Aluminium Windows Buying Guide

When choosing aluminium windows and doors, you have a huge amount of choice. With choice often comes confusing information around brands and where your new aluminium glazing comes from.

In this article, we explain a lot about the aluminium supply chain, explain the glazing industry and help you understand all the many businesses involved in creating your beautiful new windows, doors, bifolding doors and sliding doors.

aluminium windows buying guide

Where do aluminium windows and doors come from?

There are many aluminium windows and doors companies in the UK.  These vary from simple installation firms to those specialising in the design manufacture and supply.   of aluminium windows, aluminium doors, conservatories, bifolding doors for the residential market. In fact, when it comes to aluminium windows, the consumer does actually have quite a lot of choice.

If you are looking for new aluminium windows your first visit may be to your local window company.  If however you are seeking something specific or you have a particular “look” in mind, how do you go about finding the right aluminium window for you?

What aluminium windows are available in the UK today?

example of aluminium windows installed in a bespoke home
There are a wide variety of aluminium systems available to suit simple window replacements and the high end home.

The aluminium windows you will see in your local window showroom will be provided by Aluminium Systems Companies.  These are large, often multinational companies that specialise in the design and extrusion of aluminium window profiles.  These profiles, hardware and accessories that go to make a completed aluminium window or door are then supplied to a network of manufacturers that supply the window installation companies or some may even make and install themselves.  Click here to read more about Aluminium Systems Companies.

The most common window systems available in the UK today can be grouped together to help you compare.  Some window systems are considered “high end” owing to their design, engineering and flexibility.  These are chosen by architects for the finest homes and developments of high specification apartments.

Others are more mainstream and form the majority of the windows you will see in your typical window showroom.  There are also smaller or lesser known companies that may not have the larger market share but still design and produce some excellent specialist windows.

The following window  brands are considered high end in terms of design or capability and reflected in the pricing.  These enjoy an excellent reputation with  architects  and designers seeking the best engineered and most flexible window products to meet specific design requirements.  It is these that are also often chosen for Grand Designs type homes.

  • Schuco
  • Kawneer
  • Reynaers
  • Metal Technology
  • Origin Frames Ltd
  • Frameless Glass Curtains Ltd

The below window brands are of excellent quality but are considered more mainstream and typical of what you will find in many window showrooms.

  • SAPA
  • AluK
  • Smart Systems
  • Senior Aluminium

There are many other window systems available in the UK that have a smaller market share or concentrate on serving other markets.  Click here for a list of other aluminium systems companies

Where do my windows come from?

Windows are today manufactured in advanced factories utilising the latest in cutting, machining and assembly methods.
Windows are today manufactured in advanced factories utilising the latest in cutting, machining and assembly methods.

With so much choice available in the UK for aluminium windows and doors why can’t the homeowner see many “makes” of window products in one place? In other home improvement products such as kitchens, bathrooms, wall and floor tiles or bedrooms, a customer wishing to view will have greater choice in the range of products from different manufacturers on display.

In choosing a kitchen for example, the customer may see kitchens from Magnet, Howdens, Symphony, Poggenpohl or Smallbone all in one showroom. With aluminium windows and doors, often the customer will rarely see more than two, maybe three product ranges from different manufacturers.  With some smaller double glazing firms it is just one.   This applies to PVCu as well as aluminium.

In understanding how choice is presented to the consumer, one needs to understand the supply chain in aluminium windows and doors and where windows come from.

Where do double glazing firms get their windows?

There are generally two types of double glazing company supplying aluminium windows to the consumer.

  • The double glazing company that does not manufacture and buys all it’s products in from trade manufacturers or trade counters
  • The double glazing company that manufactures and installs it’s own products.

Whatever type the window company is there are several factors that determine what “make” of window will be offered to the end user.

Bought in products

There are over 14000 window companies active in the UK today.  These range from the very large fabricators supplying the double glazing showrooms, medium sized fabricators, trade counters, those that manufacture and/or supply only and those that only install.

The vast majority of the typical double glazing showrooms in the high street and on retail parks do not manufacture but choose to buy in ready-made windows and doors.  Whilst already manufactured these windows and doors are never held in stock sizes.  Unless they are mass produced in volume such as for new build developments by house builders, windows and doors will always be made to order or made to measure.

Therefore there is little difference to a consumer if the windows they are buying are bought in or made on the premises.  The trade/supply only market in windows and doors is very active in the UK home improvement market, testament to how this type of supply works well.

