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Aluminium Windows: Everything You Need to Know

contemporary self build with aluminium windows
(Image credit: ID Systems)

Aluminium windows are a popular feature for good reason, with their benefits spanning performance as well as style. No wonder then that they have become such a popular choice amongst self builders and renovators alike lately. 

One of the main draws of aluminium windows is the fact that, unlike timber windows, they are virtually maintenance free. In addition, they have great longevity and can be expected to last up to 40 years, making them a sensible long-term investment. The advantages don't end there either — they also offer great thermal efficiency.

If you are considering buying aluminium windows for your home, it is important to note that the window style you opt for will have a massive effect on the overall appearance of your home. This means that it is crucial to spend time taking into account all the choices out there when specifying aluminium windows. You will need to make decisions on everything from the type of glazing you want to frame styles and colours and finishes.

Our expert guide is here to help you feel confident when making these choices and we will take you through everything you need to know, including what aluminium windows cost. 

What is the Cost of Aluminium Windows?

How much do aluminium windows cost? It is a common question amongst those considering them, largely because they are not known as being a budget option. It is best to understand early on that they are not the cheapest window type out there. However, there is a good reason for this and when it comes to such an important element of your home, cheapest isn't always best. 

When it comes to appearance, durability and thermal efficiency, aluminium windows outperform many other window types, making this initial expenditure well worth it. You should also consider that, unlike timber windows, no maintenance costs will be required going forward. 

Aluminium window prices will vary depending on a number of factors, including the size of the property they are being fitted in and the number of windows being replaced/installed, as well as your choice of glazing. Of course the size and specification of the windows themselves will also affect the quotes your receive. 

contemporary Scottish self build

Thermal efficiency is one of the main benefits of aluminium windows — these windows from Rationel were specified to withstand the extreme weather experienced in the Scottish location of the property.  (Image credit: David Barbour)

Aluminium Windows vs PVCu Windows

If you are torn between aluminium windows and PVCu (also known as uPVC) windows, PVCu windows are certainly the cheaper option, being an estimated 20% lower than aluminium.

However, when it comes to quality, longevity and aesthetic aluminium windows tend to come out top. You also need to consider the value high quality aluminium windows could add to your home as well as the thermal efficiency levels.

Compared to PVCu windows, aluminium windows:

  • Won't warp or flex over time
  • Tend to last longer
  • Are low-maintenance
  • Won't discolour
  • Will add value
  • Will enhance kerb appeal
  • Offer better thermal efficiency

interior view from aluminium windows

Aluminium windows, such as these from Origin, come in a massive range of colours and configurations — and are perfect for contemporary interior schemes.  (Image credit: Origin)

Are Timber or Aluminium Windows Better?

Wondering about the cost difference of timber vs aluminium windows? Aluminium windows tend to be, overall, more affordable than timber windows made from hardwood, particularly those that are bespoke and come fully finished. However, when it comes to softwood windows, aluminium cost more.  

Advantages of aluminium windows over timber include:

  • A more contemporary look
  • No priming, sanding or subsequent painting
  • If cared for properly, aluminium can last just as long as timber but without the maintenance
  • No warping, rotting or movement issues

traditional house

Sometimes, such as in the case of listed buildings, only timber windows will be allowed. Bear in mind though, that timber windows and aluminium windows can work together on the same house.  (Image credit: Purlfrost)

What Are Composite Aluminium Windows?

You may have heard of composite aluminium windows. These offer a compromise between the performance of aluminium and the characterful appearance and charm of timber and are often referred to as simply composite windows. 

They usually feature aluminium frames externally, with a timber finish on the inside. 

Why Choose Aluminium Windows?

traditional aluminium windows

Aluminium windows suit both contemporary as well as more traditional style homes, as these more classic designs from Origin show.  (Image credit: Origin)
Are aluminium windows energy efficient?

Aluminium windows provide fantastic insulation and keep in the warmth inside for long periods making them very energy efficient.

There are lots of reasons behind the ever-growing popularity of aluminium windows, including their good looks. If you are still unsure, take a look at our round up fo their benefits:

  • Resilient to warping, corrosion and flexing
  • Lightweight and versatile but durable
  • Long lasting (up to 30-40 years)
  • Almost completely maintenance free
  • 100% recyclable
  • Thermally efficient
  • Available in a massive range of colours

aluminium windows and doors

Slim sightlines are just one of the benefits of aluminium windows. Consider aluminium bifold windows such as these from ID Systems for a continental cafe vibe and combine them with aluminium bifold doors.   (Image credit: ID Systems)

Aluminium windows use thermal break technology, meaning that they have a barrier between the inner and outer panes of glass. 

The barrier is made of a less conductive material and this stops heat from being transferred — they basically keep heat in and cold out. 

(MORE: Replacement Windows)

Do I Need Planning Permission for New Windows?

aluminium windows in oak frame self build

A combination of aluminium and timber frames have been used for this new oak frame home by Oakwrights — the result is a classic home with a modern feel.  (Image credit: Oakwrights © Richard Kiely)

New aluminium windows will not usually require planning permission. However, if you’re making window openings bigger – or smaller – you may need planning permission, particularly if it may cause overlooking issues.

Generally though replacing windows falls under Permitted Development but those living in following in the following may have restrictions:

If in doubt, check with your local planning authority.

(MORE: Renovating a House)

high level aluminium windows

These high level aluminium windows from IDSystemswork perfectly in their bathroom setting where they let light in without compromising privacy. (Image credit: ID Systems)

Features to Look Out for in Aluminium Windows

There is huge variety in the quality of the various aluminium windows available. Good quality companies use prime billets in the manufacture of the windows, rather than cheaper scrap metal.  

