Summary: Plastic (PVCu) has dominated the new build and replacement window markets since the 1990s as a ‘fit and forget’ solution. Wrongly perceived as the environmentally unfriendly option, manufacturers are working hard to improve their reputation by using recycled plastic.
Pros: It’s the cheapest overall option, though costs do vary enormously with quality. Most appealingly, it doesn’t require maintenance.
Cons: PVCu can look cheap and reduce the value of period homes. It cannot be repaired easily, and doors can be a weak point.
Cost: £5,000-£15,000 for a one-off house.
Contacts: Everest (0800 008 7094), Frame Force (01827 260880), Internorm (020 8205 9991) and Swish (0808 178 3040)
Summary: Popular amongst those wanting timber on a limited budget. The wood can be stained but is usually painted. Douglas fir is a very stable, durable softwood.
Pros: Looks good on both contemporary and period-style homes, and is the cheapest option if glazed and decorated on site.
Cons: On-site glazing carries a risk of double-glazing failure (i.e. misted units). Factory glazing lowers the risk but costs more. Softwood requires repainting every few years.
Cost: £6,000-£15,000, less if ‘DIYed’ on site.
Contacts: Howarth (0113 240 7198), Jeld-Wen (0845 122 2890), Mumford & Wood (01621 818155) and Scotts of Thrapston (01832 732366)
Timber Windows from Totali
Timber window frames are a durable, low maintenance choice for contemporary and period properties, providing a timeless look for your home. The performance gap between man-made products and wood has closed in recent years due to manufacturing developments, including the use of new materials and finishes. Timber now offers a competitive, stylish and effective alternative to uPVC. A long term investment, timber windows also boast eco-friendly credentials and thermal efficiency due to being a naturally insulating material. For many; the most pleasing thing is the way wooden windows look and having the option to paint them in any colour. www.totali.uk.com
Summary: Hardwoods are slower growing and have a tighter grain than softwoods, making them more stable and durable. The wood can be treated to be further stabilised. Oak is the most popular and is often used on traditional-style homes. It is usually stained.
Pros: It promises a longer lifespan than softwood and its natural looks are perfect for period-style homes and barn conversions.
Cons: It’s expensive — anything up to four times the cost of softwood.
Cost: Between £8,000 and £20,000.
Contacts: Dendura (01538 361888), Input Joinery (01264 771900), Nigel Ogden (0845 418 6961) and Orlestone Oak (01233 732179)
Summary: Usually consists of timber windows with a weather-proof capping, such as aluminium strips. Widely used in harsh climates (such as Canada and Sweden), composites are now gaining in popularity in the UK, especially as a triple-glazed solution. They work best with modern designs.
Pros: Low-maintenance outside, they can offer the look of timber internally.
Cons: Expensive, and if ordered from the Continent windows are unlikely to be made to standard UK sizes.
Cost: Between £10,000 and £25,000 — expect to pay 25% more for triple glazing.
Contacts: Andersen (01283 511122), Benlowe (0116 239 5353), Broxwood (01738 444456), Franklin (0113 250 2991), Marvin (020 8569 8222) and Velfac (01223 897100)
Summary: The main metals used are steel, seen on some period properties (such as Art Deco), and aluminium, which is popular on contemporary-style homes. GRP (fibreglass) can create a strong load-bearing frame and, like aluminium, can be supplied in any colour.
Pros: All are very low-maintenance and tend to look better than PVCu and can produce finer frames.
Cons: Metal is not as thermally efficient as wood.
Cost: Between £8,000 and £20,000.
Contacts: Kloeber (01487 740044), Lattice (01386 701079), Olsen (0844 826 7766), Pultec (0117 301 2190) and Vale (01476 564433)
Roof Windows from Solstro
Looking for roof windows or blinds to match your home can be difficult task. A wide range of styles and popular designs can be easily found on Solstro – Roof windows.co.uk, including roof windows and accessories. This brand specialises in roof windows with a centre pivot design made from PVC or natural wood. They offer exceptional quality with a 10 year guarantee. For further tips on how to get started, take a look at this roof window advice guide.
