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Which is Best: Wooden Windows vs. uPVC image

Which is Best: Wooden Windows vs. uPVC

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The purchase of new windows is a major decision for any homeowner, so it’s important to do some homework. Researching the different types of windows on the market will help you strike the right balance of several key factors and find the perfect fit for your home. 

As you explore options, you are sure to come across the variety of materials used to construct modern windows, including both wood and uPVC.

What are they exactly?

Everyone is most likely familiar with wooden windows, as they have been around the longest of any type. Yet construction technology has developed with time, and they are now also built with highly insulating double and triple glazing, just like other window materials. 

uPVC window example

uPVC stands for unplasticised polyvinyl chloride, an engineered plastic material in powder form that is heated and injected into moulds to form its shape. Once cooled, the solid uPVC can be cut to length and joined together for window assembly. The term ‘unplasticised’ refers to the lack of plasticisers in the material, making it more rigid when compared to standard PVC material.

Now that we are more familiar with the difference in material of wooden windows vs. uPVC, let’s look at how they stack up against each other across some of the most common homeowner concerns.

1) Appearance

Wooden windowsuPVC windows
NaturalSynthetic look
Traditional, high-quality aestheticSimpler

Ask almost anyone, and they will regard an all-natural timber window as more aesthetically pleasing and charming in appearance than the more simple, plastic look of uPVC. In fact, in a report by English Heritage, the number one threat to property values in conservation areas was found to be “unsympathetic replacement of windows and doors,” particularly the proliferation of plastic and PVC-U.

Another appearance benefit to wooden windows is the colour choice available to you as the homeowner. Wood can be stained, varnished or painted to suit precisely the look you desire, while uPVC options are typically more limited, though they have expanded beyond merely white and even offer some choices that mimic the look of wood. 

This flexibility in customisation is also something to consider over the long term, as it will be much easier for you to repaint wooden windows to a new colour scheme than opt for a wholesale replacement of all your uPVC windows.

2) Durability

Wooden windowsuPVC windows
60-100 year lifespan10-35 year life expectancy

Part of the reason for the use of uPVC in window construction is to take advantage of its durability. Like other plastic materials, uPVC can resist a wide range of weather, from high temperatures, to driving rain to exposure to sea air. This ability is part of why, “they are the most commonly used double glazed windows in the UK,” according to GreenMatch. They will not be susceptible to rot, rust or flaking, like other window materials. 

However, wood is also a naturally strong and durable material, as evidenced by the countless century-old structures still graced with well-functioning, nice-looking wooden windows. 

“Once you maintain and repaint wood windows, their lifespan starts all over again.”

~ House Beautiful

So, while you may need to work more actively to maintain wood windows, you will save yourself from having to fully replace all the windows in your home, giving them a life at least twice as long as uPVC. 

Plastics are also known to degrade over time, become brittle, and discolour with prolonged sun exposure. The overall lighter weight construction of uPVC windows is at increased risk for sagging and rupture of the frame under extreme conditions than that of wooden windows.

3) Maintenance

Wooden windowsuPVC windows
Repaint every 7-10 yearsWipe with a damp cloth

There is no doubt that one of the primary attractions for uPVC windows is the lower maintenance needs of this material. The smooth plastic can easily be kept clean with regular wipe downs and won’t have issues like cracks or rotting that may require refilling or patching

In order to enjoy the lengthy product life described above, wooden windows should be inspected annually and, depending on quality, climate and placement, will likely need repainting every 7 to 10 years. 

4) Energy Efficiency

Wooden windowsuPVC windows
Timber is a naturally insulating materialLess chance for air leakage in frames

Wooden and uPVC windows both offer excellent insulating capabilities when combined with double or triple glazing technology. You can find windows with the highest BFRC energy ratings made from both types of materials.

Timber is a naturally insulating material, and in fact, its strength is better suited for triple glazing treatments, which offer superior energy efficiency.

Wood frames, however, are more at risk for termite infestations and cracks, which can lead to air leakage and impact energy costs. Additionally, unmaintained wood can be susceptible to shrinking and warping, which could gradually cause glass to loosen in the frame, resulting in similar air gaps.

5) Price

Wooden windowsuPVC windows
Higher upfront costMore budget-friendly

On average, wooden windows will cost a homeowner more at initial purchase. uPVC is a more economical material that will be cheaper in the short term. However, considering the extended durability of wooden windows, the overall cost in the long run could wind up being less, since the need for replacement should be negligible.

uPVC windows are also difficult to repair, so any significant damage sustained to the frames will likely mean the cost of full replacement as opposed to a simpler fix with wood.

6) Security

Wooden windowsuPVC windows
Complies with Part Q building standardsSteel core resistant to break-ins

High-quality, solid wooden windows should comply with the Part Q Building security standards for building regulations. As mentioned, the strength of wooden window frames is better suited to handle the weight of triple glazing, which can provide an added layer of home security.

uPVC frames are constructed with a galvanised steel core, providing an excellent barrier to burglary.

7) Environmental Impact

Wooden windowsuPVC windows
Renewable resourceMore energy required to produce

Wood is a natural, organic material that can both break down when disposed of and is also renewable. Some window manufacturers like Klar replant trees for the ones used in their products and only use timber from FSC-certified slow-growing forests. 

uPVC, by contrast, is a highly processed material that is more difficult to recycle and often ends up in a landfill. While non-toxic, it also requires a much higher amount of energy to produce, leaving a larger carbon footprint in its wake.

In the final match-up of wooden windows vs. uPVC, it comes down to your priorities as a homeowner – be it appearance, durability, maintenance, energy efficiency, price, security and environmental impact. Wooden windows are either equal to or outperform uPVC in most categories, and generally offer a higher-quality aesthetic, while uPVC windows can be a good solution for those who are more price-conscious and who desire lower maintenance needs.

FAQs

What are the disadvantages of wooden windows?

Wooden windows typically take a bigger chunk out of your budget initially, though the lack of need for replacement will likely even this out over the long term. Wooden windows also require a more active role in maintenance, but the more time-intensive treatments are only needed every decade or so.

Are uPVC windows cheaper than wood?

uPVC windows are on average cheaper than wood at initial purchase. However, their life span is half that of wood windows, so homeowners should figure replacement costs into the full budget picture. Additionally, depending on the area, choosing uPVC windows over wood could result in significant loss in property value.