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Choosing uPVC or aluminium for windows

Aluminium bifold patio doors
White uPVC window with ivy covered wall

When property owners decide to replace windows and patio doors they can often be faced with a choice - aluminium or uPVC.

They are not the first to be faced with the dilemma and it is not an easy decision when it comes to the installation of windows in domestic or commercial properties.

We take a hard look at the benefits and drawbacks in the uPVC versus aluminium debate to help customers make the best decision when it comes to installing new windows.

uPVC or unplasticised Poly Vinyl Chloride has been a popular material for window frame manufacture since it became widely available in the since the 1980s.

It has many advantages over traditional timber window frames being much more durable and resistant to rot with a long lifespan and small maintenance overhead.

But uPVC windows don't last forever and although they degrade at a much slower pace than timber frames many will need replacing after 20 to 30 years.

Windows made of aluminium have similar properties to uPVC, being hard wearing and resistant to rot (aluminium, unlike many metals, does not rust) and high-quality frames will last longer than uPVC before they need replacing, often 50 years or more.

The thermal efficiency of uPVC vs aluminium windows

With the emphasis on carbon footprints these days it is vital that modern window frames are thermally efficient.

Until recently uPVC frames won this battle as the material had low heat conductivity compared to aluminium. Heat could pass through aluminium much more easily making aluminium windows less thermally efficient.

However, technological advances in recent years mean modern aluminium window frames and doors feature innovative thermal features built inside the frame that cuts down substantially on the heat loss.

Some manufacturers of aluminium doors and window incorporate a special heat resistant gel into the frame to provide highly effective heat insulation.

Nowadays, when it comes to thermal efficiency, there is not much difference between uPVC and aluminium windows with both offering up to A++ (WER) window energy ratings.

By law, all newly installed windows must be at least C rated so it is worth checking out the WER figure before choosing which type of window to install.

Soundproofing of uPVC and aluminium frames

Soundproof windows and doors are often a high priority for customers, especially those that live in a noisy area.

Soundproofing is one area where uPVC does beat aluminium. Sound waves lose power more quickly in softer materials like plastic and timber. When it comes to soundproofing windows the difference between uPVC and timber is negligible while aluminium, being a metal cannot really compete.

This is not to say that aluminium windows are poor at soundproofing, only that the other materials have a slight advantage when it comes to blocking outside noise.

However, it is worth pointing out that the most effective soundproofing comes from the glass panes rather than the frame. Customers who opt for double glazing or triple glazing will get much higher levels of soundproofing.

Those that live in very noisy neighbourhoods may favour uPVC windows but for most homeowners the difference in soundproofing is negligible and other factors play a bigger role in making a choice.

The security level of uPVC vs aluminium frames

Both aluminium and uPVC windows are appreciably more secure than timber windows which can be vulnerable to forced entry if they are not in good condition.

The levels of security that any window provides is mainly determined but the quality of the locks that are installed with it.

It really makes no difference which window material you opt for aluminium, uPVC or timber as long as they have robust, modern, multipoint locking but be aware that timber frames can decay quickly if not properly maintained.

Aesthetic qualities of aluminium and uPVC windows

Because metal is stronger than plastic aluminium window frames are usually much thinner than uPVC, which gives adds to the clean, elegant look that is very popular in modern homes.

Slim window frames also improve sightlines through the glass panel so a property situated in a large garden or beautiful surroundings will benefit from the use of aluminium windows or sliding patio doors.

They may provide slimmer frames, but aluminium is robust enough to carry large panes of glass reducing the need to divide large window areas into multiple glass panes, which again means better views and allowing in more natural light.

uPVC window frames tend to be bulkier with thicker frames and more restricted areas of glass

Colours and finishes of uPVC and aluminium windows

White uPVC tends to be relatively cheap and it is the most common colour seen in homes and other properties. Modern technology had made many other colours available for uPVC windows and you can also get wood effect finishes that look remarkably authentic.

Aluminium windows also come with in many colours and finishes. Being metal, robust smooth powder coating techniques enhance their durability and stylish look.

Highly realistic wood effect coatings are also available for those who prefer to combine the classic, traditional appearance of wood with the durability of aluminium.

The price of uPVC windows vs aluminium windows

Aluminium windows are usually more expensive like-for-like than uPVC due to a higher price of metals and the extra demands of manufacturing.

But, as aluminium takes longer to degrade than uPVC, it can be more cost-effective in the long term. Aluminium windows can also add more resale value to a property than uPVC as they look so much more stylish.

Price comparisons between the two are not always straight forward as there can be so many variables in window installations. These may include the quality of the construction materials, the size of the frame, the number of glass panes needed, the quality of available accessories such as handles and locks as well as the colours and finishes required.

Aluminium windows are gradually becoming more popular and the scale of production tends to be bringing down prices.

So what is the best window material - aluminium or uPVC?

Aluminium vs uPVC is not a clear cut decision. Much will depend on your budget, personal preferences and other factors such as soundproofing, the view and the standard of accessories you want.

There is little difference between uPVC and aluminium windows at many levels; both rate well for thermal efficiency and security and modern windows come in a variety of colours and finishes.

uPVC windows are more affordable than aluminium, like-for-like but the overall cost will depend on a host of factors such as the levels of soundproofing and security you require.

Talking to window installation experts such as Select Window Systems can help you decide which is the best for your property. And if you still can't decide If you can't decide between uPVC or aluminium windows, why not get window installation quotes for both?

But remember that it is important to try and compare like for like, taking into account the glazing options, frame colour, accessories and factor these into the overall costs of the window installation project.