How to Compare the Costs of Windows
It’s a complex picture and the accompanying chart (below), which shows the ranges in cost for the different window materials and styles, attempts to summarise it.
It’s useful to rank window costs on a square metre basis. Suppliers tend to hate this because you don’t buy windows by the square metre: they are priced individually and generally the larger the actual window, the less it costs per square metre, so reducing a window range down to a square metre price is never going to produce an accurate pricing method. But from a comparison point of view, it’s a very useful tool. The square metre rates are derived from taking the total amount quoted to supply windows and dividing this by the area of the window openings.
The cheapest way of supplying and fitting windows to a new house is to use white PVCu windows, designed to slip into industry-standard window openings. Although you can buy softwood frames for less, by the time you have glazed and painted or stained them, they end up being considerably more than the cheapest PVCu options. However, note that PVCu windows themselves can vary enormously in price, depending on quality, style and colour — the wood grain effects are around 50% more expensive than white.
Though they can look very good in the right setting, a lot of people really dislike the idea of plastic windows and insist on timber; in fact, sales of timber windows have recently begun to rise again after many years of losing out to plastic. What often turns people off timber is the requirement for regular maintenance: most timber requires repainting or staining every five years. If you want maintenancefree timber windows, you have to switch to one of the composite systems, which tend to be timber based but have aluminium external claddings.
Window Style: Casement, Tilt or Sash?
A traditional British option (historically and in the 20th century), open-out casements are available in a variety of formats. Large casements tend to be the cheapest, but you can choose split casements for cottage-style designs, and small glazed units (‘Georgian style’). They are usually made in modular, standard sizes, keeping costs down.
Tilt and Turn
Continental-style tilt and turn windows open inwards, and look best on modern designs. The ‘tilt’ option provides ventilation with security. They are typically made to order, increasing the cost.
The sash is a mainstay of Georgian and Victorian housing, still widely used on traditional-style new builds. Sizes are typically not standard but windows need to be in proportion to the house, so are often bespoke.
1. Side Hung: The most recognisable casement. It is hinged at the side for easy opening.
2. Top Light: A fixed pane divided from a narrow glazed top-hinged casement.
3. Sliding Folding: The sash is hinged so that it folds, increasing the area of openable window to an almost clear expanse.
4. Top Hung/ Awning: A casement window that is hinged at the top. Perfect for wet climates as it blocks out rain.
5. Bottom Hung/ Hopper: A casement window that is hinged at the bottom. most commonly used in basements.
6. Centre Hinge/ Pivot: A window that is hinged in the centre to allow for a wider opening, it requires less of a swinging clearance.
- On-site double glazing is the cheapest option for DIY self-builders, usually done with softwood frames which are then painted on site. Slow and time consuming, most suppliers are moving away from on-site glazing for new installations.
- New methods in factory double glazing mean that many windows can be clipped into templates from inside, thus streamlining the installation. However, it is more expensive than on-site glazing.
- Factory triple glazing is becoming popular in low-energy homes. It saves negligible amounts of energy but increases thermal comfort inside the house, as triple glazing evens out the temperature profile of rooms — i.e. no cold spots. It used to be all imported, but some UK manufacturers now exist.
Making the Decision
On contemporary, minimalist homes the trend is towards maximum glass, minimum frame. Aluminium produces very fine frames, while structural glass can achieve a frameless window
If you are building in period style, you must choose a material appropriate to that era — which in most cases will be timber. Many PVCu and GRP ‘period’ designs exist, but few are convincing. You cannot effectively replicate wood grain with plastic or achieve glazing bars which are as elegant (although double glazing is the main hindrance here), but some more expensive designs mimic painted softwood quite well.
Builders of contemporary homes have a much wider choice — timber will soften a rendered exterior, while aluminium is perfect for minimalist homes. Composite windows are ideal for coastal self builds and those in windy locations. PVCu is still the standard choice for many modern homes — but do buy the best quality you can afford.