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Choosing Window Frames
By Garry John
There are three main types of material used to manufacture window frames.
These are aluminium, PVC-u and wood. These are also vinyl-coated and fibreglass
frames, but for simplicity at this stage we shall stick to the three main
types. The three materials each have their strengths and weaknesses and in
this article we shall look at the several properties to see how each type
shapes up. The properties we look at are heat insulation, sound insulation,
security, appearance, maintenance and least but definitely not least, cost.
We shall also briefly talk about the different styles of windows commonly
Heat insulation is perhaps the most common reason for getting double- glazing.
However, if the frame is not right the insulation provided by double-glazing
is lost. The worst conductors of heat and therefore the best insulators are
wood and PVC-u. Aluminium is a relatively good conductor of heat and so is
not the best material if this is of primary concern.
The protection against sound is another great attribute of double-glazing
and their isnt really a clear winner. The relative sound insulation
properties are therefore of lesser concern that those of say heat.
Security is always a concern and here we have a clear winner. Aluminium is
extremely strong and is the material of choice where security is of major
concern. This explains why aluminium is commonly seen on commercial premises.
Wood and PVC-u have their weak spots. PVC-u expands during hot temperatures
and the expansion gaps required can become weak points for intruders.
Another area that has a clear leader is appearance. Wooden frames are easily
the most attractive frames. The timeless appeal of wood suits both modern
and period properties. In particular, for period properties it is almost
mandatory to have traditional looking frames and in particular sash windows.
The appearance of the properties can be undermined with PVC-u frames or cheap
looking fake wood finishes.
Although wooden frames are the most pleasing on the eye they are also the
hardest work. Older frames require a significant amount of attention to prolong
their life. The newer wooden frames are treated before being shipped to retailers
but they still require the attention. Regular coats of protective paints
are needed every four or five years. PVC-u and aluminium frame require very
little maintenance and can be cleaned with just an occasional wipe with a
Finally, we look at the cost of the different types of frames. Generally
speaking, the cheapest are PVC-u frames, followed by aluminium and finally
wood are the most expensive. The economic benefits of PVC-u frames combined
with their excellent insulation properties go a long way to explaining their
There are many different styles of window that can be manufactured from the
three materials. Casement windows, tilt and turn windows and sash windows
are all made from the three materials.
Garry John has contributed to many articles to home improvement sites including