements of the RO to order your windows and apply an exterior molding
or jamb extention if the manufacturer has one. The height is determined in the same
way as the width.

Typical aluminum frame cross section

In the larger image above you will see a dotted line indicating the frames inside
and outside edges are inline and therefor measure the same. This is also typical of
replacement windows as well. You will need to determine how your frame is shaped
and whether you need to use the brick or RO measurements. If in doubt see if the
suppier or manufacturer have a Rep that will come out to advise and measure for you.

NEXT - Removing the glass >

Removing the frame
Perparing the opening and window
Installing the replacement window

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