PVCu vs Aluminium Reviewed by Momizat on . This is probably one of the greatest debates in our industry, and probably will be until the day we all retire! Is PVCu better than Aluminium? Me, @NigelGrantUp This is probably one of the greatest debates in our industry, and probably will be until the day we all retire! Is PVCu better than Aluminium? Me, @NigelGrantUp Rating:
You Are Here: Home » aluminium » PVCu vs Aluminium

PVCu vs Aluminium

PVCu vs Aluminium

This is probably one of the greatest debates in our industry, and probably will be until the day we all retire! Is PVCu better than Aluminium?

Me, @NigelGrantUpvc, @AlumTradeSupply and @LegacyWindows have been having an argument (debate) on the pros and cons of PVCu windows vs Aluminium. Both materials have their pro’s and cons and both have their uses in particular areas. But overall, which is best?

For me, it’s PVCu. I’ve sold PVCu all my life and firmly believe it is the best material. I’d just like to clarify at this point that I’m not saying aluminium is rubbish. Just that PVCu is better. The wood grain effects have come on leaps and bounds over recent years, providing arguably some of the best quality imitation wood effects.

Then of course there is energy efficiency. They were the first to get the energy A ratings and continue to improve year on year at a better rate than ali windows. Arguably, there are triple glazed aluminium systems out there now which boast excellent U-values and energy ratings, but PVCu is there too.

As with everying, there is the eco benefits to think about. Yes PVC polymers are oil based, but the great advantage with PVC is that is can be recycled as many times as is necessary. As far as I’m aware aluminium windows are harder to recycle into new aluminium windows. And when it comes to wood, well there’s still a lot of wood coming into this country not 100% legal…but that’s another conversation! A good quality PVCu window or door will last a good 30 years, is that as long or longer than ali ones, or do aluminium ones last longer? I’d like to think they are similar life spans.

On a colours basis, both systems can be sprayed any colour, so I don’t think there is a clear winner in the department.

Looks is a big issue for me. I know that aluminium systems are coming a long way when it comes to different types of profiles, but there are still so many with clinical, square and chunky lines. For residential houses in this country I just don’t think they are the ideal choice. The softer lines of Chamfered of Sculptured edged frames gives PVCu frames a more homely look which does suit the mass majority of residential properties in this country.

Security has to be one of the biggest factors too. PVCu doors and windows now come with a plethora of locking mechanisms and security cylinders. Get the right combo from the right manufacturer and PVCu doors and windows are some of the hardest to break in to. I’ll be honest, I’m not that up to speed on the technical securities of aluminium systems so I’m going to rely on my super duper ali readers to put me right on this.

Then there is the cost. Aluminium is notoriously more expensive than PVCu, and for me, unjustifiably. Both systems come in high quality formats, both achieve high energy ratings, all colour options and wood grain options are available – so why the extra cost? PVCu is cheaper, but provides all the things an ali window can. This I think is why over four fifths of the residential market is dominated by PVCu.

There was a comment on Twitter earlier where it was said the reason for this dominance was because of a lack of education. I don’t think so. It was only 30 odd years ago where a lot of windows and doors in this country were aluminium, so it’s not as if this material was a myth and isn’t just being talked about. People have lived with aluminium for years, I believe people are just picking their preferred option – PVCu. If people truly wanted aluminium, I believe they would be asking for it in greater numbers. Up to press, I haven’t found that much of a demand for it in my area. Maybe this is just a North/South thing.

I know this is an issue which splits the industry. But please keep the comments clean but with banter! ;)

About The Author

Number of Entries : 1639

Comments (25)

  • Ian Miller

    I will reserve my comments as i am a Fitshow Man with unbiased views i will just say horses for courses :)

    Reply
  • Leon

    1.If you wanted a wood grain window buy a timber window,
    2.WER with the advancement of dgu the type of outer frames is becoming less important, and the slimness of some Ali windows is a advantage when calculating a WER
    3. Security ! One is plastic one is metal, need I say more.
    4. Cost, why would any Ali system company want to compete on cost with a PVC market that has a shrinking market share, why else would PVC system companies be launching Ali systems!
    5. Environment, you realy wanna go there! you need to see the wood from the trees, one is the earths 3rd most abundant resource, the other a man made non bio degradable material!

    Reply
  • nige

    Leon, i`ll answer your points , even tho i have a few more points myself.
    1.Most people don`t want wood because of maintance cost/time.
    2.Of course frames have a importance, that`s why more chambered frames have been designed.The slim sight lines of Ali window wouldn`t count. If the bullshit, made up solargain factor that the BRFC use on WER wasn`t around.
    3.Ali external beading,need i say more?
    4.Ali cost more , no problem there..
    5.Pvc 35 year life exp, recycle at least 10 x

    I do think Ali Bi-Folds are better than pvc !

    Reply
  • nick

    You know I’m a fan DGB but you’re way off the mark on this post. I shall respond accordingly with a post on my website. But i love these sorts of debates and well done for bringing it to peoples attention.