For the company that buys in all the products it sells, the choice of product will depend upon the trade manufacturer they choose to buy from. Several factors will determine this such as:

  • service levels from their chosen supplier
  • the price of the bought in product and what margins it offers the retailer
  • the diversity and flexibility of the overall door and window suite such as contemporary and traditional looking windows
  • what types of installations it is suitable for such as crittall replacement windows or direct fix replacements
  • the sales support packages, quality of end user literature and technical information to enable the company to market and sell the products.

Aesthetics is also relevant as is quality and features of the window. Different windows can appeal in various ways.

Manufactured Products

To a company that manufactures and installs its own aluminium windows and doors, similar factors to bought in windows will also apply.  When a company decides to make it’s own products it will also consider:

  • The cost of the raw material as aluminium profile can vary in price from system to system.
  • The ease of fabrication. If a window is easier to make, there are greater margins to the manufacturer.
  • What assistance is offered by the systems company in providing tooling, training and support.
  • Service levels from the systems company.  If over time the manufacturer experiences late deliveries, incorrect material or general poor service this will impact the service they provide to their own customers.  They have to protect their own business interest and may look elsewhere.

In recent years aluminium has enjoyed a resurgence with more and more people realising the advantages of aluminium windows over PVCu.  Many  companies are now manufacturing more than one aluminium window system to capture market share and appeal to a wider customer base.

Window companies choosing the right window system to sell will also consider their local market.  Certain areas in the country have more Crittall Windows, or windows that require dummy sashes or perhaps are in an area with Mock Tudor type homes that require black and white windows.  Other areas consist of many new build homes.  Such factors will be important in choosing the right window system that can replace the old windows whilst retaining many of their original features.

 Window Guarantees and Remedial Work

In choosing what window system to provide, window companies will also look at their experience of the product.  Many window companies listen to the feedback from their experienced window fitters and surveyors.  If a fitter has ongoing problems installing a window, is finding it hard to glaze or prone to ongoing operational issues post-installation these could be valid reasons for not selling it.

Experienced window companies will monitor service calls and guarantee work to a product.  After all, if a window company is expected to guarantee window installations for 10 years, they have to buy in products that will be low maintenance. Guarantee or service work costs double glazing firms a lot of money!

Why don’t window companies sell many window systems?

There are several reasons for this.  The typical double glazing firm that mainly carries out domestic home improvement work will want to keep things simple with a basic product range.  These will employ  double glazing salesman – the more products he has available the harder it will be to sell.

Every window system is different technically and the ability to know all the aspects of many systems can present itself as a challenge for many window companies. They therefore choose to keep it simple with less systems on offer.

There are other more specialist window companies that not only do domestic window replacements but also work on commercial developments and bespoke homes.  These window companies are more likely to have a greater product knowledge and offer a wider range of window systems.  They will know that one system cannot meet every requirement every time.  They will therefore use their experience in working with their customer to provide the most suitable product for the application.

Our advice is this.  If you are happy with simply “new windows” to replace your old wood or pvc windows then the mainstream systems on offer will generally meet your needs.  If you are looking for something specific for a home extension or have a particular design brief in mind it is worth researching the market and seeing what other systems are on offer.  Contact us for help and advice.

Common features in aluminium windows.

There is a wide choice of aluminium windows available so it is worth doing your research.
There is a wide choice of aluminium windows available so it is worth doing your research.

With many aluminium window systems available in the market, does it really matter to the consumer what product they buy? Is the reality more simple in that most aluminium window systems look the same?

Window Aesthetics

It is true that most modern window systems are designed around a typical frame profile which for direct fix installations or for the replacement of old windows is typically 70mm or 75mm frames front to back.

The mainstream aluminium systems companies offer windows with this frame depth and options such as 50mm or 55mm variants for fitting into hardwood subframes or stone mullions. Additionally, there are square, profiled, ovolo or chamfered outer frames. Similarly with aluminium vent/sash sections most systems companies offer flat, profiled, square, ovolo or chamfered. If you compare many window systems side by side it is often difficult to differentiate one from the other.

Today, most common window systems share typical and similar features with very few window systems having something so unique and instantly different to each other.

There are always exceptions to this rule with some very sophisticated window systems such as Schuco Systems, Reynaers or Kawneer.  These types of windows can be manufactured on a more bespoke basis.  Additionally they are available with specific acoustic, bullet and blast resistance if needed!

Similarly, most systems companies offer Crittall Replacement Windows, tilt and turn, reversible windows, windows for high rise or heavy duty applications, internally or externally beaded windows etc.

Window Finishes

Most Aluminium windows will be polyester powder coated.  There are over 200 possible colours available in powder coated windows including metallic, textured and wood effect colours.  Windows are also available with different colours inside and out.

