I think one of the nicest things to come out of the design revolution in the past decade or so is the rise of the mechanical joint on PVCu frames. A clean look (if done well) that replicates one of the stand-out features of a traditional timber window.
We see it everywhere now. Timber alternative companies like the Residence Collection and Evolution are good examples of companies who pushed this design point. And we’re seeing it explode across the PVCu market. Just about every fabricator and systems company now has a “heritage” range of some kind that also includes a mechanical joint, at least on the outer frame if not the sash too. No welds to be seen.
So how long before we start to see the end of the PVCu weld? The arguably ugly design feature that hasn’t always been the best selling point for the PVCu product?
Driven by demand
The rise of the mechanical joint has been mainly driven by home owners wanting a PVCu product that looks more like timber. Of course timber was never welded. It never had diagonal lines going off in each corner. They were always nice, clean, straight joints that gave the frame impact and style. So PVCu has started to follow suit.
Now, we have a wide range of specialist timber alternative windows and doors, and heritage styled window systems, that all incorporate a mechanical joint in at least the outer frame, if not not the sash too. No more welds on those products.
The more this part of the PVCu sector grows, the less welds we are going to see. Home owners are going to get used to the sight of mechanical joints on their windows and doors. And demand for PVCu that looks less like plastic and more like wood continues to grow every year.
We can fully expect to see the use of mechanical joints on PVCu windows and doors to rise year after year, perhaps permanently. So, it begs the question, is the PVCu weld set to die out?
A reserve for the bargain basement
I suspect that before long, perhaps in three to five years, a high number of PVCu fabricators will be offering mechanical joints as standard on their products and ditching the weld for good. And it won’t just be the ones operating within the timber alternative market. Even mid to high-end “shiny White” fabricators could look to the mechanical look as a way to improve their offering.
There will be one part of the market that may hang on to the PVCu weld for much longer though and that would be the “value” part of the market. The ones selling PVCu windows for as cheap as possible for home owners who are looking for a cheap fix to a problem or see windows and doors as a less valuable investment to their home. Mechanical joints cost more than a weld, and so the weld will remain a characteristic of the cheaper end of the market for a long time to come.
The market continues to split in two very different directions. There is the increasingly large part of the market which sees it’s future in the higher end, higher quality part of fenestration. This is where characteristics like PVCu welds will die out and mechanical joints will become the norm. The cheap end of the market, where price is the only major selling point is where luxuries like mechanical joints will be dropped in favour of the simpler weld. It may not look great, but you get what you pay for.
PVCu welds will naturally become better over time however. Polishing is getting better, and much money has been invested in machinery that can create a weld that is almost seamless. Modern welds are a world away from the older generation versions and the very basic products that carry those deep, unsightly welds which really do steal the attention.
But, if we see home owner demand for PVCu windows and doors that look like timber continue to rise rapidly, as has been the case in the last few years, we will see welds being dropped from ranges and mechanical joints replacing them.
Good for the industry? All feedback and thoughts welcome via the comments section below.
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