The best aluminium windows are made from premium aluminium. They should have a smooth and consistent finish so watch out for pitting from when the profile has been heated during powder coating. 

The die should be polished – reducing corrosion and avoiding contamination on the surface – after each extrusion run to create a high quality finish.

composite windows in kitchen diner

Composite windows such as these from Internorm Ecohaus are a good choice for those after the warmth of timber internally (Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

Be sure to ask questions as to the grade of the aluminium used when shopping around

There are also significant variations in the quality of how windows are put together by suppliers. 

For example, when it comes to composite systems – which combine two materials, usually timber on the inside and aluminium externally – ensure that the external and internal frame elements are distinct (rather than, for instance, comprising a wooden frame clad on to an aluminium skin).

When comparing products, ask from where the key elements originated and where they were actually manufactured.

What Colours do Aluminium Window Come in?

Despite grey being an incredibly popular shade for aluminium windows, there are a whole host of other shades available. Many manufacturers offer frames prefinished in any RAL colour, which means greater flexibility when considering the kerb appeal. 

What’s more, companies tend to offer different finishes inside and out. This means while you might want a bright colour outside to a little cheer to a brick facade, paler colours can be chosen to compliment interior design on the inside, and vice versa.

That said, black, grey and anthracite reign supreme for more traditional and period homes as they can replicate slimmer traditional styles in Belgian doors and Crittall-style heritage windows.

contemporary self build with aluminium windows

Aluminium windows are available in a range of colours — although grey seems to still have top spot in the popularity stakes. This contemporary self build features windows from ID Systems in a range of configurations.  (Image credit: ID Systems)

What are Powder Coated Aluminium Windows?

Powder coated simply means spraying a polyester powder onto the aluminium to give a uniform and vibrant finish. Powder coating is typically considered to be the highest quality finish for an aluminium window as it is low-maintenance and weather resistant. Fixtures such as handles and hinges can be colour matched, too.

Although it won’t produce the same flawless and uniform finish as in a factory, aluminium can be painted on a DIY basis. Make sure the aluminium is properly cleaned, sanded and primed before beginning any paint work for the best results.

contemporary extension with white render

Powder coated aluminium windows are low maintenance and available in a wide range of colours — although grey remains one of the most popular shades.  (Image credit: Mo Photo c/o KE Design)

Are Slimline Aluminium Windows Worth it?

What are sightlines?

Sightlines are the visible parts of the window frame and the bars that hold the panes together. The slimmer the sightlines, the less windows impede on a view.

Slimline aluminium windows feature a minimalistic design, they have very thin sightlines that gives a truly stunning, glazed finish.

Modern aluminium suppliers are striving to offer the slimmest sightlines yet. However, before this snippet lures you in, do some research on what’s actually available.

The renaissance of industrial-style and Crittall-style windows had seen a more design-led approach to sightlines. Delicate steel-inspired astragal bars create a contemporary and bold finish that rivals the coveted uninterrupted views to the garden.

‘Flush’ is the key word when choosing aluminium as the way the opening and fixed glass elements sit against each other side by side will make an impact of the slick look of the finished product.

slimline aluminium windows

In order to make the most of the fantastic views surrounding this new contemporary home, slimline aluminium windows were chosen.   (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

Where Should I Buy Aluminium Windows?

The rule of thumb is to get quotes from at least three suppliers as there will no doubt be a huge range in prices. Ensure you understand what is included in your quotes (locks, handles, installation any required pressings etc) as additional extras might sway your decision. 

Bear in mind that buying windows is about far more than just costs: lead-in times can hugely impact your project. It’s important to be aware that a cheap buy with long manufacture and delivery times can delay a schedule and impact other aspects of a build.

Lead-in times are generally dictated by the manufacturers themselves and the industry standard is around four to eight weeks. However, if you’re in a pinch, Origin offers an optional 24 hour delivery promise.

Don’t forget, as most systems require specialist fitting, you will need to coordinate with a local approved installation firm if the window company doesn’t offer a fitting service.

How to Maintain Powder Coated Aluminium Windows

Although appealing for their low-maintenance material, to get the best out of aluminium windows minimal effort will be required.

Use a non abrasive cloth and a mild detergent – like baby wash – in warm water to get any marks from frames and to dry with a soft cloth.

Occasionally, you might need to spray the hinges of your aluminium window with silicon spray to lubricate and ensure smooth functionality.

(MORE: Window Repair)

indoor swimming pool with aluminium windows

Slim sightlines are just one of the many benefits of aluminium windows. This swimming pool has a great connection to outdoors thanks to the full height windows from Origin (Image credit: Origin)

Are Aluminium Windows Secure?

Most windows and doors manufacturers aim to talk up their products’ security but now, thanks to changes to Part Q of the Building Regulations in 2015 and the Secured By Design standards, there are measurable ways of ensuring your choice ticks the boxes.

New builds require accessible windows (basement, ground floor and other easily accessible windows) as part of Part Q to be made to a design that has been shown through testing to meet the security requirements of British Standards Publication PAS 24:2012. 

The former Editor of Homebuilding & Renovating magazine, Jason is an experienced self builder and has just finished renovating a 1960s home. He is also the author of The Self Build Dream. You can catch Jason in the seminar theatres and Advice Centre at many of the Homebuilding & Renovating Shows across the UK.