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, five factors will probably be important to them. Cost, weather performance, energy efficiency, security and quality.
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 five factors, both aluminium and PVCu windows and doors serve the market well and will generally meet most customer requirements.
There is no ‘bad’ alumnium window on the market.
We are frequently contacted with questions asking what is the best aluminium window or what aluminium systems should be avoided. The honest answer is that there is no bad aluminium window on the market. If you’ve ever had issues with a double glazing firm before, often it is how the windows are made and, importantly, how they’re installed that can compromise a product.
Aluminium systems companies invest substantial sums of money in designing and bringing to market a suite of aluminium windows and doors. These are accompanied by substantial technical and fabrication manuals. In addition, systems companies assist their fabricators with tooling, training and product support. Furthermore, aluminium windows today all meet or exceed established industry standards for quality, weather performance and security.
Therefore, it is not the aluminium system that is ‘bad’ but problems only arise with windows and doors when they are incorrectly made and installed.
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 reality is that most professional window companies will offer you a choice of materials. However, if a window company is criticising any material, we would advise you reconsider using them and looking elsewhere.
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 can 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.
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.
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 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 to PVCu. 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.