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 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.  The decision process will largely depend on the information presented to the customer that needs to be accurate and relevant.

If you are presently in the market for replacement windows or new windows for your home extension, one of the things you may be considering is what is the best material – aluminium or PVCu/upvc.

If you are new to replacement windows, much of what you will find out will be presented to you either through your own research or from a double glazing firm. Therefore it is important that you are presented with the right information by a double glazing salesman or the window company.

The basic facts about aluminium and PVCu windows.

For the majority of consumers looking to buy new windows or doors, four factors will probably be important to them. Weather performance, energy efficiency, security and quality.

close up of locking system

For security, energy ratings and weather performance, both PVCu and aluminium windows are tested to meet or exceed current standards.

For weather performance and security virtually all modern windows and doors available today will meet current British or European Standards. Therefore regardless of the material it is quite likely your new double glazing will have passed either Secured by Design, BS6375, PAS23/24 or other current standard covering these areas.

For Window Energy Ratings, both PVCu and aluminium windows are available in A, B or C rated windows or with low U Values. Current Building Regulations require a minimum C Window Energy Rating or 1.8Wm2K U Value.

The matter of quality will vary from product to product. There are cheap and expensive PVCu windows as there are aluminium. It is the design, manufacturing processes, market placement and other commercial factors that determine the quality aspects.

Therefore for these four factors, both aluminium and PVCu windows and doors serve the market well and will generally meet most customer requirements.

Additionally, both aluminium and PVCu windows will be fitted with the correct specification glass, fit for purpose hardware and will carry their respective guarantees for manufacturing, installation, colour fastness and general finish.

How double glazing is sold to the consumer

Much of what you read or hear about aluminium and PVCu windows will largely depend on the window firm and the double glazing salesman. There are many websites to be found comparing the various window materials but many of these are out of date and giving incorrect and out of date information.

A company that only specialises in pvcu windows may discredit another product citing reasons why it should not be considered. A company that is experienced in all door and window materials will be able to give accurate and balanced information about the advantages and disadvantages of each and its suitability for your home, individual requirements and budget.

The common myths around aluminium windows which are today untrue include:

  • That aluminium windows condensate
  • Aluminium windows are only used commercially
  • Aluminium windows are not low maintenance
  • Aluminium windows are not energy efficient
  • Externally beaded aluminium windows are not secure
  • Aluminium windows need hardwood subframes.

If you hear any of the above as part of a sales pitch, we recommend you seen an alternative window company to quote for your new windows and doors.

The Advantages of PVCu

The main advantage of pvcu windows is price. By nature of the cost of the raw material it is cheaper at source than aluminium. It is also logical to assume that a metal is generally more expensive than a plastic and aluminium windows will cost more.

The manufacturing processes involved in making PVCu windows are far less labour intensive than aluminium windows and doors that do not have the mass production techniques seen in many PVCu windows.

For this reason, the cost issue of PVCu windows gives them an advantage when it comes to their final price. It is generally accepted that aluminium will be the more expensive product.

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

Where PVCu windows may be better than aluminium

You are reading this article on an aluminium website but that does not mean that we do not possess knowledge of where PVCu windows can in fact be better than aluminium.

Secondary Double glazing offers a perfect solution to improving original sash windows such as these period timber windows

For the replacement of old sash windows, PVCu offers run through sash horns and authentic period hardware so is the better option aesthetically.

The PVCu replacement window market is diverse with a wide variety of products in the marketplace. There are a number of areas where PVCu can provide the better product for specific aesthetic reasons. Therefore if your property has a requirement for any of the following products the PVCu option may be better. Such products include:

Sash Windows
Timber Windows
Panelled Entrance Doors
Windows with the aesthetics of traditional wood windows.

For these products there are plenty of aluminium alternatives.  However it is fair to say aesthetically for traditional looking windows, PVCu lends itself better where things like run through sash horns, antique or period looking hardware on sash windows, corners replicating the joints on traditional wood joinery and moulded panels on doors.

Where aluminium windows are better than PVCu.

After. New windows with high specification glass, multi point locking and powder coated finish.

For the replacement of old Crittall Windows there is no better alternative than aluminium that can help retain the original features.

There are a great many excellent window companies that specialise in selling both PVCu and aluminium windows and they do this brilliantly.  Speak to most of these window companies and cost issue aside, it is aesthetics that generally convince a customer to go with aluminium over pvcu.

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 usually choose aluminium.

There is no better alternative to aluminium windows other than steel when it comes to the replacement of old metal or Crittall Windows.  Where art deco, traditional or character properties are desirable and full of charm, the windows play a huge part in their appearance.  Many properties have been ruined with standard window replacements removing many of their traditional features.  For these properties aluminium is perfect and designed especially for them.

Aesthetics advantages of aluminium windows.

