The type of windows and doors you choose for your property plays an important role in the aesthetics as well as functionality of your building. Whether you are an architect working on your latest design, a building industry professional, or a homeowner upgrading your space – you want to make an educated choice when it comes to windows and doors.
In this article you will learn about the various pros and cons of today’s modern frame choices. Steel, which was quite popular in the past, has now made way for more modern variants, namely: wood, PVC, and aluminium. Which one is the best for your building project? What are the key differences? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type? Read on as we aim to help you make an informed choice.
Wooden windows – a classic choice
Wooden window and door frames give your space an undeniable earthly feel. They can be well crafted, aesthetically pleasing, and a great option if you’re looking to create a rustic or natural look. They also make a good insulator to inclement weather, so ensuring that you’re getting the right thickness and type of wood can make your building more energy efficient.
With the correct care, wood will last lifetimes. There are various high quality timbers to choose from that look great, last long, and are extremely strong and sturdy. If wooden windows are your natural preference, choosing the best timber and a professional manufacturer will go a long way towards ensuring a result you will be happy with.
Wooden windows: the downside
The quality of workmanship, and type of sealing used during wooden installations can make a huge difference to performance in terms of insulation. Proper attention and care must be taken to make sure that all your window and door frames are aligned perfectly and well-sealed. If your contractors are not careful and happen to leave the smallest gaps, it can become quite a problem when it comes to insulation against wind and rain.
Wooden windows and doors require proper treatment and coating to protect them against the elements. This typically involves staining, varnishing or painting. Over time these coatings can fade, crack or peel off. So it requires both time and money to resurface them and keep them in good shape.
Unfortunately, wood is also prone to wear and so if not maintained well, the results can really show. The frames can swell with moisture over time, and so will require sanding or planing to bring your frames back to shape.
Finding good quality hardwoods is also becoming more difficult and expensive. The less dense woods of today need to be maintained far more often, and many people forget to factor in occasional pest control and wood treatment costs at their peril.
So it’s best to keep all of this in mind if you do opt for wooden windows.
The practicality of uPVC windows
Another option when it comes to windows and doors is that of uPVC, commonly referred to in the industry as just PVC windows. uPVC (unplasticized polyvinyl chloride) is a strong, durable and even recyclable plastic material.
Like wood, PVC is a good insulator and improves the energy efficiency of a building. The frames are especially exceptional as sound barriers, so are sometimes a popular choice for implementation in factories with high noise levels, and in the music industry for sound insulation in studios.
Unlike wood however, PVC requires no maintenance and has a long lifespan.
The Limitations of uPVC
In South Africa, uPVC is not quite as popular for windows and doors as it is abroad. Our construction industry does not readily implement PVC and there are options that are simply easier to produce, that can be equally purposed in its place. Locally, this makes the manufacturing of PVC somewhat less economically viable, so using a different material for your frames may work out to be a more favourable option for you.
What’s more is that uPVC is not nearly as customizable as other materials. There are often limitations when it comes to size and range of styles. They are usually manufactured to more standard sizes and in very basic designs.
Most uPVC windows are available in just one colour – white. Some manufacturers are starting to introduce a second colour, but overall – unless your choice is white, this can be a limiting factor for you. These frames can be painted, but regular, off-the-shelf paints, won’t do the job. To paint uPVC you need to use epoxy-based paints. These are generally quite expensive and can also be harmful to your health if not used properly. So do keep this in mind if UPVC is your choice.
The growing popularity of aluminium windows
On the whole, in the construction world, aluminium is used in over 70% of residential applications and a whopping 99% in the commercial sector. And there is a good reason for this…
Aluminium is an economically viable choice, offering various advantages for modern buildings both residential and commercial. Furthermore, market statistics show that more and more homeowners are opting for aluminium windows and doors than any other material. In fact aluminium is used at around 74% in residential applications, while timber makes up about 24%.
Let’s explore why aluminium windows have become the go-to choice for homeowners as well as architects designing new houses.