    Reply
    • DGB

      I look forward to reading your response! And I’m glad your a fan, and I’m happy to say I’m a fan of yours too! Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  • Peter

    What a ridiculous debate. As a 40 year aluminium man I can categorically state that timber, uPVC and aluminium all have their place in this world. It would be a very boring world to live in if every building was identical with identical fenestration.
    We have fitted aluminium windows into high end houses and terraced houses as I am sure uPVC men have. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not the salesman.

    Reply
    • DGB

      Peter, I don’t think it is a ridiculous debate. Each type of material has it uses. I think this post provides a platform for people to champion the material they use, there’s nothing ridiculous about that, and I’m certainly not saying that all windows should be one type!

      Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  • Peter Dyer

    OK. Could I make a first point that it would be better to have a debate that included timber in it so we would be discussing PVC, Ali & timber. We manufacture timber and PVC and have done so since 1977. We used to make ali but this was before my time so I cannot speak with much authority on the product and therefore will give my observations of where we have won, and lost, business to ali.

    Some simple observations would be that a WELL DESIGNED timber window does not have any overlap into the PVC or ali marketplace because of the significant extra cost. This is essentially due to the measures required in design to protect the timber from the usual PVC industries approach to bashing timber being it will rot in a few years and require maintenance every 12 months. I should say that there are some very poor timber windows on the marketplace, normally found in the domain on the new build’s where cost is the prime concern of the decision-maker. We therefore do not work in this marketplace and return tenders that are sent our way knowing we will not be competitive. We have made windows with the correct drained and ventilated systems since 1993. We have also continually improved the design when problems (which manifest themselves in expensive remedials for the business) occur. At this point, we design out the issue and, whilst we are not perfect, the product now is fantastic. Of course I’m going to say that you will all be saying and I accept it’s obviously what I would say but I genuinely believe it and I am the one who gets the phone call when the problems occur so it’s in my best interest to do it right!

    DGB mentions timber from unsustainable sources. True, there is an element of this with hardwoods but a lot of product these days is engineered softwood sourced mainly from Europe where chain of custody and FSC/PEFC controls are in place and well audited. They are also in place in Africa for the responsible sourcing of all the hardwood timbers we procure but perhaps it would be naive to assume all the stock we purchase is from sustainable sources.

    So a key point for me is that whatever you manufacture, design it to last as long as possible. The BRE are giving some timber windows a 60 year product lifecycle. This compares with a 35 year lifecycle given to PVC. I’m not sure where ali stands in this regard. The areas that will fail first would be the glazing and ironmongery so you could argue the more simple the ironmongery, the better as it will be easier to maintain and replace.

    So what am I saying (I must wrap this up!). I believe ali is a fantastic product for curtain walling, shop fronts, commercial entrances etc due to its durability and strength. It also makes a fantastic material for bi-fold doors and for extremely slim sightline windows that neither PVC or timber can touch. This does appeal to some homeowners in the retail marketplace and I do like the look of it when installed. It is also the best product for achieving stringent wind load calculations.

    Timber is the most attractive product in my opinion. I believe best suited to the conservation marketplace where traditional aesthetics are so important. It has the flexibility of limitless section designs at relatively low cost (if the tooling is designed and managed in-house which we do). Its colour can be changed over its lifecycle and it is bought almost as a piece of furniture. It pulls on our heart strings for whatever reason and if design well, will last the longest of all the products. My evidence of this is the age of the timber sash sliders that are being replaced. We completed a commercial job in Kent where the timber windows were over 120 year old. It also, if managed from sustainable sources, has the least environmental impact due to its embodied carbon, extended product lifecycle and excellent end of life recyclability (is that a word?!)

    Finally PVC. It will be the leader in terms of volume in our industry for years to come. This is due to the price point first and foremost I think, the fact it’s low maintenance, quick to manufacture and works! It’s an excellent product in the main and suitable for the vast majority of housing stock we have in the UK. With Dan Gill’s R9 (small plug, we are manufacturing), “the Storm” from Evolution Windows, Alan and Ray’s work at Masterframe and (another plug) our Beaumont range, I think the perception of PVC is changing and we have the opportunity to give consumers a fantastic array of choices based on the thee principle materials (PVC, Ali & timber).

    I honestly don’t think there is much overlap in the market sectors they operate assuming we are looking a quality, well design products in each sector and consumers have never had it so good with the choices we give them.

    Reply
    • Leon

      Hi peter, I agree with everything you said, but in essence you think a composite window is the best!

      Reply
      • Peter

        Sorry, Forgot composites, even tho we sell them. My memories going.

        Reply
      • Peter Dyer

        Hi Leon, I can see what you mean! My experience of composite or ali-clad systems is that they have good market penetration in the high rise city centre flat/office developments. They also seem to be tilt and turn in design in the main.

        We have a select few customers who market the product in the retail sector and this is a more UK based product (open out not open in) and I understand that it is a premium price.

