Is PVCu better than aluminium for windows and doors?

Over the years we have written hundreds of pages about aluminium doors and windows, with many of these comparing the relative benefits between PVCu and aluminium.

We often discuss the advantages of aluminium covering the benefits of slimmer profiles, greater strength and huge availability/diversity of colour on offer.

picture of a house with pvcu windows
Where can PVCu windows be better than aluminium?

But with so much diversity in the door and window supply chain and the huge range of product choices available are there times when PVCu is a better choice than aluminium?

We are here to provide information about aluminium products but we also want to be balanced in our approach.  So in this article we address this question; In what circumstances is PVCu better than aluminium?

Windows: is PVCu better than aluminium?

For cost, widespread availability and for budget door and window solutions, PVCu does have the advantage. It can also be argued that the manufacturing process of PVCu windows particularly where they are joined and welded at the corners whilst not as clean looking as on an aluminium window provides a more weathertight seal.

Aluminium windows rely on cleats, small gap sealant and chevrons that all work together with a corner crimper to seal the window in the corner. PVCu windows are generally welded at the corners and this process does create a full seal.

However this does not put aluminium windows at a disadvantage or that aluminium windows will leak.  It is important to bear in mind that both aluminium and PVCu windows undergo extensive weather testing for air permeability, wind and the ingress of water. Both materials meet or exceed very detailed and extensive tests. Made right, the corner seals on aluminium windows can be just as weathertight as a welded PVCu window.

Where PVCu windows can offer some advantages compared to aluminium windows is with timber look windows and sash windows. In PVCu, these are arguably better than aluminium for aesthetic reasons.

Aluminium sash windows compared to PVCu

close up of a sliding sash window
The run through sash horn is an essential feature of original sash windows and here, PVCu arguably does this better than aluminium.

There are many different suppliers of sash windows in pvcu and these are very well designed, made and executed. Introduced in the early 1980’s to provide a cheap alternative to the many timber sliding sash windows fitted in many British homes, they have provided cost effective solutions.

The PVCu sash window has evolved greatly in recent years to become a very authentic looking window. Innovations include period hardware, authentic looking sash horns, parting beads, period-look glazing bars, butt jointing and a putty line appearance. Masterframe Windows as one example offer a wide range of very well made and designed quality sash windows and are well worth considering.

Aluminium sash windows by comparison are only available from a limited number of companies. Clearview Group have been making aluminium sash windows for many decades. Clearview have also made great inroads into creating authentic looking sash windows in aluminium but comparing this aluminium sliding sash window with a PVCu alternative we would say the PVCu window is aesthetically much better.

Other systems companies such as SAPA, Smart Systems, Schuco and others offer sliding windows as well but these are not really designed to replicate original sash windows. They are slim, strong, versatile and wide ranging but installed more in buildings requiring sash windows generally rather than period looking windows.

 Timber look PVCu windows compared to aluminium

The timber look window replacement market is also strong. Properties built with original wood windows often require a credible replacement that will give all the advantages of modern double glazing coupled with the appearance of the original windows.

close up of residence 9 window
The high quality and exceptionally well made Residence 9 window replicates timber windows brilliantly.

Evolution Windows, Residence 9, Liniar Flush Sash and other PVCu window brands all offer very authentic looking timber look windows in PVCu that are worth considering.

These quality PVCu brands offer very authentic looking windows with quality finishes, excellent traditional hardware and impressive aesthetics. The corner joints on these windows where offered with a “butt joint” to mimic old timber windows is a better looking option compared to aluminium.

Aluminium windows are also available from many systems companies with chamfered, ovolo and other traditional features but arguably not as good as the aforementioned PVCu products.

Origin Frames Ltd who manufacture the successful and market leading Origin Bifolding doors introduced a flush casement aluminium window that has many innovations and design features. It is the first all aluminium flush sash window in the UK and is selling very well indeed. If you are looking for an aluminium alternative it is also recommended as a timber look window. It is also totally suitable as a replacement window or for new build extensions and homes.

Entrance doors in PVCu compared to aluminium.

composite door showing where pvcu is better than aluminium
Composite doors can replicated “traditional” looking doors better than aluminium.

Look at Composite Entrance Doors and PVCu panelled doors and you will see these available virtually everywhere. They provide an easy solution to anyone looking for a front door.  Our website contains several articles about composite doors and other types of doors available to you.

When it comes to entrance doors PVCu doors and composite doors have some advantages. Cost is the first – these doors are very cheap to make and therefore priced accordingly. If you are looking for the cheapest entrance door and are restricted by budget, we would recommend these.

The second advantage is traditional design. The panels available with composite doors are designed to replicate traditional door styles. Whilst there are aluminium alternatives to these traditional designs, they are few and far between and much more expensive.

Again it is important to stress that the PVCu manufacturing processes and the cost of the raw materials makes these far cheaper than aluminium. A synthetic material will always be cheaper than a metal both to source and to produce.

Therefore for traditional looking doors (although contemporary styles are available) composite doors comprising either a GRP or solid wood core for the door leaf and matched to a PVCu outer frame may be more suitable if this is what you are seeking in a front door.

If you are looking for a robust and reliable entrance door at a low price it is unlikely you will find these in aluminium.

Contemporary versus traditional looking products.

So as you can see it is cost and replicating traditional features better that gives PVCu products an advantage. If these two factors are important in your choice of product then you may find your ideal product in PVCu.

Aluminium by nature of its strength and slim lines is probably regarded by many as the more contemporary solution although this is not really the true picture.  Contact us and with our advice, help in finding the right window company and product, you can create your ideal products in aluminium as well. This will involve a more detailed search compared to sourcing PVCu products.

Contact us and we can help you further.

Published on July 13, 2015