The Major advantage aluminium has over pvcu is simple.  It is Aesthetics. Compare the sight lines of the SAPA Aluminium Window above to a typical plastic window below

The Major advantage aluminium has over pvcu is Aesthetics. Compare the sight lines of the SAPA Aluminium Window above to a typical plastic window below.

The aesthetic advantages of aluminium windows are demonstrated here where a standard PVCu window is placed below a current aluminium window.  Both are A rated windows. The slim lines, better looking corners and high gloss appearance is arguably superior to that of a standard PVCu window.

Other advantages of aluminium include:

Slim lines with strength.  Aluminium windows and doors despite being slimmer than aluminium can be made much larger and taller than PVCu.  This means aluminium is ideal for today’s more ambitious extensions and renovations where customers are looking to create large doors and windows, large glazed screens, panoramic glass walls and other modern designs.  Look on any programme featuring house renovations and it is rare you will see PVCu windows.

Colour advantages.  The powder coating process used on aluminium windows is sophisticated and extensive.  It can create satin, matt or gloss finishes, metallic shades, wood effects and even textured coatings.  Not only this but the guarantees and applications of powder coated windows exceed those of PVCu enabling aluminium windows to perform in demanding environments such as city centre, coastal, salt, chlorine and other areas where the outside environment may be harsher.

Quality of joints and mitres. Quality PVCu windows come with many different features such as timber look mitres or authentic period features on sash windows.  Whilst aluminium isn’t as good on these kinds of features yet, what it can provide is better mitres and aesthetics compared to standard PVCu casement windows.  The welded corners on pvcu windows can often look unsightly and inconsistent.  Where reverse butt welds are used on PVCu windows to join the mullions and transoms you will often see a cruciform where the two or three components are welded together.  Mechanical joints are available on PVCu windows but the majority choose the welded option.

How much more than PVCu should aluminium cost?

Typically the cost of an aluminium window should be no more than 50% to 65% more than PVCu.  These are the cost differences cited by many experienced professional window companies that sell aluminium windows as part of their standard product range and not as a premium product with an unnecessary price hike.

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.

It is very important to remember that the price points of PVCu windows vary substantially.  There are very cheap PVCu windows on the market which when compared next to aluminium will make the latter seem much more expensive.  Similarly there are upper market PVCu windows of exceptional quality that will make the difference seem much less.  Therefore, if you are being quoted for aluminium windows and they seem very expensive against a PVCu check what you are really comparing against. Find out what PVCu “system” you are being quoted for and contact us if you need help.

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. But if they are, contact us and we can help you with alternative sources of supply.

Other facts about aluminium windows.

The quality of an aluminium window cannot be put aside.  Not only is the polyester powder coating guaranteed for 25 years or even forty years with some special guarantees, it is well known that after 10 or 15 years a PVCu window will not look as good as an aluminium one.  The quality of the finish is different.

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 is superior to PVCu.

PVC windows by and large remain only suitable for residential installations. Aluminium doors as one example the fit for purpose product and the preferred choice in commercial installations where the long life, reliability and performance is acknowledged as being superior to that of any PVCu door.

Security of PVCu and aluminium windows.

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 glazing bead was evident did the pvc industry revert to internally beaded.  Separate articles on internally versus externally beaded windows explain more.  Further information on the security aspects of beaded windows  is also available. However be assured that an externally beaded aluminium windows is not less secure than an internally beaded one.

Therefore aluminium is regarded by professionals, architects and the discerning customer as being superior than aluminium.  Both aluminium and PVCu products today are excellent and have their place in the market.  Ultimately the customer chooses what they like and what they can afford.  But it is important to have accurate and correct information from an unbiased window company if you are considering both materials.

This website is an information resource to inform and advise about aluminium product but we also know our PVCu windows.   Many are still are not aware of what today’s aluminium windows can do and for the trade, there is more information about what is better, Aluminium or PVCu.

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    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. jason says

    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. Sharon says

    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. Rachel says

    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. Jay R says

    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

  9. Philip Turtle says

    Hi – am going to replace all the windows in my house and would prefer aluminium. Need to get 2 (max 3) quotes for the work but do not know who best to approach in the north west of England area (St Helens). Could you advise who to contact for supply & fit? Thanks

  10. says

    Hi Nick. We are remodelling an old barn and want to use black aluminium windows. Can you recommend suppliers in the West Sussex area of England.
    Your article was most useful having been looking at many window types.
    Juliet

  11. Roberta White says

    We have just decided on an aluminium conservatory against pvcu through the detailed pros & cons from our salesman & the price was 20% more. We already have pvcu windows/doors in the house (a mid-terrace) so could see the difference. The company, offices & factory, was local (30 min drive) and not one of the two major companies, who didn’t even offer us the choice or suggest we look into the options. They were also more “hard sell” so needless to say didn’t get our business.

