Aluminium windows have recently become the material of choice when it comes to finishing modern homes and, more increasingly, renovating period-style properties.
Glazing plays a huge part in defining the elevations of a new self build project and refreshing an existing homes’ kerb appeal. It’s therefore worth prioritising your time when it comes to designing the way you want your aluminium windows to look.
Sleek and versatile, aluminium windows come in all shapes, sizes and colours (yes, companies offer more than just Anthracite Grey). However, it pays to be savvy in your shopping and look out for the best value for money. This means watching out for build quality in terms of finish and security, not just the cheapest price.
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What are the Benefits of Aluminium Windows?
One of the main attractions to aluminium windows is their slim sightlines that won’t break up or look out of place against a large expanse of glazing but there are many more practical advantages to choosing aluminium frames over other materials:
- Lightweight and versatile but durable
- Resilient to warping, corrosion and flexing
- Thermally efficient
- 100% recyclable
- Almost completely maintenance free
- Long lasting (up to 30-40 years)
Do I Need Planning Permission to Change to Aluminium Windows?
Generally, replacing windows falls under Permitted Development but those living in listed buildings, or in designated areas (such as conservation areas or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) may have restrictions to timber or a certain style. If in doubt, check with your local planning authority.
If you’re making window openings bigger – or smaller – you may need planning permission, particularly if it may cause overlooking issues.
How Much is an Aluminium Window?
The cost of aluminium windows is naturally dependent on house size and the number of windows being replaced/installed.
When compared to PVCu (also seen as uPVC), plastic windows come out on top in terms of cost (an estimated 20% less than aluminium), but stretching the budget a bit could prove well worth it when build quality and finish are taken into account.
Aluminium windows tend to be most costly than PVCu, but overall more affordable than timber. A major advantage of aluminium is that they won’t warp or flex over time and last longer than PVCu, while still being low-maintenance (something timber struggles to offer).
Comparing aluminium and timber windows is pretty much apples and pears: while aluminium offers a contemporary look, very few things rival the period character of timber, and although timber can last decades if cared for properly, aluminium can last just as long without the maintenance.
Composite and timber windows can match aluminium in cost (depending on wood type chosen).
A happy medium can be composite frames which offer the performance of aluminium with the appearance and charm of timber. Some products can also offer different finished inside and out to match the house design best.
Slimline Aluminium Windows
‘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.
Uniform sightlines result in stylish, seamless exterior façades and many architects and homeowners want a system in which all units are identical.
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. 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.
What Colours Do Aluminium Windows Come in?
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.
Painting 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 ‘DIY’. Make sure the aluminium is properly cleaned, sanded and primed before beginning any paint work for the best results.
How to Choose an Aluminium Window Supplier
The rule of thumb is to get quotes from at least three suppliers as there will no doubt be a huge range in amounts. Make sure you compare like-for-like (locks, handles, any required pressings etc) as additional extras might sway your decision.
Remember, buying windows is more than just a pricing game: 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 Get the Best Aluminium Windows
There can be a huge variety in the quality of the aluminium windows themselves. Good quality companies use prime billets in the manufacture of the windows, rather than cheaper scrap metal. To be sure, ask questions as to the grade of the aluminium used when shopping around.
Premium aluminium 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.
There are huge variations in the quality of how the window has been 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.
Maintenance of 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 Guide: What’s involved and how much does it cost?)
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.
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