Windows and Doors - UPVC versus Wood
What are the advantages of UPVC Units compared to their timber counterparts? Artisan Central member Carl Hewson of Lion Rouge says there are many to consider....
I am often asked if I supply Wood Windows and Doors to which my answer is no. To highlight why, I would like to explain some of the benefits of using UPVC products over traditional timber units.
Whilst trying to be as objective as possible, I must admit that I do have a vested interest in UPVC units. Although aesthetically I like wooden windows and doors and can appreciate that some of the higher end products can be fabulous, I feel that with wood it is imperative to buy the very best you can afford to counter the disadvantages.
Addressing all the aspects that I feel pertinent to this post in point form, I have decided to avoid the ‘value’ and ‘budget’ areas of both products as I feel it is contradictory to how I feel. I do not supply this standard of product in UPVC and it would not be fair to compare premium UPVC products against the cheaper wooden timber versions.
This is understandably a top concern for most prospective customers. Particularly with older properties everyone is keen to keep the character which I entirely agree with. Wood windows and doors do fit the bill nicely for that reason, however, a well designed and installed UPVC window can equally compliment an old property.
Plain white UPVC can be a bit too bright for some tastes, darker woodgrain colours are, however, available as well as white and cream textured woodgrains which can look natural. These are foiled products that have the same texture as Golden Oak and Rosewood but are a lot subtler in colour and really do give a good imitation of wood windows.
2. Profile widths
I often get asked why the new UPVC window frames are much larger and thicker than the old wooden frames, they are. What I reply is that this would be like comparing a Ford Model T to a new Ford Mondeo- two totally different products for different times.
To give an example of the actual difference in profile thickness between UPVC and wooden frames I had the opportunity recently to measure for some replacement windows at a property which had existing good quality wood windows. When I measured up, the width of the wood frame to the glass was 10cm, compare this to the thickness of a UPVC frame, which is 12cm and you soon realise that although there is slightly more visible glass area in a timber framed window, the difference really is negligible against the benefits of UPVC.
3. Draughts and sealing aspects
Wooden windows and doors have gasket seals in place round the edges, much the same as UPVC units, however, they tend to be slightly different in design and in my opinion not as good. The UPVC gaskets are co-extruded in the profile during manufacture and are basically a tube of rubber round the edges of the windows. There is also more adjustment on the locking points that enable the windows and doors to be pulled in tight. On similar wooden windows and doors this tend to be a fixed locking point with no adjustment and when it starts to wear, they can become draughty and can rattle in the wind.
Movement of the window and door sashes is often a result of the expansion and contraction of the profile, this can be seen in either UPVC or timber framed units. With UPVC, this is expected and to counter it the openers are fitted accordingly so that minimal future adjustment should be required. There are various points of adjustments on all windows and doors to correct any movement or settlement that may have occurred, so they continue to work well.
Wood products can expand and contract under fluctuations in temperature and additionally, they can be effected by rain swelling the framework resulting in what is often seen as gaps round the edges of older windows. They can become swollen and rub in the middle. A big issue can be that over time the weight of the sash causes the shape to sag and distort leaving the windows catching at the bottom but with gaps at the top. This can be very difficult to correct, and the only way is to plane off the bottom of the window, so it shuts correctl, however, the gap at the top will remain as will the sagging look and shape.
Generally, adjustments are not made on wooden windows, the hinges are wound into the sides of the openers and are fixed. Often to counter the sagging nature the sashes are lifted off and washers are put on the hinge pin to effectively lift the door up- in some cases I’ve seen as much as 6/7mm! -, which, or course, is not ideal.
Traditionally one of the big selling points of UPVC is that they are a low maintenance product. Basically, if hinges and locking mechanisms are periodically oiled and the frames are regularly wiped down with warm soapy water they will work well and continue to look good for many years.
Timber framed products require a lot more TLC, they need to be painted or varnished every couple of years to keep them in a good order and not looking tatty. Again, the key here is to use very good quality products otherwise the paint or vanish will start to flake off after a year. Without this regular upkeep they will start to look v shoddy quickly contributing to their deterioration and promoting water ingress which ultimately leads to leaks and rotting.
In both cases most windows do not have separate panes of glass which makes cleaning easier but with older wooden windows, the putty can start to crack and fall out needing to be replaced, otherwise this again increases the rate of deterioration.
In both cases they can last well. It depends on various factors including styles, location and most importantly maintenance as I have outlined above. Invariably, I take windows out that are the flimsy old original ones over a hundred years old and quite often the wood is still solid all round it - others do literally just fall out!
UPVC windows will stand the test of time, particularly the plastic part of the frame as this will not deteriorate, the thing more likely to happen is the deterioration of hinges / locks, mechanisms and possibly the glass unit. This however, would be the same for the equivalent in modern wooden windows. I would say though, from experience, that if you compare one of the UPVC windows that I supply, the quality of the locks and hinges that come with this product compared to an equivalent wood product would be of a superior quality with an increased longevity.
Understandably, customers often underestimate the importance of well finished windows and doors, by this I mean the silicon and trims used to compliment the installation. Typically, with wood products they are sealed externally with silicon or similar products, regardless of holes/cracks/crevices. Rarely are timber architraves used to cover and finish any gaps.
With UPVC products and indeed on our installations we carry numerous different styles and sizes of trims to finish the Windows and Doors internally and externally to give the best finish as possible. There are two purposes to this, one, it gives a far superior finished look and two, it reduces the amount of silicon used therefore avoiding large gaps of silicon being visible. The advantage of less sealant is that it will not accumulate dust and dirt particles and will therefore be easier to clean. UPVC, as noted before, just needs a wipe down to be clean again.
An important consideration is of course the cost. Whilst the initial cost of installation of new Windows and Doors in either UPVC or wood are not too dissimilar - providing you compare similar quality products - the main benefits of UPVC can be seen in the long term. This is where UPVC wins over the wood option as there are no reoccurring costs involved. Wood on the other hand requires re-treating with high quality products every couple year to keep them in good condition. This maintenance ‘cost’, either ‘DIY’ or with professional tradesmen can be substantial in both time and money, something which is not an issue with UPVC units.
I always tell all my prospective clients, I must supply a product that I am happy to warranty for ten years. I want to be safe in the knowledge that I am providing an outstanding product that will stand the test of time and hopefully require no, or at most, minimal remedial work to adjust or replace components. Wood products, however, do not fill me with the same confidence to be able to give the same guarantees.
So, there’s my professional opinion and advice on the advantages of UPVC units over their timber counterparts, if you have made it this far then thanks for sticking it out!
Hopefully I have been able to highlight the benefits of UPVC Windows and Doors over the traditional timber options. Not to berate wood options but rather to highlight the advantages of updating / installing UPVC units.
My last words on the matter are simply that changing your windows and doors can be a huge expenditure and it makes a massive, immediate difference to your property if the product you choose, no matter if it is UPVC or wood, is of good quality and the installation itself is done correctly by a qualified tradesperson, as these choices will in turn serve to enhance your property. I know It can be easy to make the mistake of trying to cut costs in this area when renovating your home by installing inadequate styles, trying to fit them yourself or worse, searching for the ‘cheapest’ quote from an artisan who is perhaps not specialised in window and door installation. This can be catastrophic, however, if they are installed incorrectly, causing problems, and more cost, later down the line just to put them right!
Find out more about Lion Rouge UPVC Windows and Doors on our members directory: www.artisancentral.fr/LionRouge
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