DIY Network

How to Replace a Windowsill

Complete instructions for removing and replacing an old, rotting windowsill.

More in Windows Walls and Doors

completed windowsill with shutters and planter box
  • Time

    Under Half Day

  • Price Range

    $50 - $100

  • Difficulty

    Moderate

Highlights:

Step 1: Remove the Exterior Trim

Using a utility knife, score the caulk around the outside of the window frame. Then do the same inside of the trim. With the seal broken, use a pry bar to remove the exterior trim -- take extra care, as you will reuse this trim after the windowsill is installed.

use pry bar to remove old caulk and exterior trim

Step 2: Remove the Window and Framing Member

Cut out the window using a reciprocating saw with a fine-tooth blade. Have someone hold the window so it doesn't fall and break. To remove the framing member, again use the reciprocating saw, which should cut right through the nails.

use reciprocating saw to remove framing

Step 3: Replace the Framing Member and Sill

If only the top of the sill is rotten, the wall cavity is likely okay; however, if the sill is rotted all the way through, be sure to check the wall cavity for damage.

To repair the window, build a new framing member with a notch cut out for the top; secure it in place with a few nails (Image 1).

Cut a new cedar sill with 2 x 6 cedar notched corners to fit in the rough opening and nail it in place (Image 2).

Step 4: Make a Kerf Cut

Using a table saw with a dado blade (or with several runs across the table saw blade at a 1/4" depth), cut a kerf into the bottom of the wood sill. A kerf cut allows water dripping off the edge of the window sill to fall to the ground before it wicks its way to the back of the sill and gets into the siding.

make a kerf cut in bottom of sill to avoid wicking

Step 5: Trim the Siding

If needed, use a circular saw to cut the siding to allow for new trim pieces (if necessary). Be sure to set the circular saw blade to the depth of the siding and no more.

Before reinstalling the window or the trim, fill all holes and cracks made by the saw or pry bar, and cover any exposed wood with insulative paper.

Step 6: Secure the Window and Trim

Fit the window back in place and secure it with the impulse nailer using 16-gauge 2-1/2" nails (Image 1).

Cut the trim to size and nail it in place (Image 2).

Fill all nail holes with wood filler. Let dry, sand and repeat if necessary. Use high-quality primer and paint to protect the new windowsill and trim.

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