With so much colour choice available, consumers are exploring the use of bolder colour schemes.  If your windows are for a coastal or property that is particularly exposed, you can specify your windows with a more durable polyester powder coating that will be guaranteed for longer against the elements, salt or other contaminants.

Window Security

All modern window systems available today will meet the relevant industry standards for security.  Whether these meet British Standard BS7950 or Secured by Design, you can generally be confident that windows will utilise the best in locking systems, handles and overall window security.

Window U Values

A U value is a measure proving how how energy efficient a window is  including the glass.  This is to comply with new Building Regulations that came into effect in October 2010.  Windows will either use U Values or Window Energy Ratings similar to the energy ratings found in domestic appliances .

Modern Aluminium Windows today are available in A, B and C Window Energy ratings and with very low U Values.  Some people may consider the overall energy rating of window as very important, others will simply choose the window that looks the best even though it may only be available with a C Rating.

Glass Options

Glass Technology as improved dramatically in recent years.  You have a choice of using different types of glass around the home providing varying levels of light control and general comfort.  Glass today can help you with Heat Retention, Privacy, Noise Control, security, self cleaning properties and much more.

So can a consumer see many makes of windows all under one roof?

The short answer is probably not. The majority of double glazing firms will only deal with a limited range (as explained above). For a consumer to see the full range of aluminium doors and windows this means hours of research on the internet and visits to multiple showrooms. And lots of questions to eager sales people.
Alternatively, if you do want to be put in touch with aluminium window suppliers and manufacturers that can offer a wide range of aluminium systems, please contact us.

A consumer who chooses to research the many aluminium window systems on offer has several choices:

  • Firstly, contact the systems companies directly and ask for a list of approved installers in the area that provide that system.
  • If you have a specific product in mind, speak to a reputable and experienced double glazing firm that has access to other trade manufacturers and may be able to source that product for you.
  • Speak to an architect. They will have worked with many of the aluminium systems companies already.

Is there is a “best” aluminium window?

There is no best system window product although some are better designed and engineered than others.
There is no best system window product although some are better designed and engineered than others.

There are some window systems such as Schuco Systems and Reynaers Aluminium Systems that are widely used in high end homes and premier construction projects.

However the same can be said for other aluminium door and window systems such as SAPA, Metal Technology and AluK that are also widely specified by architects as well.

There are also specialist manufacturers such as Frameless Glass Curtains, Origin Frames and Greenways Architectural also widely used in many types of homes whether for the replacement of old windows and doors or for new extensions and new build projects.

Whilst it is true some have better design features or greater engineering behind them, most residential windows from any of the leading systems companies will be perfectly suitable for residential applications. Aesthetics may vary from system to system but generally each meet the current standards of security, thermal efficiency and weather performance.  Your budget will also be a deciding factor.

Commercially there are many more factors in supplying aluminium windows and the products vary greatly from system to system, hence the involvement of architects.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you’d like more information about purchasing aluminium windows.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Sue Jackson says

    Hi,
    Is it possible to buy aluminium windows and frames and an external door and frame for my builder to fit in the garage conversion? I live in Penrith, Cumbria.
    If so, can you recommend companies to me.
    Thanks
    Sue

    • Nick Dardalis says

      Hello Sue

      Due to the increasing volume of comments, we are struggling to manage these via the comment forms. Therefore, please can you use our contact form where these are managed and always responded too.

      Kind regards
      Nick

  2. Justina says

    Hello,
    We’re looking to replace our kitchen and bathroom windows in a 1930s house in Aldershot. We like the slimmer frames but not sure whether we will be able to achieve the same look when we’ll replace the bow windows in a few years time. We haven’t approached any of the windows companies yet – any suggestions?

  3. Theresa Francis says

    Hello

    WE have just purchased a 1950s house in Bridgend and want to replace the ghastly uovc with black aluminium windows in a crittal style – we have pictures of the originals. I have had quotes from a local do u or glaxi g firm that seems to prefer to install black uovc. I have just been in touch with an aluminium manufacturer in Bridgend and am just wondering if this is a better route. Have you any suggestions of the best way forward please
    Theresa Francis – thank yiu

    • Nick Dardalis says

      Hello Theresa. I presume you told the local company you wanted to replace your PVCu windows so why they’re again suggesting PVCu even in black is a bit surprising.

      By far the biggest reason for going down the aluminium route is the slimmer sight lines. Even a PVCu window such as the Liniar slim sash doesn’t come near the aluminium sight lines. So the best thing to do is go talk to some people that sell aluminium windows just as happily as PVCu.

      Aluminium will be the more expensive option but I do recommend you looking at the windows and of course, side by side with a PVCu to get an idea of the visual differences.

      Hope this helps, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’ve any questions or need further information. 
      Kind regards
      Nick 

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