  12. Hilary Tarleton says

    Hello there.
    We are looking at buying sliding patio doors approx. 2.5m x 2.5m. We are now leaning much more towards aluminium rather than UPVC because of the advice on this website. So thanks for the info so far. A manufacturer of ali has suggested we restrict our height to 2.4m (for our given width). They do make the doors to measure so I was surprised to hear about this restriction. Likewise the upvc supplier has recommended we restrict our height to 2.26m (for our given width.) Is there a technical reason why we have received these height restrictions (for our given width) ? Also, do you have any recommended ali/upvc suppliers in Cheshire please ? Thanks very much. HT

  13. joao coelho says

    I live in Faro Algarve, near the water. One of the problems of the current windows, of aluminum, is that we get lots of condensation in the winter and thus mold and since they are single pane, we also get some cold air in. For what i read pvc helps to control the condensation but it seems that aluminum also has its benefits such as durability and maintenance. Can some clarify the issue of humidity and condensation with regard to the two types of windows? And what other issues should i be concerned with since i live by the water.
    thank you.

  14. Kathy Johnson says

    Hi, I live in Deal, Kent. Please can you give me details of two companies who can quote for both pub and aluminium.
    Thank you, Kathy

  15. Lucy Dishington says

    Hi,

    Looking for reputable companies to quote for aluminium windows in our house in Surrey. Would be grateful if you could pass on some sensible contacts who won’t inflate quotes by 150% compared with plastic.

    Thanks.

  16. David Williams says

    I am looking for companies to quote for double glazing in East Yorkshire (near Hull and York). Can you help? Thanks.

  17. Matt says

    I am in a similar position to some of the above. Am embarking on a major improvement project for an existing property which requires new windows throughout. Am being quoted approximately double for white aluminium versus PVCu. Can you recommend any companies around the Cambridge area for supply and fitting please?

    Thanks in advance.

  18. says

    I’m quite amazed by the comments re Aluminium being twice the price of Upvc.I live in
    South Africa(Capetown) and Upvc is twice the price of Aluminium??.I am having my kitchen windows replaced with Alum due to the excessive Upvc price,can’t explain why the difference.

  19. says

    Both materials plastic or aluminum have their advantages and disadvantages is that the price is worth more to install PVC windows is up to us to decide what we prefer.

  20. sheena buchanan says

    Hi Nick
    We are contemplating black windows for the front of our house, however a web trawl turned up blogs and chat rooms complaining the black UPVC windows had a tendency to warp as the plastics were susceptible to expansion and contraction. Do you concur that this is indeed a problem?
    My brother recommended we look into aluminium, although I fear the cost could be prohibitive, however if it meant the house had more ‘kerb appeal’ and added value in a future sale we would give it far more consideration.
    I have left a message for Merstham Glass to call me back and I would like to get other quotes. Are there any other companies around the Old Coulsdon (CR5 postcode) that you would recommend me asking for a quote.
    Also, are you familiar with Merstham Glass and would you recommend them?
    Many thanks
    Sheena

    • Nick Dardalis says

      Good afternoon Sheena, thank you for your comment on our website. Being fair to PVCu, I would refer to it as simple thermal expansion rather than “warping”. It is well known that PVCu will expand two and a half times more than aluminium and particularly on summer days or south facing elevations it is a problem. I have it with my own white PVCu French Doors in my own home on a south facing garden that are hard to close and lock when the sun has been on them all day. There is nothing you can really do about it as a characteristic of most products that swell when hotter.

      Aluminium will expand much less and I’ve yet to see it as much of a problem on an aluminium window. They will also undergo thermal expansion but far less noticeable.

      As regards the price of aluminium windows vs PVCu. This is one of the most commonly asked questions we get emailed about. As we say on our website, it really depends who is selling it and what you’re comparing it against. For example:

      A company that prefers to sell pvcu but also supplies aluminium may put an uplift on the product to make the cost of it favour pvcu alone.
      Another company (wrongly) thinks aluminium should be sold as a premium product and will reflect this in their prices accordingly.
      Another factor for the price differences is who they source their windows from and this affects the retail prices. We give more information here http://www.aluminiumtradesupply.co.uk/9308/aluminium-windows-buying-guide/.
      Finally a company that views aluminium windows as part of their standard product range and is happy to sell you whatever material is best for you and your home in our experience won’t inflate their prices for aluminium, applying the same profit margins etc as they would to their other windows. This being the case, our research and experience with these types of companies typically demonstrates you should not be paying more than 60% for aluminium compared to PVCu.

      However it is important to also compare like for like. There are some very cheap PVCu windows on the market and some very expensive ones. So if you’re comparing, say a SAPA, Smarts or AluK aluminium window (all three round about the same retail prices) against a very cheap make of PVCu the difference will appear greater. Compare that against a quality PVCu window such as Liniar or Residence 9 as just two examples and the differences will obviously appear less. This is another factor in comparing aluminium to PVCu, what it is your comparing against.

      As regards Merstham Glass, I have known of this company for a number of years (since the late nineties) I know them as a company that have dealt with aluminium windows for a long time so confident you should get good service and prices.

      Hope this helps, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>