        Again not my strongest of suits but a very valid option on our marketplace, Just wish we imported less of this style of window as certainly the high rise open in solution is often brought in from mainland Europe.

        PS Might find space to manufacture it here you never know!

        Reply
    • DGB

      Peter – that is probably one of the best responses to a post I’ve read, and all comments I agree on fully! Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  • nick

    An excellent response from Peter Dyer. Spot on!

    Reply
  • Ben Warren

    As with everything it is a matter of personal choice when it comes down to pure aesthetics. We have customers one day who want contempory slim sightlines, and then the next day you get someone asking for full features including ovolo beads and frames, it is entirely down to the final end user’s choice. I dont think there is much more you can say about looks to be honest.

    When the matter of quality comes into it, then it becomes a different matter. How many uPVC companies (Everest excluding) offer a 25 year guarantee on the finish of their product, which we do and numerous other fabricators do. Polyester Powder Coating is a higher quality finish than any Colour Bonding to uPVC and so will always last longer, especially when it is applied above 60 microns for marine applications or severe weather areas. Can you imaging putting foiled or sprayed uPVC windows on a sea-front with a high sun factor, they would warp, discolour and ruin within 10 years, where as it aluminium counterparts would still be going strong.

    Next is application. No uPVC product would ever be suitable for Shopfronts, Medium/High Rise curtain walling, Automatic Entrance Doors etc. I understand that these are lower volume products but this isnt really the point here, its just that uPVC just doesnt have the structural capability to be viable. I still laugh when we have enquiries for uPVC shopfronts and i try to tell contractors/builders that we’ll see them in a few years for replacements!

    Cost, unfortunately is often the deciding factor when it comes to customers these days. In an ideal world, no body really wants a mass produced uPVC casement which is the same as a million others in the country, but having the finances available to have bespoke windows can be a luxury. We try to explain the “added value” which aluminium offers a project. The “wow” and “keeping up with the Jones’s” factors are very important sales tools. We try to reliably inform all of our customers about the inherent benefits of aluminium products over uPVC, without trying to take the positives of uPVC away; its cost effectiveness and its user friendliness. However, these qualities are actually what detracts from uPVC as a quality product, as it has become a volume product which any tom, dick, or harry can now use, and despite what FENSA, CERTASS etc say they still do. No one in their right mind would undertake an aluminium project if they knew the possible pitfalls.

    To follow Peter’s comment, i cannot have too much input, as its a market i know very little about. We distribute for Kloeber to trade customers, and so have little imput from end users. The same applies for composite windows.

    To surmise, the rapidly growing aluminium market is showing how aluminium is on the rise as a building product, and if we could just get the systems companies to have the same foresight as the uPVC systems companies then this would accelerate at an increased rate. If you remove the “subjective” sides of the arguments, personal choice and finance, then Aluminium is clearly the superior product across the board, but you cannot discount a product which has over 80% of the market share.

    Reply
  • phil

    i think peters post on timber
    windows was a little short and needs a few more lines !!

    Reply
  • Mr Person

    Well I don’t know what all this Aluminium, Timber and Composites talk is all about….

    You’ve got what you’ve got… and unless it’s that nasty plasticy stuff that murders babies while they sleep, and causes stress and anxiety to this country’s elite, all you need in my experience is to turn your heating up to full blast (get the butler chappy to throw more petrol soaked wood on the fire if you have too) and close the heavy curtains over any holes in the walls that you may have!

    Mr Person, at English Heritage
    Names may have been changed to protect from rabid abuse

    Reply
  • Glen goddard

    All have their purpose but
    Upvc for windows
    Composite for resi doors
    Ali for commercial
    See all have their place

    Any one know why my phones quite today?

    Reply
  • Mr Person

    And don’t forget the heavy curtains….. We must all do our bit against global warming!

    Reply
  • Mr Person

    In fact… lead curtains stop most heat loss and are probably the heaviest curtains of all…!

    Reply
  • mark

    Ali is the best .it has an inherent strength.plastics cheap and cheerfull .I’ve never seen plastic curtain walling afterall .

    Reply
  • Leon

    Mr warren and mr dyer both seem to sum up the situation ideally, there is a place for all these differsnt materials, them both seem to talk with authority and experience, and they both agreed Ali is best………!

    Reply
  • nick

    Fanatastic post. Love topics like this. At the end of the day its about making all of us aware of what is out there in the marketplace. Here is my post which I hope is balanced. http://www.aluminiumtradesupply.co.uk/5099/what-is-better-aluminium-or-pvcu/

    Reply
  • igors

    Wooden (timber, koka logi) windows are more good, they are more ecological, they look better, and feel better.

    Reply
  • Amar

    Hi , I am from India, am planning to start a manufacturing unit for UPVC windows and doors here. want to know if it would be feasible and i think i could start trading and selling the products for any of you people who would like to have a base here in India.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

© DGB 2013 Powered By Wordpress, Goodnews Theme By Momizat Team

Scroll to top