Window Materials 101: A Beginner's Guide

One of the first things people notice about the outside of a property is the windows – but are yours how you'd like them?

Windows in a property

One of the first things people notice about the outside of a property is the windows – but are yours how you’d like them? In truth, it can be difficult to work out what windows you should opt for as you look to replace yours or install new ones. There are lots of styles of windows available but not everything works for every building. Read on for our beginner’s guide to windows… you’ll be an expert in no time!

What to consider in selecting a window style

The windows are the eyes of a home; and they need to fit not just the exterior aesthetics of any property but also be fit for the purpose. There are four main factors to consider when selecting a style:
- The positioning of the windows
- The shape of the windows
- The property in which the windows are being installed
- The window itself
If the first three factors aren’t properly considered and the style selected around them, the fourth becomes irrelevant – it doesn’t matter how good a window looks or how high quality it is when it looks to be oddly positioned or doesn’t fit the shape or ‘feel’ of the building.
UPVc Windows

PVCu Windows

PVCu is the most commonly found material for windows in residential areas, and for good reason – it’s usually the cheapest. When you walk down a residential street and see white windows that have a plastic finish, this is PVCu… and once you start noticing them, you’ll realise that they are everywhere!
PVCu is dimensionally stable and won’t shrink or warp in extreme weather conditions, is pre-coloured so requires no painting and little maintenance, and is available in a variety of colours and finishes. The frames for PVCu are a little chunkier than traditional windows and they’re not always appropriate, however; they look a little out of place on period properties.

Timber Windows

Traditional timber windows are primarily favoured by those in older properties as they replicate beautifully a period feel. That said, timber is experiencing a ‘comeback’ of sorts in new build properties as developers look to add perceived value to homes with chunky oak and other thick woods. 
Timber does require ongoing maintenance and will eventually warp but can be treated to extend its lifespan. Generally speaking, timber frames will need maintaining every 7-10 years.

Softwood Windows

Softwood is a window material that offers a good balance between newer, more contemporary materials and a traditional aesthetic. They’re fairly cheap compared to other options and provide fantastic detailing.
Softwood does require repainting every few years and so the ongoing maintenance does make this option not as attractive as others to everyone.

Hardwood Windows

Hardwood is a great choice for those looking for a robust frame for a traditional or period home, and has a tighter grain than softwood for increased stability and durability.
However, hardwood windows are considerably more expensive than their soft counterparts and can cost about four times more.
Aluminium windows

Aluminium Windows

Aluminium windows are currently experiencing a surge in popularity due to their strength and the ability for it to reach very slim frame widths even in the case of triple glazing. Aluminium frames come pre-finished in a variety of colours, is totally dimensionally stable, and is extremely low maintenance. Although not necessarily designed for period homes, it can be used to create a more traditional look so is often favoured by those working on older buildings.
Aluminium windows are more expensive than PVCu and some suppliers don’t stock many colours – so if you’re after a specific shade, it’s best to shop around.
Composite Windows

Composite Windows

Composite windows are mixed materials with one on the exterior and one inside. They come in all shapes, sizes and combinations, but the most common is timber interiors capped with weather-proof materials such as plastic or aluminium strips. Composite solutions are ideal for homes that experience harsh climates (they’re the go-to option in Canada and across Scandinavia) and are low maintenance.
Composite windows are quite expensive however, and often need to be specifically created to fit UK window sizes as they’re usually manufactured in Europe. Prices for triple glazing and bespoke fitting can shoot sky high, so it’s always best to compare manufacturers and retailers to find the best price. 

Steel Windows

A popular choice throughout mainland Europe, steel windows are low maintenance and produce classic elegant-looking frames that last for a long time. There aren’t many steel window providers yet in the UK but the number is increasing as more and more homeowners look to upgrade their window choices.
However, steel windows are currently fairly expensive in the UK and often include glass parts with argon in to increase their thermal qualities. 
Exterior of a property with black windows

How To Choose The Right Window Fitting Firm

Window fitting can be done as a DIY job but is no mean feat to the inexperienced – and if done wrong, will greatly impact on the energy efficiency, comfort and household bills of your home. Instead, a specialist should be hired. They’ll be able to make recommendations, source the windows, install them, and in some cases offer maintenance. 
It is always worth shopping around for window fitters but as with many industries: you do get what you pay for. Fitters should be selected based on their expertise and experience in aiding you to make a purchase choice that’s right for your home, budget and circumstance, and not just on price. It is commonplace to seek quotes from more than one fitter so don’t be afraid to mention so; but go with your gut and select someone that you find trustworthy, professional, open and honest.
New windows can truly transform the way a property looks, so going into the purchase process should be done when armed with as much information as possible. So get reading up and researching and speak to the experts for the clearest view (pardon the pun!) possible.

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