window matierial

Windows: What is the best window frame material?

Window frames come in a good selection of materials, each with their unique set of attributes that impact it’s performance.

Traditionally made from timber, developments in manufacturing brought steel and aluminium into fashion in the post-war era; with UPVC joining the offering in the 1980’s.

The energy efficiency and architectural design of our homes is greatly affected by windows, however the cost of windows varies depending on the frame material and window style.

In this article we will look to discuss the advantages & disadvantages of the most common window frame materials so that you can weigh up your choices easily.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Window Frame Materials

UPVC Window Frames

UPVC double-glazed windows are the most common type of window frame in the UK. They have an average lifespan of 20 years and are generally the most affordable. 

Pros 

  • Long lasting and low maintenance (20 years +) 
  • Affordable in prices.
  • Don’t rot, rust or flake
  • Energy efficient 
  • Huge range of designs and colours available 
  • Secure
  • Noise reducing
  • Easy installation 

Cons 

  • Tend to come only in white frames
  • Don’t use natural materials
  • Can be difficult to repair 
  • Not as visually aesthetic 
  • Not usually permitted to be installed on listed properties 
  • Can look out of place on the wrong house 
  • Require regular cleaning 

Timber Window Frames

Timber is the highest performing window frame material in terms of energy efficiency, however they do require maintenance to keep them looking their best. Modern timber frames are now better engineered to prevent warping and can be treated to prevent rotting.

Pros 

  • Energy efficiency, wood is an effective insulator
  • Easy to customise with staining or paint
  • Constructed from natural materials
  • They can be repaired easily without having to remove the whole window
  • Can be manufactured from soft or hardwoods including: fir, spruce , oak, maple or walnut

Cons 

  • Poor quality timber frames can result in draughts or rattly frames
  • The window frames need to be regularly maintained in order to protect the wood
  • More expensive than UPVC
  • Severe weather exposure can cause them to deteriorate quicker, for example homes close to the ocean, due to the salt air. 

Related Content: Window Styles; a guide to the most popular

Aluminium Window Frames

Aluminium window frames are well known for their slimline profile. They are more commonly seen in modern properties, particularly where structural glazing is required to support the home at the same time.

Pro’s 

  • They let more natural light in due to their thin frame
  • Aluminium frames are incredibly strong
  • Low in maintenance and are effective at weathering the British weather
  • A large range of colours are available
  • They exude a very modern and contemporary design style
  • Less expensive than timber frames 

Cons

  • They conduct heat easily so require thermal barriers to minimise heat loss
  • Can lead to condensation issues, due to the high thermal conductivity
  • Are more expensive than UPVC frames 
  • Is not a natural material, but can be recycled
  • Need regular cleaning 

Steel Window Frames

window material

Steel has it’s roots firmly in British Architecture and features in many period properties, particularly from the Art Deco era. They enabled windows to have a far more slimline profile and are often associated with arched glazing.

Pros

  • Secure, steel is the strongest material
  • Low maintenance
  • Thermal properties that means your heat remains inside your home
  • Versatile they can be customised easily to different shapes and sizes
  • Elegant and attractive to the eye

Cons

  • Most expensive window frame material
  • Heavy to install
  • Corrosion can occur if living by the sea, therefore an extra protective coating would be required.

Summary – Windows: What is the best window frame material?

Deciding on the best window material for your property can be a challenge.

The good news is that with improvements in window design, traditional differences between materials are slowly disappearing. You can now get uPVC windows that are virtually indistinguishable from their timber counterparts, as well as stylish aluminium frames that look exactly like uPVC windows, only slimmer.

Most of the time it comes down to personal preferences and getting a balance of what looks the nicest, provides you with a good level of energy efficiency and of course fits your budget!

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