Is time up for timber?

As PVC-U window systems continue to evolve, with new finishes and fabrication processes to mimic both timber and aluminium frames, consumers have more options than ever before to get the look they want but with all the advantages of energy efficient, low maintenance PVC. Michael Hart from Rehau discusses the merits of ‘timber look’ weld technology, and asks whether time is finally up for timber.


Laminate foils for PVCU profiles have been around for more than 40 years and provide customers with the option to personalise their installation to suit their taste or the style of property. While aluminium-effect laminates are increasingly popular, wood effect foils like white grain, cream, oak and rosewood remain bestsellers for many installers as they offer customers a cost-effective alternative to traditional wooden frame windows, with better thermal efficiencies and little or no maintenance.

In the past, spotting the difference between PVCU wood-effect windows and real timber windows wasn’t easy, and in fact the only tell-tale sign was the groove or seam where the PVCU window profiles were welded together. But that could be about to change.

Timber look is currently popular in the Netherlands and Belgium, providing the aesthetic of a mechanically jointed timber product within a fully welded PVC product. This fabrication approach, although more time consuming, leaves an aesthetically pleasing finish akin to traditional timber windows and is sure to sway even more customers to choose PVCU for their next installation.

In the UK, the timber look welding concept reached our shores relatively recently, and currently there aren’t too many fabricators who offer it. There is no set standard for achieving the timber look finish, and there are a variety of methods being used, each with their own pros and cons.

Some fabricators are opting to replicate the timber look weld on both the internal and external faces of the window profiles. This gives the best aesthetic finish for the customer, but the weld strength is reduced compared to a standard weld. To offset the reduction in weld strength while retaining the aesthetic, some companies are opting for the timber look weld on the external profile only, and using a mitre weld for the internal face. This gives the exterior finish the customer wants and maintains a higher weld strength, although this is still lower than a standard window product.

Whichever type of technology is implemented, Rehau recommends that the integrity and benefits of the PVCU product is retained – this means always sealing reinforcement chambers and maintaining clear drainage channels.

Uptake of timber look weld technology in the UK has been gradual to date as it requires some investment at fabricator level, and it is also more complex to carry out as it requires greater accuracy than standard fabrication. Although it may not be worth the additional time and hassle for standard window installations, there is definitely some merit in using timber look welding technology for traditional or heritage style products, like vertical sliders or flush fit windows.

With great potential for future growth, seamless weld technology is something Rehau is investigating for its own portfolio, perhaps through the development of new profile ranges, to ensure its customers continue to benefit from access to all of the latest style options available on the market.

PVCU windows have always offered superior thermal performance and strength compared to wooden windows, as well as cost-savings on installation and maintenance. Now, with the introduction of seamless welding technology, fabricators can replicate the exact aesthetics of timber windows, and time may be running out for wooden window frames.