It’s not hard to see the attraction of that double PVC-u promise of ‘fit and forget’ and a low price. There will always be those who will buy on the basis of cost alone, and they will probably have experienced maintenance problems with old timber windows – and even the premature failure of more recent post-war units.
So why is it that sales of replacement timber windows and doors are growing at the expense of PVC-u?
I think the main reason is that many people appreciate quality – not just the look, but also the feel – and recognise that windows and doors are some of the most important visual, as well as functional, elements of their homes.
Particularly those living in period properties are prepared to pay a bit extra for something that looks and feels right, that has all the energy-efficiency and security of a modern double or triple-glazed window or door without sacrificing the authentic appearance that will bring out the best in their home. They think of a beautiful timber window as a long-term investment in their home in much the same way as they might look at a beautiful piece of furniture, a special kitchen worktop or a lovely floor.
There’s also a new market, most noticeable in the South East, where the price of property is forcing young professionals to look to less fashionable postcodes just to be able to afford to get on the property ladder, areas where many of the homes will have had ugly PVC-u replacements fitted in the past. One of the first things these new owners do, as they seek to put their own stamp on their house and increase its value, is replace the plastic windows and doors with authentic timber units.
But what of the practical benefits? We can’t really be selling more timber windows and doors if they need constant re-decoration only to need replacing when they rot, can we?
Today’s timber frames made to Wood Window Alliance standards can be expected to last longer than equivalent PVC-u frames - around twice as long, according to studies by Imperial College London and Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh; in the region of 60 years, given average maintenance and exposure conditions. This, of course, makes them an excellent long-term investment.
They will need re-painting from time to time over their lifetime. But a factory-finished window is unlikely to need re-decoration for 8-10 years, depending on the colour of the coating and the degree of exposure to the sun. And the old time-consuming preparation is a thing of the past. A simple rub-down and two topcoats are all that is usually needed.
Old PVC-u windows and doors get grey and grubby and brittle. Timber can be easily re-decorated to look as good as new, or can be redecorated just for a change of look.
Today’s timber windows out-perform PVC-u in many ways. But in the end, it comes down to a matter of personal taste. Happily for us, more people are developing the taste for timber. Long may it last!