What is better? Aluminium or PVCu?

This beautiful 1930′s art deco home could never retain it’s character and original charm were pvc windows installed into it. Shown here in beautiful black powder coated aluminium.

 

What is better? Aluminium or PVCu? the debate has been ongoing for a while and variations of this subject are typed into Google regularly.

The “what is better, aluminium or pvc” debate has no real answer.  On the one hand the double glazing company that does not offer aluminium may discredit the product if they want to sell pvc (perhaps those offering only pvc to the market would care to comment on how you overcome a customer asking about aluminium?)

On the other hand, double glazing firms that only do aluminium will also give their reasons for buying aluminium to the customer who asks about pvc.

Both aluminium and pvc window and door products serve their respective markets, however aluminium has several distinct advantages over PVCu.

In the end, presented with the two products side by side and cost issue aside, it is AESTHETICS that usually convince a customer to choose an aluminium window over PVCu  

A typical pvc window placed underneath the latest generation aluminium window, both A rated. The advantages of slim clean aluminium versus pvc in the sight lines of each product are clear to see. The differences in the mitred corners is at least one major advantage of aluminium.

 

There is no doubt that the customer will always prefer the slimmer sight lines of aluminium.  Presented with the correct facts about both products again, price issue aside, the customer will always choose aluminium. Anyone who offers both products is welcome to comment. What is better? Aluminium or pvcu?

A pvcu window will never repliate the absolutely perfect detailing of the window mullion as shown here by this aluminium window in a wood effect paint finish.

 

The price issue will always be the deciding factor.  It is unfair to compare the two products like for like.  PVCu windows are mass produced, aluminium remains a hand assembled crafted product with all its associated additional costs.  PVCu because its a plastic is by it’s nature cheaper than aluminium that is a metal.  Metal is more expensive than plastic.  The price argument whilst important to the person paying the bill is weak insofar as you are not technically comparing like for like.

Most things can be governed by cost, however to those where cost is not an issue, they will always choose aluminium.  Architects will always prefer aluminium over pvcu. Again it is good to ask why they do so.

How much more than PVCu should aluminium cost?

Typically the cost of an aluminium window should be no more than 30-50% more than PVCu.  It is often reported to this website of price differences of over 100% and sometimes even up to 200%.  If you are being quoted such differences between the two materials please contact this website and we can put you in touch with companies that can offer aluminium windows at the realistic market rates.

Some Window Companies see aluminium as a reason to inflate prices for no reason.  Whether it is because they would prefer to sell you plastic or for any other reason, the price differences should never be prohibitive.

We now come to the issue of thermal efficiency.  With today’s energy rated windows again this is a weak argument. Anyone attempting to tell the customer that aluminium windows are not as thermally efficient is misleading the customer.  Aluminium windows are available in A, B and C rated forms like pvc.

These beautiful aluminium bifolding doors complement this swimming pool extension perfectly. Only aluminium paint finishes can be specified to deal with chlorine environments too.

 

The quality of an aluminium window cannot be put aside.  Not only is the polyester powder coating guaranteed for 25 years, I challenge anyone to find me a pvc installation that under normal exposed conditions looks anything like an aluminium installation after 15 or 20 years.  PVC windows were not designed to have a long life with every meaning of the word! Already we talk about “replacing the replacements” as a future growth market.

The environmental credentials of aluminium compared to pvc again cannot be compared.  This is a long and separate topic altogether but do the right research and the results will speak for themselves. Aluminium on environmental credentials simply puts pvc to shame.  Fact.

PVC windows by and large remain only suitable for residential installations. Those of us who have been involved in residential and commercial jobs will know what I refer to here.  Yes many of you have installed pvc windows in schools but ultimately they were designed for and intended for dwellings.

I have spent years replacing failed pvc doors (and their hardware) installed in schools, shopfronts and commercial buildings which after a matter of a few months have not been fit for purpose.  No pvc door is able to withstand anything more than a normal residential environment where the door is opened and closed a few times a day.  PVC Windows are unsuitable for coastal, swimming pool environments, heavy grime environments and more.

One only has to look at the recent development of flats and riverside/other developments and how few buildings have pvc windows. Aluminium is chosen most of the time.

Security.  Aluminium by it’s very nature is a stronger material.  Whilst pvcu windows can pass Secured by Design, BS 7950 and other standards, the simple fact that they require reinforcing demonstrates how weak plastic is.  Aluminium is inherently stronger than pvcu.

It is a known fact that aluminium windows came before upvc windows and at the time these windows were invariably silver anodised, in a hardwood subframe and either single or double glazed.  They were also externally beaded aluminium windows.