Range of styles and designs
Due to the ingenious method of manufacture, using primarily extruded aluminium lengths that are precision cut and joined, aluminium windows and doors can be manufactured in a number of different styles.
Windows are available in various designs – as sliding windows, casement windows (also called sash windows), fixed panes or folding windows. Aluminium doors are also available in a few different designs – sliding doors (or patio doors), hinged doors (either a single door, or a french-style double door), and the increasingly popular folding-stacking doors which are available in up to 10 panels.
All of these can be complemented with sidelights and top-lights which affords even more design flexibility. And in addition, most aluminium windows and doors can be manufactured into cottage style panes.
Range of profiles and systems
Continuing in the way of design options, many consumers are not aware that there are various types of window and door systems. The different types are essentially due to the different profile designs. To give you an idea, some of the more popular systems in South Africa are the casement window systems eg: the 30.5, 34, 36, 38 mm; the Sheerline / Crealco / clip 44 shopfront systems; the 500 series, 540 series and Elite horizontal sliding windows, and the 700 series and the Palace range of sliding doors.
The sheer range of systems gives designers and property owners far more design options. The slimmer profiles are often preferred for sleek modern buildings. And the more voluminous profiles are sometimes preferred by interior designers to create a more stately or formidable look.
Range of finishes and colours
While wooden frames can be made of a few main types of wood, PVC windows and doors in South Africa are usually limited to a basic white finish. In contrast, aluminium windows are available in a wide range of colours and finishes.
Firstly there is the natural anodised (silver) finish. Then there are a range of standard powder coated colours, the most popular being white, bronze, charcoal and black. But beyond these, aluminium frames can be powder coated in almost any custom colour. This of course is more economically viable for larger projects like malls or residential complexes.
Strong and Durable
Another advantage of aluminium windows and doors, is that aluminium is a lightweight, yet highly durable low density metal. It does not rust, and is highly resistant to corrosion.
The aluminium profiles (the actual lengths of material that are used) are extruded with absolute precision. The unique manufacturing process ensures that each profile can be designed with appropriate inner sections that add to the strength and sturdiness to the profiles, and thus to the fixtures manufactured from these profiles. In effect, one can have really large window and door designs without the need for bulky frame support.
Aluminium frames require virtually no maintenance. Unlike wooden frames, there is no need for periodic sanding and then painting or varnishing. And unlike steel frames, aluminium does not rust, and is highly resistant to corrosion. In fact the corrosion in aluminium is usually very minor and takes decades to form. Even then the change that it makes to the material is barely noticeable, if at all. This is yet another reason homeowners prefer aluminium windows and doors.
Did you know that Aluminium is 100% recyclable? What’s more is that the recycling process takes only 5% of the initial energy spent to mine and manufacture aluminium. This makes it a smarter and more environmentally friendly choice, especially in comparison to wood, as forests can take twenty or more years to grow back.
Apart from the material itself being a more environmentally friendly choice, the energy efficiency of aluminium windows and doors is also impressive, when combined with appropriate performance glass. One such option is Low-E glass, designed to reflect heat, so it keeps the warmth inside in winter, and keeps the heat out in summer. This reduces energy usage and raises the eco rating of the building. Aluminium fixtures can also be fitted with double glazing, which is steadily increasing in popularity due to its properties of heat insulation.
Overall Value for Money
Given all the factors listed above, it’s clear that aluminium windows and doors offer great value for money for homeowners, whether it is for a new house or for upgrading an existing property. They represent a modern option with a wide range of advantages.
Functional, durable and customisable – it’s no wonder that more and more homeowners are opting for aluminium. Aluminium can work out to be a considerably more cost-effective solution for your needs, especially for the S.A. market.
Ultimately, aluminium windows and doors are a once-in-a-lifetime investment and go a long way in delivering long term value, while remaining an affordable alternative. Speak to Pro about your windows and doors on 031 701 2001 (Durban) / 010 003 1889 (Johannesburg); we’ll be happy to advise you on the best options, and take your project from design to manufacture to installation.