The very first upvc windows that came on the market had two common features:

1.  They were a copy of an aluminium window in their design.
2.  They were externally beaded windows.

It was only when the weakness of the plastic bead was evident did the pvc industry revert to internally beaded.  Separate posts on this internally versus externally beaded debate can be seen here and here.

The debate on this can go on forever.  Ultimately the customer chooses what they like and what they can afford.  The good thing about these debates is that they bring product awareness to us all.

This is also the purpose of this website to inform and advise.  Those who know me are aware I also work with pvc on a daily basis.  Many of us still are not aware of what today’s aluminium windows can do and a further post here offers an insight into what is better? Aluminium or PVCu.

 

 

Comments

  1. For cost upvc is best and for environmental where green space is an important issue today, alluminium is the best. Again it will depend on the customers budget to choose between alluminium or upvc. The awareness of both products give the customer a better thought of his choice, that is choosing to re-change a upvc window that was changed already few years ago, pay less in many instances for upvc or pay more once and be guarantee for at least 25 years protection on alluminium for its coated polyester powder. Finally, alluminium was there before upvc. Therefore upvc is a substitute of alluminium. Don’t get me wrong here as both are still intended to inhance the beauty and quality of your house. The point is today it shouldn’t be a question as to know which one is best between alluminium and upvc. As the customer is now aware after reading, the choice is left to the customer. Thanks for reading

    From :
    Bruno Nchang 07825164616 Email: btnchang@aol.com

  2. UPVC is great in terms of maintenance, you dont really have to do anything at all. Looks good too. You also have to consider the costs

  3. Can anyone tell me the pros and cons re Aluminium or upvc for a conservatory roof. Have a couple of conservatory quotes, which I have just found out the difference being , one supplies a Ali roof and the other upvc. As always both give good arguments for their own product. it would be nice to hear an ubiased view.

  4. Nick Dardalis says:

    Hello Sharon, price issue aside (as I presume the aluminium conservatory is the more expensive one) there are several things to consider:

    The aluminium sections in the windows and the roof will be slimmer than the upvc ones and give you more glass area.

    If you are having french doors in your conservatory, you will also find the aluminium doors will have slimmer sections than the plastic doors and you may prefer the look of the aluminium door hinges as aluminium doors use less obvious hinges. Plastic doors tend to use quite chunky flag hinges which stand out far more on a plastic door than they do on an aluminium door where they are less obvious.

    The other thing to look at closely is the finish between the aluminium and the plastic. Assuming you are having white, have a look at the difference between the white plastic and the white painted aluminium. you will see a better gloss level on the aluminium variant and a more dull sheen on the pvc which is a standard characteristic of pvc/plastic.

    The aluminium sections will be stronger and the plastic sections will be reinforced internally with either aluminium or steel. This is not to say the plastic is weak, merely that plastic is weaker than metal and needs reinforcing.

    If you are able to look at an aluminium conservatory and a upvc one that will be the best way to compare but what you should find in an aluminium conservatory is improved aesthetics. Happy to help if you need more information.

  5. UPVC windows are always preferred by the ones who cannot afford aluminum windows because of the price difference I have seen mostly these plastic windows are installed but aluminum windows have their own specialty which make them better than UPVC windows.

  6. John Theo says:

    Hi – Apologies for the generic comment but we are looking to change our single glazed wooden windows to aluminium double glazed alternatives. Can you please provide a ball park estimate of cost difference between wood, aluminium and upvc? And also – is any of you aware whether Camden council in London gives permission to replace wooden frames with aluminium frames in conservation areas?
    Thanks in advance! John

  7. John I have got quotes for both Upvc and Alu – Difference is about 200% in terms of cost 3k for PVC, 9 k for Aluminium its a 2 bed house with 9 windows 1 french door

  8. Nick Dardalis says:

    Hello Jay, thanks for your comment. A 200% uplift from PVCu to aluminium is not right. Either whoever has quoted for aluminium doesn’t want to do the aluminium work and has uplifted the price accordingly or the source of supply of the aluminium windows by the quoting window company has several markups applied.

    For example some window companies buy aluminium windows from suppliers such as trade counters that do not manufacture and heavily mark up the product before selling it on. Others buy direct from aluminium manufacturers.

    A 30% -50% (maximum) uplift from PVCu to Aluminium is the norm. 200% uplift I would be very suspicious as to why.

    If your preference is towards aluminium and wish to obtain accurate and not suspiciously inflated prices, please do not hesitate to contact the website and we can put you in touch with reputable experienced aluminium and PVCu companies that can quote more realistically.
    Nick

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